Advertising is Storytelling
Written on 11/6/15 11:02 PM
Often times, the really good story gets buried under a lot of science. We’ve dissected what words sell more, we’ve endlessly focus-grouped housewives 20 to 55, tested this music and that spokesman, all to divine the best ways to motivate a purchase.
But really, great advertising is the story of a brand.
Now more than ever, it’s a passionate conversation with the world about your product or service. This story just happens to be in increments of 30 seconds, 600×300 pixels, an 8- by 10-inch magazine ad, and so on.
The pieces and parts come together in one grand story that hopefully, people care about. If it’s done artfully, passionately, if it’s a story that really resonates with consumers, well, there’s really no limit to how far a brand can go.
When you think of products and companies like Progressive, Cheerios, Target, Nike and Apple, most of us know the colors they use, the iconic logos, we can even recite decades’ worth of taglines and copy. These brands have transcended the label of advertising and have become part of our culture. Part of our conversation. You hear people say things like, “Hey, did you catch that ad with the talking camel whooping it up about hump day? It’s hilarious!” Those are the stories that we tell and retell.
But you don’t have to be Geico to tell a good story.
Every brand has one. Whether it’s dramatic, hilarious, maddening, awe-inspiring or shocking, every brand has a truth to it, a center that feels right. That’s the place the best stories come from. That’s where you discover the tales, the facts, the jokes and experiences that make a brand unforgettable.
Of course, that’s the trick. The hard work, so to speak. Finding the heart and soul of a brand. And then bringing it to life in ways that connect authentically. Here are some good starting points:
- History lessons. Every brand comes from somewhere. There were people involved, they did things, there were trials and tribulations, and somehow, we’ve arrived at the brand you know today. The history of a product or service can be long and storied, or even an exciting new venture trying to get off the ground. Either way, history can be the stuff of legend. It can be fret with hardships that were ultimately overcome. The little-known moments that once illuminated, can really connect people to a product. Heck, they make movies about this stuff. Certainly, a brand’s history makes for good ads.
- The great creators. Just about everything we use and consume had some person at its core. At some point, a guy sat down and created the next great can-opener. Somebody was instrumental in making a fair-trade food store, the gripping-est paperclip, and the whitest-brightest toothpaste. Someone took two dark chocolate cookies, put some sugary white filing in between and squished them together. They shared their tasty invention with the world and today we have Oreos. Why did they do it? How did they come up with that idea? There’s a story there.
- It takes vision. Just as there’s usually some great person at the center of most companies, there’s always some grand vision or passion that drives most brands. At the beginning, there was some thinking that brought a product to life. Usually, someone’s great passion drives a product’s success. The deeply held belief in building the world’s safest cars has propelled the Volvo story for decades. If you can find the vision for a brand, or a mantra the product or service lives by, those strong values that drive a product can also drive its advertising.
- Customers in kind. Look at the people who use a brand. What are they like? What traits do they share? Are they all adrenaline junkies who go base jumping? Or do they all wear black leather and watch too much ‘Sons of Anarchy?’ Is there a shared reason for liking your product? Many years ago, a sneaker company looked at the athletic wear world and found that many had a “don’t just sit there, get off your butt and get going” attitude. In its shorter, more well-known form, “Just do it” became not only a brand story, but a religion people still live by today.
- Are you experienced? How people experience your brand can be a story, too. Some products really elicit a response. Just look at the internet. People like to talk about their experiences with products. Sometimes these are called testimonials. But these experiences can also lead to great storytelling. A radio station that advertises old, uptight and conservative people ranting about the music they play. Or a boot-maker that shows their customer’s mangled boots in order to talk about how their well-made shoes saved limbs and lives.
Even bad experiences can make a great ad.
It’s all in the storytelling.