Branded Storytelling: No Characters, No Stories

HÉCTOR M. MEZA 2 December, 2013 0
La Medición de la Comunicación y su Estandarización en la Ciudad Condal

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One of the things I enjoy most is traveling, especially going in an adventure, taking the van and driving without a plan, letting everything flow. So during a weekend I went camping with some friends at one of the wonderful magical towns in our country: Real del Monte, Hidalgo. In a cold and cloudy weather, we set up the tent and went for a walk to familiarize ourselves with the place, taste the delicious “pastes” and “barbacoa” and also to collect firewood to light the fire at night.

When it began to get dark and the sky was filled with stars; it was the exact moment to light the fire. A friend began playing the guitar and “la bohemia” started. The stillness of the night and the sound of wind gave way to narrate legends and horror stories; this moment is always part of our trips to finish the evening. From "La Llorona", “El Nahual", "Los duendes", “El puente del diablo", among others, were creating an atmosphere of fear and fun to conclude the week.

Myths and Legends are seals of identity to the different customs and traditions of many regions, cultures and civilizations around the world. The explanation of primitive men and/or locals to respond to natural phenomena and in some cases mystical and supernatural events, whose causes were not understood. Thus, environmental events found its origins in divine and superhuman characters as a result of the powers of good and evil and their constant battle.

The key to these myths and legends have transcended through times and is called Storytelling, where a “teller” begins with the classic “Once upon a time…” and sends a message, information, knowledge and/or words of wisdom to an audience in an entertaining manner, using any kind of abilities - written, musical, artistic, creative - for the people to enjoy, understand and remember the central idea.

At its core, storytelling is the art of using language, vocalization, and/or physical movement and gesture to reveal the elements and images of a story to a specific, live audience. A central, unique aspect of storytelling is its reliance on the audience to develop specific visual imagery and detail to complete and co-create the story. (National Storytelling Association)

Transferring this art to the business world and Corporate Communications, CEOS and Managers should be experts on the subject at the moment of telling the story of their Company, transmitting their Vision and communicating the Value Proposition of their brands with the aim to become a part in the hearts and minds of their Stakeholders.  This is called Branded Storytelling.

It is a way of transmitting a message in an entertaining and memorable manner. Stories allow us to capture our listeners’ attention, but they also make it more likely that they will remember what we are telling them.

The world of Communications has changed. People are facing an increasing shortage of time and an increasing range of choices. Technology has enabled us to control what we see, hear and do more than ever before. Today people won´t spend time with messages that interrupt. Instead they spend time with ideas that engage.

While sharing branded stories, the leader and managers talk about a series of events moving forward with a sense of direction and defined purpose. In the story, the characters face obstacles on their way to get something they want or need, a problem is exposed and how to solve it. Whether or not the goal is reached, a dramatic tension is created and generates an emotional charge that keeps the Stakeholders entertained.

Today Storytelling is both a powerful and necessary way of communicating. Stories that are shared, must be unified around a single idea for the audiences to get involved, making them part of their lives and become the protagonists. Stories are illustrative, easily memorable, and allow any firm to create stronger emotional bonds with the customers.

Previously, brands were relatively static in nature, and much time and resources were invested in defining their strategies and identity. Brands were placed in the market and lived in peace for years. But today given the global nature of the economy, brands are dynamic and constantly evolving, thus it is imperative a ceaseless innovation and to help them keep their leadership and market share.

Through Web 2.0, consumers are involved in developing and expressing the Brand, this is the case of social networks, which encourage millions of people to share opinions and needs in real time; this in turn sets the pace for the definition and redefinition of what a brand is and means. The challenge for companies is to keep the essence of their identity and communicate the Brand Promise effectively into this whirlwind of endless reinterpretation.

Key to a successful Branded Storytelling is content, it must to be developed and tailored to the target audiences. To create and share valuable content their tastes, needs, preferences, interests, behaviors must be considered; therefore establishing empathy.

Telling the story of the brand in an original, creative and innovative way will capture the attention of your audiences; it will be differentiated from the competition and will provide valuable information. Film director Andrew Stanton-Toy Story and Finding Nemo - suggests the following tips to tell corporate stories:

  • Lead to a single goal and show consistency in each piece of content.
  • Capture the attention of Stakeholders through humor dyes in the contents.
  • Narrating an inevitable end, but not entirely predictable.
  • Telling stories that make readers feel that the time spent for reading / consumption was valuable.
  • Use personal values, experiences, knowledge and experiences, which provide credibility to the story and will create an emotional bond.

Today Branded Storytelling is a reality in the corporate world and suggests that companies integrate it on all fronts of its Communication Strategy - Owned and Earned Media- to replicate the successful formula of content + context = experiences.

Aristotle said "Without conflict there is no action, no action no characters, no characters, no story ..." Customers want stories that serve as mirrors of their reality and find inspiration in them and the response to satisfy a wish or a need.

Every company has a story to tell; therefore it must contribute something unique and different. As a CEO, write together with your team and customers the history of your company, within the premise that "To be a person is to have a story to tell ..." so give your brand wings of eternity to that which could be ephemeral.

A good story facilitates and encourages people to pass along a message. It stimulates word-of-mouth. It is not about what you want to say. It is about what you want your audience to remember and share.

About the author: Hector worked for IBM Mexico for more than 30 years, managing different functions and areas: Marketing and Commercial – Channel Sales, Manufacturing, External Relations, Human Resources, Legal, Education, IT, Foreign Trade and Security. During his career at IBM, he had two international assignments in charge of Marketing and Sales for Latin America. After his retirement as IBM's Executive Vice-President, he took the position as President and Corporate Director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for Motorola Mexico; he was also Vice-President for Motorola Corporation.

Hector has a college degree in Business Administration from Texas A&I University, and a Master's degree in Economics from Trinity University. He has also received intensive training in advanced business management, corporate strategies and international trade at IPADE; Pittsburgh University, IBM La Hulpe in Belgium, IBM Executive Institute in N.Y. and Motorola University.

Hector is also an Independent Consultant for Management, Strategic Planning, Human Resources and Marketing Communications and is a  columnist for Forbes Mexico, Alto Nivel  and Dialogo Ejecutivo. He may be contacted vía: Twitter: @HectorMezaC; Facebook: Héctor M. Meza; LinkedIn: Héctor M. Meza Curiel.