Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why Branding and Storytelling Are Linked

While many in the marketing arena believe that storytelling is the latest buzz, the truth is, storytelling has been around since the invention of brands. You just have to look at memorable taglines. Think about Wheaties' "Breakfast of Champions," or BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine," or "Bags Fly Free" from Southwest Airlines.

According to Wikipedia, “A tagline is a small amount of text which serves to clarify a thought for, or designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product. As a variant of a branding slogan, taglines can be used in marketing materials and advertising. The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of an audio/visual product or to reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product. Some taglines are successful enough to warrant inclusion in popular culture.”

Therefore, taglines are the seeds that create stories, and they introduce brands to new customers and solidify them into the lives of long-term customers. When your executive team conducts the "should our brand have a tagline" discussion, ask these five questions:

[1] Would a tagline clarify the brand’s competitive strength or strengths?
[2] Would a tagline speak to the target audience or audiences?
[3] Would a tagline easily align with the visual representation of the brand's logo?
[4] Would a tagline reflect the personality of the brand?
[5] Would a tagline be easily associated with the brand (and be memorable)?

If you can answer all of these questions with a resounding yes, then you're ready for a tagline. Always remember, though, the key for a successful tagline is to integrate it into all aspects of your marketing strategy from online marketing to in-store displays, from email marketing to advertising, from public relations to social media, etc. The tagline has to become an appendage to all of your communications and promotions - and if done effectively, it will become the core of your brand story, thus making your overall storytelling easy.

So, as you contemplate the importance of storytelling for your brand, consider these questions:

[1] How do you decide on a compelling story?
[2] What elements do you include and which do you leave out?
[3] What is an appropriate length for your story?
[4] Do you feature a person (for example, your founder) in your story?
[5] What is the key take-away from your brand’s story, and is it easy to grasp or embrace?

While the publishing industry is undergoing a transition from print to digital, there is one newspaper that embodies its city, The New York Times. While you may not know that the newspaper began in the mid-1800’s, there is no doubt that you've heard of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Art and Theater sections, and its Opinion section. Whenever someone wants to be heard, he or she comments in The New York Times. (Remember Angelina Jolie's editorial when she announced her breast cancer?) The newspaper’s motto was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but on its website, the motto was changed to, “All the News That’s Fit to Click.”

According to Southwest Airlines Chairman/President and CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest was conceived on a cocktail napkin when San Antonio businessman Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met at the St. Anthony Club and etched out what would become the “Texas Triangle,” charting a path for low-fare travel between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The vision was simple: offer business professionals a faster, more efficient way to travel at a lower cost and do it with warm, personable service and a smile.” 

Kelleher knew that in order for his employees to do a good job, they had to have fun. So Southwest allowed flight attendants to wear shorts instead of uncomfortable uniforms and tell silly jokes to passengers over the intercoms. The airline continues to provide peanuts, soft drinks, and juice – when competitors charge or don’t offer any food or drinks. Southwest also invites passengers to travel with their baggage without a fee because according to their ads, “Bags fly free.”

And no discussion about storytelling would be complete without a reference to the master storyteller Walt Disney. There were Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and they were just the beginning. From animated movies to theme park rides to feature films, everything that is part of the Disney brand tells a memorable story.

So take a page from your favorite brand's play book - whether it's from movies, sports, or consumer products - and think long and hard as to why it's your favorite brand. I guarantee that you'll see a story lurking somewhere within the tagline.

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