During a marketing and sales event in Boston we met Carmen Simon. This interesting lady is the co-founder of Rexi Media. She also wrote the book ‘Impossible to Ignore: Memorable Content to Influence Decisions’. Her projects and writings show that Carmen Simon has a lot of knowledge about marketing. For example, a while ago Carmen wrote an article about ‘brand storytelling’. This is a marketing term for companies who tell their ‘story’ to reach target groups. It basically means that the story of their company is told, for example with nice pictures or videos.
Before you start with brand story telling…
People in general love stories. More and more companies realize this, and respond to it by using brand story telling. As the name suggests, it means that a brand or company puts itself on the market by telling a story, for example about their core values. However, you need to ask yourself some questions before you start with brand storytelling:
• What is my target group?
• What do consumers need to hear to feel connected with your company?
• In what ways do I want to share the story of my company? You have the choice between different types of stories, from anecdotes to metaphors, diaries and hero tales
Branching stories and complex stories
Brand stories are often divided in two: ‘branching stories’ and ‘complex stories’. Branching stories are based on the interaction with the (potential) customer. When companies use complex stories they bring complex stories to life by using visual animations. This is because of the fact that people in general are very visually oriented.
Carry your message
Back to Carmen Simon. She describes herself as a ‘cognitive scientist who helps businesses craft memorable messages that influence decisions’. Quite a mouthful, but it basically means that a good message can convince customers to use your products and services. In this case, the memory plays a very important role. According to Carmen Simon all memories are a combination of the senses, environmental factors and cognitive processes. Because of these processes your brain is able to memorize stories, events and much more.
Abstract concepts play a role as well. This sounds more complicated than it is actually. In fact it means that you need to use memories and emotions during brand storytelling. The key to success is the combination of all the elements above, including senses and environmental factors,
The keys of successful brand storytelling
According to Carmen Simon, you can have impact on the brand story of your company by using certain ‘keys’:
1. Memorable brand stories: It includes a few components, namely perception, cognition and emotion. Perception is about sensory impressions, whereas cognition is about facts, abstract concepts and meaning. Emotion is something that moves people, for example a great story with elements like love and tragedy. Always use these elements for your brand storytelling
2. Make a story specific ánd abstract at the same time. Something is concrete when we can perceive it with our senses. If not, we consider it abstract. In that case you cannot touch, feel or smell it. Always use a clear story to tell your message or to sell something. For companies it’s incredibly important to find a good balance between what the public can perceive and abstract elements. The consumer doesn’t like it when you become too predictable.
3. Tell a general ánd a specific story. You need be a general and specific to carry our message. Just like specific and abstract, these elements seem to be the opposite of each other. However, a combination of both works the best. A general story is meant for a big group of (potential) customers. So you can reach out to a lot people by using the general story of your company. However, zooming in on a certain element of the story helps you to reach out a specific target group. In that case you respond to their knowledge and preferences.
4. Use mind and memory. Research has shown that people remember texts and images better. So don’t forget to use images during brand story telling. How better the images, how bigger the chance that the consumer will remember your story.
5. Be original and don’t use clichés. It absolutely helps when you make your story ánd images a bit mysterious. The consumer likes to guess and/or to be left in the dark a little bit (but not too much of course). It also works when you use a bit of nostalgia, because a lot of people long for the past.
6. Use strong emotions and personal experiences. A lot of companies use strong emotions to tell their message and to reach out to people. Think about happiness and excitement for example, but also negative emotions like sadness and frustration. Perhaps you could put some personal experiences in your story as well. Both emotions and personal experiences influence the mind, because the consumer remembers them better.
We hope that the ‘keys’ from Carmen Simon will help you to use brand storytelling in a successful way. For us it has been incredibly useful. Good luck!
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