| December 28, 2016
We all know people love stories but not all stories are equally compelling, particularly when it comes to brand building. Great marketers recognize that the focus of the story should be the brand. The story is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
At this point I can imagine many people working in advertising crying out,
“That (expletive), he just does not understand how advertising works. Stories are how we engage people. Stories are how we add interest to a brand. Stories are what people want to share.”
The strange thing is that I will happily agree to the last three statements. Yes, stories have immense power, but only if you harness that power to benefit a brand. Just because a brand tells a story does not mean the brand benefits. It is perfectly possible for the story to take on a life of its own and leave the brand unnoticed.
Those of you familiar with Kantar Millward Brown’s Link pre-test will know that one of the key qualities we aim to measure is how strongly the ideas, feelings and images conveyed by an ad will be linked to the brand in people’s minds. This is because all of our work designed to identify what best predicts whether an ad will boost sales finds that brand-linkage is critical. About half the ads we test fail to achieve their full potential because they fail to link the ideas conveyed with the advertised brand.
In advertising, success depends on whether a marginally-attentive audience actually does follow and is moved by what is being shown and said, and remembers something at a later date that motivates them to buy the advertised brand. In a movie you may have the luxury to expand beyond a single storyline and to resolve ambiguities later in the plot, provided the overall story remains compelling. But when it comes to advertising – particularly online or mobile video – you do not have that luxury. Ads need to be compelling, focused and single-minded when it comes to creating an impression that benefits and links to the brand.
However, I think this is actually just the tip of the iceberg. Part of the reason that so many ads fail to create strong brand-linkage is that many brands have not clearly identified their own story. Why does the brand exist? Why was it created? Who is it intended to serve? Why might that audience find it meaningful? In a sea of mediocrity what might help it stand out as different? Great advertising is founded in a great brand story and focuses people’s attention on something about the brand that matters to them.
Even when a brand does know and live its story it is perfectly possible for an individual execution to fail to create strong brand-linkage. So much depends on the flow of scenes and ideas within an a video as to whether people even notice, let alone remember, which brand was advertised. That is why it is so important to test whether an ad has good brand-linkage before it runs, otherwise people may talk about your story but never even think about your brand, much less buy it.
So why do you think so many brands fail to tell their own story? Is it that they just do not know it, or is it all about how that story is told? Please share your thoughts.