If there’s anything true about people, it’s that we love stories. We eat them up. They entertain us, they teach us, and they can come to define us. We’re so into stories, in fact, that just about everything we say comes out in the form of a story. Think of any conversation you’ve had with a friend or family member. It’s always about something, isn’t it? How great your day was. How bad your day was. How something happened and why it was a total disaster, or how, surprisingly, everything worked out in the end this time. Just about everything we say is a story, and people gravitate towards a good one.
That’s because we’re curious by nature. We want to know what’s happening, and we’ll go to great lengths to find out what it is. Anyone who’s eavesdropped on an interesting conversation, or waited in line to see a new hit movie on opening night knows this feeling. A good story is entertaining, and the craving for entertainment will always be with us.
Good Stories Go a Long Way
Since people are so curious, they need to be rewarded for their curiosity. No one wants to be bored to death. We need to be captivated. The more interesting a story is, the more memorable it is. That’s why it’s so hard to focus on someone struggling to recall what he ate for lunch yesterday, but it’s easy to watch a stand-up comedian tell a great joke.
Brands especially need a good story. Without one, it becomes a lot harder to keep your audience interested.
These are just a few things for your brand to keep in mind when it comes to making the right story.
Keep it Real
Great stories are often true stories, but even when they’re not, they’re probably great because they feel true. It’s hard to enjoy something when you can’t stop thinking how fake it is. Your brand needs to speak on something that makes sense for it to speak on. The last thing you want is to come off as preachy or irrelevant. Instead, get to know who you serve, and meet them where they are. What do they go through? What do they want or need? How can you help them? The more engaged you are with your community, the better off you are in telling a story that will resonate with them.
An excellent example is the women’s brand Always and their #likeagirl campaign. We’ve all heard the playground insult of doing something “like a girl.” The brand decided to challenge that sentiment by interviewing an array of people, young and old, and asking them to run, fight, and throw “like a girl.” Unsurprisingly, everyone did the stereotypical action. The twist came when Always asked young girls the same questions, and their response was to do those things with their absolute best effort. Brilliantly, the brand forced everyone to ask why doing something like a girl is an insult. By drawing attention to this problem, Always was able to speak sincerely about the challenge adolescent girls face, and to create a solution by advocating that doing things like a girl can in fact be amazing. The brand engaged their community, told a moving story, and the result was enormously successful.
You’ve probably heard the adage “there’s nothing new under the sun.” We couldn’t disagree more. There’s always an opportunity to challenge convention, to be surprising, and to turn heads. You have to ask yourself, what’s been done before and how can I do it differently? The best creative solutions are ones that are intuitive yet still surprising. They are the ideas that make you say, “Wow, I can’t believe no one thought of that sooner.”
An incredibly fun take on this idea is the World’s Largest Blind Taste Test by Kraft. The brand was planning to change the recipe to their iconic macaroni and cheese to include no artificial ingredients. The problem? People were worried it wasn’t going to taste as good. The solution was stunning. Kraft changed the recipe as planned, but didn’t tell anyone for three months. When no one noticed that the switch had been made, Kraft finally blew the whistle on the operation, thereby proving that the change had no impact on the product’s taste at all. The story was picked up by major media outlets, and resulted in over 200 million impressions in just one day.
Your brand has the opportunity to find the pulse of a specific moment and to deliver it a meaningful message. Don’t miss out.
Once a brand really knows what they want to say, the challenge becomes figuring out where and how to deliver that story. Tons of content is generated every day, and most of it comes from people, not brands. This means that when a brand does show up, they’ve got to do it with smart and intentional storytelling.
A great way to do this is to be experimental. Use technology and platforms in ways that haven’t been thought of yet. Instead of just posting to Twitter, or Instagram, or Tik Tok, think about what’s possible on these platforms. How can they be used in ways no one’s tried before?
Take Wendy’s amazing hack into the popular online game Fortnite. For decades, a key message from the brand has been “fresh beef, never frozen.” When Fortnite released an event called “Food Fight,” pitting teams Pizza and Burger against one another, Wendy’s created a player (Wendy, of course) in the game to destroy Team Burger’s freezers, where they were storing their beef. Wendy’s streamed the action live on Twitch, and it didn’t take long for the world to take notice. Popular Twitch streamers joined in on the fun, and just like that, Wendy’s had utilized its key message in a way that had never been done before, which led organically to conversation about the brand.
To create a memorable story, try something new. Find a way to interact with your community, and then bring them something unforgettable.
Media Changes, Style Does Not
Some things are more or less permanent. It’s hard to imagine humans taking a disinterest in good storytelling. What they will be disinterested in is the same old routine that’s flashed before their eyes a million times before. To paraphrase Luke Sullivan in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, although it seems like content is king, never forget that it still reports to concept. Your brand’s story is a concept, a single message that distills your brand’s identity down to its simplest terms, which is then shared with the world. Make the most of that message. Deliver it in unexpected ways, and do it all while being undeniably authentic.