Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Marketing a business never gets easier. There is always something new to learn, acquire or implement. As a brand or business owner your head might be full of jargon, acronyms and buzz words and might be left wondering what it is you should be doing in order to gain traction, get followers, or increase sales. In this article we’ll be discussing something called brand journalism, where will see how brand storytelling can humanise your brand and therefore get more people to discover, choose and embrace your brand. To find out more just keep reading.
Content Marketing vs Brand Journalism
When we are trying to grow an audience for our business, we often do research. It might me through Professor Google (hands up if you’ve Googled “What is….?” or How to…? In the last week?), by pouring through industry-specific journals, through discussions in Facebook groups for your industry or through networking on LinkedIn. Throughout this research you have no doubt come across the term content marketing. But have you heard the term brand journalism? Well let’s explore what content marketing and brand journalism are and how brand storytelling fits into the picture.
• Grows an audience by generating awareness of a brand or business
• Drives traffic to a website in order to convert leads into sales
• Markets a product and always includes a call to action to sell
• Uses an editorial style and a journalistic mindset (i.e. telling a story vs. shilling a product)
• Motivated by a desire to entertain, inspire and influence the viewer or reader
• Designed to build mutually beneficial relationships between brand/business and customers
• Engages different stakeholders without being promotional
It’s got nothing to do with stories your parents or grandparents used to tell you before bedtime and everything to do with bringing to life a brand or business and giving them a personality (Delgado-Ballester & Fernández-Sabiote, 2016, p. 116) that consumers can relate to. These stories when done right will increase the positive attributes that consumers will associate with a brand or business and increases the value that they associate to its products and/or services offering (Lundqvist et al., 2013 cited in Delgado-Ballester et al., 2016, p. 116). Brand storytelling does this by evoking an emotional response from consumers who therefore feel more connected to the brand or business and will feel more inclined to buy and recommend their products or services to others (Escalas, 2004; Herskovitz & Crystal, 2010; Chiu et al., 2012, cited Delgado-Ballester et al., 2016, p. 116).
Figure 1 Brand Equity – When consumers feel connected to a brand.
What’s the Plot?
Every story has a plot, right? Haven’t we all read a book or seen a movie that seems to have been a little lacking in that department? Don’t we love discussing with our friends the plot holes we noticed in the latest episode of that series on Netflix? To avoid plot holes in our brand storytelling we should have an understanding of ten of the most common storytelling plots that you may see used in business. These are:
Adventure: It’s all about the journey. Think: tech, cars, new inventions
Discovery: Answering life’s “why?” questions. Think activism, social justice, and community organisations.
Metamorphosis: Changing from one state to another. Think virtual influencers and AI.
Quest: Searching for something. Think Pokemon Go.
Rescue: Searching for someone. Think activism, petitions and funding requests.
Riddle/Mystery: Finding out what happened. Think maths or science puzzles.
Rise/Fall: The roller-coaster of public opinion. Think beauty influencers.
Rivalry: Competing companies. Think Coke vs Pepsi.
Transformation: Changing from one state to another. Think illness to health, indie to mainstream, etc.
Underdog: The little guy against the big guy. Think indie brand vs large multi-national.
There are many more plots but these are a selection that you may want to think about and consider for your brand/business.
Your Brand: both muse and artist
To craft a compelling brand story, you need to keep in mind what the goal of the storytelling process is. Firstly, it is to envision a story, then create it and in so doing engage your audience by living your story. To do this you need to be clear on what your brand essence is and what your servicescape needs to be in order to achieve your goal.
Figure 2 Brand storytelling model (Ryu, Lehtoa, Gordona, & Fu, 2018, p. 23)
The Core Concept
Your brand essence is made up of your:
Vision: To be able to properly convey this to external stakeholders you need to be able to define it for yourself. Your brand vision is a statement on what your internal stakeholders (e.g. employees) and external stakeholders (e.g. customers, suppliers, the community at large, etc) will gain from the existence of your brand/business.
Mission: This is what you as a brand/business will be doing to make this vision a reality. Your mission describes how you’ll actively take steps to achieve this vision, who will be involved in making it happen and describe why you’ve chosen to it that way.
Value: This is the look, values, and relationships that your brand/business embodies and/or nurtures. It’s critical that these be coherent because it engenders trust in your brand/business and its stated vision and mission. If there’s any disconnect the perception will be that your brand/business is having an identity crisis, is directionless or disingenuous and by extension, all who work for the brand/business have the same flaws.
Creating a story
To create your story you must consider:
Story construction: Like any good story, your brand story should have a beginning, middle, and end but more than that it will be “a chronological sequencing from retrospective, here-and-now, prospective narrative, and supplements the individual’s memory with a brand memory” (Boje, 2014 cited in Ryu et al., 2018, p. 24). A well-built story serves to provide “contextual meaning… linkages between events… sequencing of events, and endpoints” (Kent, 2015; Mossberg, 2008 cited in Ryu et al., 2018, p. 24) that cement your brand/business in your customers' mind.
Connection: This is past experiences that your customer has had with your brand/business. These past experiences will “help to reinforce the credibility and rationality of the story” (Boje, 2014; Denning, 2006; Fog et al., 2010 cited in Ryu et al., 2018, p. 24) you are trying to tell and will further enhance trust in your brand/business. It’s this connection that will lead to commitment and loyalty to your brand/business.
Persona: In the same way that developing one or several buyer personas will help you to better grasp who your customers are a brand persona will help your customer be able to better grasp who you are as a brand/business. Your brand persona is “the articulated form of your brand’s character and personality” (Hersokovitz & Crystal, 2010, p. 21).
Figure 3 Brand personality (Lamb, Hair, McDaniel, Summers & Gardiner, 2016, p. 128)
Living the Story
To truly live your story you should consider:
Off-line: If your brand has a physical location then things like store layout and fixtures, signage, logos, colour schemes, lighting and in some cases even scents will communicate whether you are living your story.
Online: If your brand only has an online presence then your logos, colour schemes, themes, imagery, and content should be reflection of your brand/business. Baking or bikes it has to be consistent. Your story should be evident on your website, blog, social media profiles or any other place where your customer is likely to come across your brand/business.
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In this article, we’ve discussed the difference between content marketing and brand journalism and how brand storytelling fits into things. We’ve explored ten plots that you could choose to implement in crafting your brand story. Lastly, we also looked into a storytelling model that explores the process of brand storytelling from conception to delivery stage. Hopefully, this has given you an insight into the subject of brand journalism and how it can be of assistance in increasing the number of people who discover, choose and embrace your brand in future.
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