“Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetick.” Samual Johnson
In a world bombarded with brands and advertising, a company must be innovative in their quest to be noticed – just think of all the advertising in Times Square, NYC. This quote by Samual Johnson was made back on January 20, 1759. Even 250 years ago, they knew that brands had to stand out from the masses. But how?
I recently went to Interactive Day San Diego, and one of the sessions I attended was about stories in advertising, given by Eujin Hong, Creative Director at Razorfish. While his talk was more about a traditional storyline being woven through a specific, innovative ad campaign, I’m going to explore stories woven throughout an entire brand as it could relate to several campaigns.
First things first, you must understand what a brand IS before you tell a story. When the average person thinks of a brand, they immediately think of their logo. Although a logo is part of a brand, it is made as a visual symbol, a mark to identify the brand among others. A brand is so much more than that, and it can include everything from the visual elements to the unique shape or color of the product to the reputation it has in a particular country. Here is a starter list of the elements of a brand to get you thinking:
• Visual elements: logo, graphics, photos, marks, etc.
• Taglines and catch phrases
• Unique sounds, scents, tastes, shapes, colors, movements, etc.
• Interaction and communication with consumer/public, customer service
• Reputation in the industry
• Charitable work
• Position on religion, politics, other controversial issues
• Approach to marketing, manufacturing, outsourcing, etc.
• Cultural significance, pop culture icons, perceived worth/status
• Overall ‘feeling’ a consumer relates with the brand
Keeping all of this in mind, you must research your brand in all of these aspects and more. If it is a new brand, make sure they are CLEAR on their approach to these aspects. The company must be clear on their approach if they want to be successful. As my Creative Director says, “There is nothing worse than a fuzzy concept of a brilliant idea.”
Once you are clear on what your brand is and what it stands for, you can translate that into a story that is relatable to employees and consumers of your company. Lets take TOMS Shoes for example. For every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. This charitable nature is enhanced by every aspect of the brand, from the visual textures, colors, and photos, to the messaging and interaction with consumers. It has gained such popularity as a positive influence that it has broken into pop culture as the “cool” shoes to wear, even if it doesn’t match your outfit. TOMS is a company that has a clear and focused story behind it.
Now it is time to write your story. You don’t have to be a copywriter to do this (although it helps), but you do have to have a creative mind and passion for storytelling. As Eujin reminded me at IDSD, the basics of any story include a hero, a journey and a transformation. To develop the character of the brand, we will first write about our company’s beliefs, values, culture, craft, perspectives, art form, interactions, voice and visual landscape. We are aiming to personify the brand. Try to elaborate on things that differentiate your brand from its competitors, as well as any strong belief or opinion that would encourage a positive reaction. Keep in mind that you want your consumers to relate to you, to approve of your brand. By no means do you ever want to make up a story; you always want to be truthful and write about your brand in the best possible way.
All of these things that you’ve written make up the essence of the brand story. This is the back story of your character in all of your future messaging and marketing. Once everyone is clear on the brand, you can expand into the types of stories with heroes, journeys, and transformations. This will lead to many great ideas for advertising and connecting with your brand. We, at the Agency san diego, recommend doing all of the research and back story before even concepting your identity or other graphics and campaigns, because without a brand story, what would the logo be a symbol of?