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How Emerging Brands Build Magnetic Brand Stories | Part Two

Influence By Design, Thoughts and Ideas on Brand Innovation | Continued

How to Build Your Emerging Brand Story Platform.

To understand why a brand storytelling platform is useful and powerfully effective, it’s first important to understand what it is not. A brand storytelling platform is not a tagline; not an ad campaign; media strategy; not copywriting; not marketing communications; not visual images.

A brand story telling platform is not customer/consumer-facing at all. Instead, it is the brand owner’s strategic discipline that narrates and guides the relationship between a growing brand and its audiences.

Defining such a core strategy begins with careful research. It doesn’t have to be complex, in fact it begins with the basics– the audience, brand and category. What’s going on with these factors? What don’t you know? Where are the drivers of brand relevance and resonance. Why does your story matter and to whom? These questions must be thoroughly probed and evaluated with the objectivity and rigor of journalistic and social science.

This type of exploratory investigation and observation will establish a baseline of facts for you to bring out the brand’s unique narrative.

But facts alone are not enough. You must also have insight from intuition, knowledge, experience and empathy on your customer’s hero journey. To do that, brand owners and stakeholders from every area and specialty of the enterprise must gather in one place and have meaningful conversation and debate to determine:

• The emotional drivers and connections customers/consumers have that lead them to engagement and purchase in the category.

• The consumer’s quest or hero’s journey

• The core purpose for brand to exist (beyond profit).

• The ways and venues customers/consumers encounter and experience the brand.

• The brand archetype that defines the personality and character of the brand.

• The “one and only thing” customers receive from the brand they highly value and can’t get anywhere else.

These discussions should be facilitated and represent every part of the company that influences the brand’s behavior in the marketplace– executive management, sales, product development, operations, distribution, customer service and so on.

Rich insights from all stakeholders not only improves the quality and depth of the conversation, it also builds support and consensus for the outcome across the enterprise. This level of enterprise-wide buy-in is absolutely essential for success because an emerging brand’s story must be deeply anchored with internal audiences if it is to translate and connect with external audiences.

The Bottom Line.

Advertising is under enormous pressure to adapt to the new marketing realities of the digitally connected world. There is no longer any reason to use terms like “digital”– it’s all digital now. The new normal for marketers is about creating useful non-marketing- brand-owned content that tells a transcendent brand story and fosters long-term relationships with audiences.

For owners of emerging brands to do this effectively will require them to adopt disciplined strategic processes and storytelling techniques that that unite business goals and brand attributes with deep audience interests, needs and passions.

How Emerging Brands Build Magnetic Brand Stories | Part One

Influence By Design, Thoughts and Ideas on Brand Innovation

For emerging next generation brands, there’s never been more opportunity to leverage the magnetic power of their brand story–if only they knew how.

It seems everyone in the marketing business has locked on to the notion that brand storytelling is the new fangled thing. Of course storytelling is nothing new. What’s new is the dynamic and interconnected relationship between paid, owned and earned media. Brand stories form the very epicenter of these inter-connected media channels.

For emerging brands with modest marketing budgets, to effectively leverage the power of their brand story requires a new approach far beyond conventional taglines and advertising executions. As we all know, this is even more complex when faced with the fact we live in the speed-of-light-digital-age with exploding technologies, media channels shrinking attention spans, and ever more consumer control over what they allow into their heads.

Your brand story is all the marketing you will ever need.

The power of a brand’s story lies in a singular idea anchored in shared values between brand and audience. This singularity is transcendent and unchanging over the entire life of the brand.

Your brand story will outlive any advertising or promotional campaign. At its most fundamental level, the brand story is nothing more than the authentic truth making the brand highly valued by the audience and distinguished from all alternatives in the category.

However in practice, brands over time will tell many sub-stories nuanced for various audiences as the business grows. To remain relevant and credible, brand owners must be guided by a strategic story platform that brings audiences ever closer to the brand’s core truth and proposition.

This requires discipline–which for many emerging brand owners is a difficult habit to form. It’s far easier to promote, persuade and convince.

The trouble is those days of persuasion and selling are long gone. Emerging brand owners must begin with the reality no one cares and no one is listening. And nothing is more frustrating for business leaders than to realize their limited financial investment in marketing is the sound of one hand clapping.

Why Agencies and Brand Need to Embrace True Storytelling | Part Two

Branded Content is Not The Same Thing | Continued

But Why Does It Really Matter?

There is little hesitation in knowing we operate in a cultural and technological world where consumers know everything about a brand, from who owns it to where and how products are manufactured and sold. As a result of this, companies are now evaluated by much more than their products. We are in a world where a brand’s values and the emotions they evoke are narrative material.

This presents marketers with an amazing opportunity, as the most powerful way to persuade someone of your idea is by uniting the idea with an emotion. It’s indisputable that the best way to do that is by telling a compelling story.

But we need to recognize that it demands insight and skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power.

A couple of examples—one old and one new—of great storytelling. The legendary Steve Frankfurt, who is credited with creating the tagline “In space no one can hear you scream” for the 1979 movie Alien, clearly understood the role of co-creation in telling stories. This line created a world for the imagination to populate. It allowed the audience to put themselves in the story and co-create its own sense of claustrophobia, fear and isolation. It was simple and comprehensible yet gave clear direction and meaning. It perfectly captured the idea of the brand (or in this case, movie), teasing us as to what the film would deliver and at the same time aligning perfectly with the experience of it. It was a story in its own right.

More recently was Intel’s The Beauty Inside, a “social movie” that centered on a guy named Alex who wakes up every day with a new face and body. While there were many reasons to applaud this work, it was the central notion itself that drove its success. As director Drake Doremus says, “The story was exciting to me. The idea of waking up in somebody else’s skin every day but being the same person on the inside … was some territory I was interested in exploring.” This is equally true of the audience.

When we start to program a brand, we need to understand its full narrative and which parts of the story we need to create, which to co-create with the audience and which to leave to allow the audience to impart and complete their own meaning.

Despite the great work mentioned here, I don’t believe this subtle yet vital shift is one that the majority of people in our business clearly understand. How we embrace this difference between content and stories and then bring true storytellers into our world will be the key to the future success of our industry.

Content is dead. Long live storytelling.

Why Agencies and Brand Need to Embrace True Storytelling | Part One

Branded Content Is Not The Same Thing.

To build on the opportunities that today’s hyper connected and social consumer as well as new distribution platforms offer, agencies and brands need to move away from thinking about branded content and embrace true storytelling.

The difference? Stories rely on the intended audience to develop their own imagery and detail to complete and, most importantly, to co-create, whereas content does not. Content is primarily created in the internal mind of the content originator, with no heed to the mind or to the context of the audience.

The truly great storytellers have long embraced the fact that the most powerful stories happen in the mind of the audience, making each and every story unique and personal for the individual. They also understand that stories are important because they are inherent to the human experience. Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories—they’ve never asked for content.

As the German literary scholar Wolfgang Iser noted: “No tale can ever be told in its entirety.” His reader-response theory “recognizes the reader as an active agent who imparts ‘real existence’ to the work and completes its meaning through interpretation.”

It is this acceptance of the concept that we cannot—nor should we try to—tell any story in its entirety, and the subsequent embrace of the mind of the audience in co-creating our story that is the vital step we need to make if we are to truly resonate emotionally with our audience.

BRANDING | 7 Indicators of Brand-Building Inadequacy

Is your brand-building effort effective? Is the budget spend effective?

At Austin West, we identified indicators that brand-building was misdirected, mismanaged, or underfunded–problems that are increasingly relevant today. With a few edits, here is the list.

1. Managers cannot identify with confidence the existing brand image, its strength, and how it differs across segments and over time.

2. Knowledge of levels of brand awareness is lacking or imprecise, and the visibility of the brand among segments is just guesswork.

3. There is no in-depth understanding of the basis for customer loyalty or of how it is lost or reduced. A systematic, reliable, sensitive, and valid set of measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty by segment is not available.

4. The measures of brand performance and brand-building programs are quarterly and yearly, often based on sales. There are no indicators of the brand tied to long-term business success that are used to evaluate marketing programs. Aspirational brand associations, in particular, are not part of the decision criteria in selecting and managing brand-building programs.

5. The reward structure and tenure of brand managers do not motivate them to manage strategically.

6. There is no long-term strategy for the brand, no vision as to what brand association is desired and what product classes in which the brand should be competing.

7. There is no person or team in charge of the brand. Instead, silo organizational units have independent control of the brand with their product-markets.

Any combination of these is a recipe for strategic problems and lost opportunities.

5 TIPS for Successful Brand Taglines | Part Five

TIP No# 5. A Good Tagline Meets Certain Criteria.

Only now do we come to evaluation and selection. Let’s say you’ve followed all the steps: You’ve determined that a tagline will improve your verbal identity system, AND that you can successfully deploy it; you’ve identified areas of opportunity and have engaged a copywriter to explore those; and she has returned with a solid list of candidates, with 3 taglines in particular feeling most viable. How do you choose?

Use the Following Three Criteria:

Ours Alone – Within your competitive set, a successful tagline only applies to you, and truthfully reflects a core aspect of your brand.

One Thing – You have one last chance to check for committee-creep, and this is it. Given an extremely limited number of words, it’s crucial to do one thing well, not two things half-assed.

Operates Effectively – A successful tagline will fit with and elevate your verbal identity system. Be clear, not clever. Say something meaningful and important, and say it well.

A Few Additional Reminders:

Simplicity is table-stakes. I’m assuming here that any tagline under consideration is crisp, simple and short. Nine words is your maximum. If your copywriter isn’t delivering this as a baseline, fire him.

But, Brooke, what about being memorable? Would I rather have a lively expression of an idea vs. a dull one? Sure. But that alone won’t make your tagline instantly memorable. The tagline’s consistent use in your overall branding system is what will make it memorable. Truth is memorable; B.S. is not. Focus is memorable; “cleverness for the sake of cleverness” is not. Consistency is memorable; erraticism is not.

5 TIPS of Successful Brand Taglines | Part Four

TIP No# 4. The Right Tagline is Worth Paying For.

Successful copywriting is a skill and an art. Great copywriters traffic in clarity, economy, rhythm, metaphor, and a host of other tools at which they are adept. Most of us mere mortals are not so adept. I write all my own blog posts, and I feel comfortable with my skills in this environment. But I’m a brand and creative director and strategist, not a traditional copywriter. If I decided that my company, Austin West: Branding, Creative and Marketing, needed an award winning tagline, I would immediately turn to a copywriter I trust, and would compensate him or her fairly to get to the right result.

I’ve had the most success asking a copywriter to brainstorm a list of tagline ideas within a few specific areas of exploration: “Here are three ideas we’d like to explore. Drill deep on these.”

Once you get the results back, you have tangible ideas that can be compared and played off each other. Don’t go for the catchiest – go for the most effective. Get the idea right, then worry about the wordsmithing. And expect a few rounds of revisions – even a strong copywriter is unlikely to nail it in the first round, and will benefit from fair and thoughtful feedback.

One of my clients recently adopted a new tagline. To get there, we looked first at the overall marketing system. Their tools tilted toward web and sales collateral, which were heavily focused on credibility and proof points, so we saw an opportunity for the tagline to convey our higher-order brand aspirations. We were able to direct a professional copywriter to go deep in that area alone, which streamlined the process and got to the right answer, while saving time and money.

5 TIPS for Successful Brand Taglines | Part Three

TIP No# 3. A Tagline Conveys One Idea Well.

Consider a few of my all-time favorite (and very successful) taglines:

“We try harder.” – Avis

“You are now free to move about the country.” – Southwest Airlines

“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” – FedEx

Each is very different in tone and message. But they each work because they convey a key aspect of the core brand idea – which is to say they work in concert with everything else the brand is about. And they met strategic objectives for each brand at the time of their use.

Your tagline should effectively convey a single important idea. What are some rich veins of exploration for these ideas? I submit the following five:

Target – Who you serve

Benefit(s) – What they get

Point(s) of Difference – Why you’re different

Character – Your brand personality

The Brand Experience – How your brand is lived

On this note, I can’t stress strongly enough: Fear the committee. When taglines are on the table, everyone from the mail room to the boardroom has an opinion to share. And the boardroom in particular has a tendency to shoehorn nine ideas into a single tagline. So make it clear at the outset of the project that, as the brand leader, you’ll welcome opinions, but the final call is yours.

You must be choiceful. A tagline can’t do everything. At best, it can convey a single idea well.

5 TIPS for Successful Brand Taglines | Part Two

TIP No# 2. A Tagline is Part of a System.

More specifically, a tagline is part of two systems:

Your verbal identity system. These are all the words your brand uses to present itself to the market. These can include, but are not limited to, campaign themes, key messaging, web copy, sales collateral copy and packaging copy.

Brand Positioning > Key Messages > Verbal Identity System: > Tagline, > Campaign Themes & Messages, > Sell Copy (Web, packaging, collateral, > Etc.

Your overall marketing system. These are all the tools and tactics that form your go-to-market strategy.

Ask: In what environments will the tagline reside, and how will it be deployed? For instance, if you’re a local retailer or services firm that primarily invests in billboard advertising – where the use of words should be economic – your campaign messages are probably more important than a new tagline.

Most of us know Geico’s tagline: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” It’s not particularly catchy – and we’ll talk about that too – but it registers because it’s been deployed effectively. I don’t like everything about Geico’s ads, but they’ve been consistent and focused in this regard. They’re also spending nearly a billion dollars a year, which helps.

You don’t have a billion-dollar ad budget. So consider how your tagline will actually see the light of day. Taglines live or die on consistency and repetition. If your marketing plan is unlikely to generate numerous near-term impressions of the tagline with your target audience, you can probably do without.

In Part One of this post, I addressed two things to consider before you decide to move ahead with a tagline. Here, we’ll discuss three additional considerations for the tagline development process.

5 TIPS for Successful Brand Taglines | Part One

If you’ve ever dealt with matters of brand identity, you’ve probably wrestled with the tagline questions: Do we need one at all? How do we get to the right one? What should a tagline be, say and do?

There’s a lot of advice out there regarding taglines, and some of it is crap. (Example: “It needs to be short and memorable.” Wow, it sounds so easy when a professional explains it.) In this post and the next, my goal is to give you a set of considerations – some contrary to “conventional wisdom” – that will help you decide how to best proceed with the development of your brand’s tagline.

The first two tips deal with the “before” phase – what to consider before you move ahead with the development of a tagline:

TIP No#1. You might not need a tagline.

Professional copywriters, before you inundate me with hate mail, hear me out. Many of the world’s top brands don’t have a tagline. It’s a situational choice, and we’ll discuss those situational considerations next. But brand leaders, don’t buy the line that “having a tagline can’t hurt.” Sure it can. If it’s the wrong tagline, it undermines the overall brand. And developing the right tagline has attendant costs: The time to generate, evaluate and approve them; the money to hire a professional copywriter, which I absolutely recommend; and the attention to manage the process well. While you are deploying those resources, the market is not waiting to buy.

Your mindset should be, “We need a tagline only if we are very confident that it will strengthen our brand and outweigh its costs.” Actually, that should be your mindset for all kinds of brand decisions.