B2B marketing can be complex, with multiple strands, stakeholders and considerations. A strategic brand narrative is the tool that pulls everything together, attracting people to your community. Brand narrative is a bigger story than product or service. It’s something more meaningful that customers, users and employees can believe, participate and share in. Here are five good reasons why narrative is important in brand marketing:
1. It starts with a promise
The beginning of all good stories contains a promise – the assurance that if you stick around to hear the tale, it will take you somewhere interesting. From the classic ‘Once upon a time’ to the curious video intro, the set-up gets the audience primed for an experience that takes them out of the everyday, down a path they weren’t planning on travelling. Without a promising set up, the audience is likely to wander off. They have to care what happens next. In marketing, the story promise of a particular piece of media can be tied in with the brand promise, and when the tale reaches its conclusion, there’s a satisfying delivery on both.
2. They create order and meaning
The human brain is constantly seeking out order and meaning. Just as the brain detects visual patterns in order to understand the forms that we see, it detects patterns of information. Stories are detectable patterns of information that allow us to make sense of the world. They create order and meaning. You can call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, or narratives – they are the structures that organise information and link it all together. We tell stories in order to explain how things work, how we make decisions and why we make the decisions we do. That’s why a strong brand story has the power to draw together all the strands of the most unwieldy multi-stakeholder project into a coherent and meaningful whole.
3. Stories are inherently social
People have always told stories to connect with others and find shared meaning. Narratives can transcend differences in age and culture to find common ground, connecting us to universal truths. This connectivity is crucial in today’s brand landscape. Brands exist in the moments and experiences shared between a user and a product / service. The power of narrative can foster connections within organisations, helping to create internal alignment so that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Whether that’s around a brand positioning, the ‘flagpole’ you want people to rally around, or a persuasive story that helps sell/clarify/amplify the distinctiveness of a particular service offer.
4. The old ones are the best
There are several theories that say every story known to man can be reduced to one of just a handful of archetypes. A group of researchers from the Universities of Vermont and Adelaide set out to use machine learning to map the story arcs for nearly 2,000 works of fiction, based on what happened to the protagonist. After crunching all the data, they classified them all into one of six core narrative types:
- Rags to Riches (rise)
- Riches to Rags (fall)
- Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
- Icarus (rise then fall)
- Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
- Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)
The focus was on the emotional arc of the stories, which they trained the computers to recognise by measuring the happiness levels of words. These archetypal forms are found in creation myths, classic works of literature and Hollywood movies, and their power can be harnessed in brand stories to resonate with universal truths. There may be only a few types of story arc, but there are endless ways these can play out.
5. Stories spark real emotions
To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real ones. Stories create genuine emotions and behavioural responses to imagined situations. Campaigns that successfully engage the emotions create positive associations with the brand. B2B brand marketing has traditionally played safe creatively. The journey to conversion is often complex, and involves more than one person’s low-value impulse decision. But with more millenials in B2B decision-making roles, there’s a move towards emotive, human-led creative marketing. After all, we’re all emotional beings. And everyone loves a good story.
If you’d like to talk to us about your brand marketing, do get in touch.