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VOL. 132 | NO. 217 | Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Guerrilla Sales & Marketing

Two Reasons Brand Stories Take Off

Catherine (Kitty) Taylor

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Recently, Tony Allen’s not-goodbye letter to Memphis spread across our social-media feeds and dinner conversations. It was a letter that left some misty-eyed and others full of hometown pride and hope for the future.

That Tony Allen … he sure does know how to make us feel, doesn’t he?

Tony’s letter both began and ended with his nod to being the brand spokesperson for Memphis International Airport. For the past two NBA seasons, this strange-bedfellows partnership won hearts and minds. It drew attention to the renewal story that is taking place at our city’s airport.

Simply put, the Tony Allen-Memphis International Airport story took off. Every brand-story creator wants the same for their organization. So where do you start?

Authentic Storytelling. Authenticity is the cornerstone of a great brand story. Nothing can harm a well-intended consumer interaction more than a noticeable schism between what a brand story promises and the actual experience of an unfulfilled promise. In a snap, trust plummets. So, ground your story in the reality of your business and don’t try to fabricate a promise that can’t be replicated in real life.

For example, if your commodity product is but one of dozens of choices a consumer has, you don’t need to hide that fact. Instead, try honing in on a real customer’s viewpoint about why your company offers the better selection. If your reality is that you’re rebuilding after a tough experience, then communicate with your audience about not just the challenge, but more importantly, the steps being taken to secure a future they will want to be part of.

Evocative Storytelling. A Forbes piece from 2013 about the secrets of brand storytelling states, “Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches.” Rather, they are relatable, repeatable moments of human interaction. They tap into emotion – and endless reams of social-science research show that we remember what we feel.

Emotion-evoking tactics abound in brand storytelling. Maxwell House brings us into the homes of earnest families that connect over the shared experience of pouring a cup of coffee. Conversely, Allstate and its “Mayhem” character narrate an “alt”-brand experience – that is, what you can expect if you go with a competitor’s option. The effect – whether it’s a small smile across our lips or an involuntary widening of our eyes in surprise – is the same. We feel that story’s experience.

Whether you are ready to create your brand story for the first time or breathe new life into a story that has run its course, keep these two characteristics of brand storytelling in mind. When you do, your company might offer the next story to take off.

Catherine (Kitty) Taylor, vice president of innovation at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at redrovercompany.com.

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