Friday, April 27, 2012

Why You Must Have a Compelling Brand Story - Part One

Think back when we were children. What were the four of the most memorable, powerful and magical words we used to hear usually every day and sometimes many times each day from mom, dad and our teachers? For many of us, it was—or still is if you have children—‘Once upon a time.’ Four words that move you, that transport you to a different time, to a different place.

What do stories do? They persuade. Teach. Amuse. Divert. Inspire. Bring us together. Help us to remember. Allow us imagine and dream. Stories are how we make sense of the world. And they just might inspire you to think differently and/or to take action.

Storytelling is not something we just happen to do. It is something we virtually have to do if we want to remember anything…the stories we create are the memories we have.  From author and blogger Paddy Harrington: “Stories become the source code for who we are and who we want to be.” Bottom line…it’s in our DNA to think and tell stories.

Stories are a priceless culture-shaping tool. They help us to understand how we "fit in" to the larger social order. They are the principal means for transmitting what’s really important to the tribe, the clan, and the community.  From stories we learn the relative notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Flash forward to today and we are being inundated with marketing, media and messages. The truth is, your primary competition is not from other people or companies and who make, sell or do something similar to you. No, your real competition is the extreme clutter and nonstop 24/7 noise of the global digital marketplace.

And not just the noise from traditional outbound ‘interrupt-driven’ mass market advertising; more than ever it’s the user generated content via social media that competes for our limited attention span. The number of marketing messages the average person is exposed to every day is now reported to be 3,000 or more, double the number from 45 years ago.

At the same time, according to Marty Neumeier, author of Zag and the Brand Gap, our ability to pay attention to marketing messages has not grown at all. Despite a 75% increase in advertising, “evidence shows we’re paying less attention to any given product, message or medium.”

Neumeier says, and I agree with him, that for the first time in history, the most powerful barriers to competition are not controlled by companies but by customers who erect mental walls and noise filters to keep out the clutter. Not to mention how today’s consumers are armed to the teeth with DVR’s, tablets, and smart phones.

Command and control is dead. The new rules: you don’t market to customers, you market with them. You invent, they participate. They invent; you consider, improve, produce and distribute. They validate. They adopt. They spread the word. It’s all about cooperation and co-creativity. The former 4 P’s of marketing—product, place, price and promotion and been replaced by the 5 E’s—empathy, experience, everyplace, exchange and evangelism. Marketing matters...more than ever.

In other words, customers co-own the brand with you. And if you don’t embrace this emerging paradigm, much of your marketing is almost certain to be dead on arrival.