The thing about a good story is it’s not just about the facts, it’s also about how it’s told. We all had teachers at school who could turn subjects like history into tales of adventure. Then there were those who could bore the hind legs off a donkey discussing epic battles and axe wielding monarchs.
Today, stories and an engaging narrative, are more relevant than ever in brand building. Whether a company is a newcomer to the scene or an old hand engaging with a whole new generation of potential customers. It’s the stories and how they’re told that really get our attention.
The story goes that Toms founder, Blake Mycoskie, witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes while traveling in Argentina in 2006. Wanting to make a difference, he created a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need. They say that to date they have given more than 50 million pairs of shoes to children in need. The brand has helped restore sight to over 360,000 people. They have helped provide over 250,000 weeks of safe water in six countries. GoPro also launched their bag collection in 2015. With each bag purchased, the brand says it helps provide a safe birth for a mother and baby in need. It’s a simple narrative, and the key is that it’s supported by strong and meaningful follow through. Like many of the best stories, it’s true.
What’s fantastic about GoPro’s narrative is that it’s not about their story. It’s about yours. Knitting together the product and the marketing in seamless style, the brand lists its modus operandi as being to: “help people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others – to celebrate them together. Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone.” Of course, as a brand set up by a surfer and general adventurer, this poetic view of their action capturing cameras seems entirely genuine. The people buying GoPro products identify with the narrative, and in doing so find an opportunity to record and share their own stories.
A campaign narrative rather than a whole brand story, Always turned sanitary products into an empowering part of womanhood with their 2014 #LikeAGirl campaign. They took the negative connotations of what it means to do something ‘like a girl’ and turned it into an expression of strength and capability. It was spectacularly well received and for many the phrase ‘like a girl’ now remains inextricably linked to the brand.
Proving that storytelling can do as much for a recognised brand as a new one, Heinz is practically an institution in most households. But they managed to prove that they’re as relevant as ever with their ‘Get well Soon’ Facebook campaign. They implored followers to buy a can of ‘Get well Soon’ soup. Buyers could also personalise the label. It tapped into idea that Heinz represents home and comfort. It’s just what you want when you’re feeling poorly. Putting their money where their branding was, for every can bought they also donated £1 to Starlight, a charity for terminally ill young children.
‘You’ve got a business to run; don’t code stuff that you could hire a monkey to do.’
Controversial perhaps, but that’s what Mailchimp co-founder Ben Chestnut is said to tell customers. It explains the link between the name and the braining on the universally known email newsletter platform. Finding a way to make a relatively dull but profoundly useful tool instantly recognisable, the combination of colours, icon, name and message have been part of creating a widely used organisation. One of the reasons it’s so clever of course is because the link is so tenuous. The monkey is so completely irrelevant to email. However, they’ve run with it all the way through to free knitted monkeys and it works!