Humans have always connected through stories.
Even when we didn’t know how to write, we passed on stories through folklore, songs and pictures. Some of our most beloved stories and books are actually just modern versions of the most ancient of tales, which shows how truly enduring a good story can be.
And so it comes as no surprise that we want exactly the same thing from our favourite brands. We want companies to tell us why they are doing something more than what they are doing. We want the back story, the origin of the idea, the raison d’être.
I’ve talked a lot in my previous blog posts about brand ethics and how consumers are getting tired of being obviously sold something. In the same vein, nothing sells less than knowing that behind the snazzy product or sleek website is a hollow company that effectively has no soul.
What do I mean by this? Well, people want to humanise brands to emotional engage with them. They want to know that the brand reflects their ideals, projected image and values. The easiest way to humanise a brand is to tell the reader a background story.
That is why so many adverts and promotional material now shy away from obviously promoting the benefits of their products, focussing instead on their core principles and how they reflect society’s values. Think about how adverts have changed from the ‘buy me now’ 1950’s poster to the ethereal embedded videos that now freestream on your Instagram or Facebook.
Some companies don’t market their product at all, but gamble on the fact that an abstract and engaging story will translate their brand idea and make it more memorable. For me, the undisputed UK maestros are the producers of John Lewis Christmas adverts. Each video never talks about what John Lewis does or sells, but always goes viral and becomes a staple annual discussion point around the Christmas table.
Getting people to truly engage with your brand without actually selling what you do is a very clever thing to achieve. People will always promote your brand when they want to share a great story, and will accept that part of sharing that story is also talking about your brand.
Like most things in life, branding has come full circle. Forward thinking Marketeers have realised that tapping into ancient traditions that stand the test of time, such as storytelling, is a sure fire way to get their audiences more engaged.
In the end, it’s quite ironic but also comforting to know that in our modern, digital world we engage the most with a brand when it lets us do what our ancestors did – share stories that speak to us and bring us closer.
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.