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TYPES OF STORIES A BRAND MAY TELL
- 28 Sep 21
The act of storytelling encapsulates what it means to be human – we share stories from our memories and imagination to inform, educate and entertain others, and we have done so ever since the Stone Age. We also invest in other people’s stories regularly: we flick through our friends' stories on Instagram, immerse ourselves in a director’s story at the cinema and dive into an author’s story at the library.
Considering that storytelling is such an innate part of the human experience, it makes sense that the most effective marketing strategies tell a story of their own. From Gillette to Adidas, Renault to Nike, every successful brand has shared stories to advertise their brand.
Below, we analyse the different types of stories an advertiser may choose to create around their brand, as well as taking a look at how our catalogue of music may be able to help you if you’re currently in the process of shaping your brand story.
How Many Types of Stories Are There?
There's an infinite number of stories that can be told by a brand, but the only story that should be told is one that reflects the brand’s true nature; in other words, a company should always remember its true purpose. Perhaps the founder initially produced a sugar-free soft drink because of their experience as a dentist; perhaps they set up a sustainable fashion label because they care about the planet; perhaps they founded a new streaming service because they’re passionate about the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
But that’s not to say that a brand can interpret their story in different ways; it’s always fun to see how advertisers adapt their story for marketing purposes. For example, Coca-Cola’s core message pivots around the idea of happiness and enjoyment, but the soft beverage brand is savvy enough to spin these broad concepts into themed campaigns, such as their Christmas and Olympic-themed commercials.
Even when companies rebrand themselves, they work best when they tap into the brand’s DNA. For example, fashion designer Riccardo Tisci completely rebranded Burberry when he took the helm in 2018; however, he understood the importance of the brand’s British identity and its focus on craftsmanship as these concepts remain at the brand’s core. Today, Burberry is bigger and better than ever.
So, although a brand’s story should be consistent, it’s also essential that a brand finds several stories within the bigger picture to keep things fresh, modern and relevant.
Different Types of Stories
Like a series of books or a film saga, the overarching story of a brand can be split into several different stories. Below, we take a look at nine of the most common storytelling approaches in the marketing industry. These are:
- Consumers and community
The most obvious and arguably most effective way a brand can tell a story is to share its aim. What gives the brand purpose?
A perfect example of a company using its aim for storytelling purposes is Airbnb’s ‘Made Possible by Hosts’ project. For the 2021 marketing campaign, the San Francisco-based company released a commercial every few weeks or so that featured images of people making memories together in Airbnbs across the globe.
In the ‘Made Possible by Hosts’ advert below, two sisters are shown bonding in ‘The Long Barn hosted by Sara’; and as the ad runs through carefully selected images of the siblings, an indie-folk cover of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ plays. It’s clear that Airbnb’s primary aim is to bring people together – whether that be friends, family, colleagues or teammates – and it goes without saying that this aim is one the majority of viewers can get behind.
If you're marketing a brand that’s been around for donkey's years, you may want to use the history of the brand to your advantage – after all, audiences are more inclined to trust a brand that’s been around forever than they are someone new.
In 2008, stalwart British bread brand Hovis released the ‘Go On Lad’ commercial that focuses on a young boy who rides his bike from a bakery in 1886 to a neighbourhood in 2008. On his journey, the young boy encounters the most pivotal events in Britain, including the suffragette marches, World Wars I and II and the miner strikes of the mid-80s.
The commercial reminds audience members that Hovis is a brand that they can rely on – a brand that’s fed Brits ever since the 19th century. The slogan ‘As good today as it’s always been’ that appears at the very end of the commercial acts as yet another reminder that Hovis is a consistent part of the lives of many Brits and will continue to be so for years to come.
One of the most effective methods of storytelling is one that focuses on the employees of a company – by putting faces to the name, brands can come across as more relatable to audience members. This type of storytelling also gives the brand a platform to boast about how well it cares for its staff members.
In the winter of 2020, Amazon released a commercial titled ‘The Team That Delivers’. The commercial takes viewers behind the scenes to discover what one member of staff calls ‘the real magic of Amazon’; the people. Each of the members of staff introduced on-screen has a different personality which allows viewers to see themselves in at least one of the team members.
Consumers and Community
Like the employees angle, this type of storytelling focuses on the people – but this time it’s the people that spend their money on the brand rather than those who work for it. The prime example of a brand that focuses on its following is Apple.
In November 2020, Apple released an advert that centres around images of some of the most talented musicians in the world – including Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish and Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover) – each of which is pictured using a Macbook. As the advert plays out, a voiceover discusses the notion of ‘greatness’ whilst a rock beat taken from Raury’s ‘Take Back the Power’ plays: the combination of the music and the voiceover purposely inflates the importance of the creative minds featured in the commercial.
By releasing an ad featuring some of biggest musicians in the world using a Macbook, Apple is conveying the message to its global audience that if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. Additionally, it welcomes viewers to join Apple’s community by investing in an Apple product. After all, who wouldn’t want to be sat alongside the likes of Spike Lee and Takashi Murakami?
Celebrities and creative talents aren’t the only notable people to make up Apple’s community: everyday heroes such as Michael Jackson from Minnesota, a young man with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, also use Apple products regularly.
Apple interviewed Jackson for a commercial focusing on how his Apple Watch helped save his life; the Apple Watch identified that his heart rate was considerably higher than usual which triggered him to visit the hospital. It turned out that his heart rate was a sign that he had developed sepsis.
Not only does this commercial share the story of an everyday Apple user, but it also shows the power of the technology at play. In this instance, an Apple Watch helped Michael Jackson lower the risk of him becoming critically ill – or, as he puts it, potentially saved his life.
It’s not uncommon to see a brand focus on an instantly recognisable character in their advertising materials, especially if that brand aims to target children. And when we think of family-friendly advert characters, we think of the Coco Pops monkey.
Officially named Coco the Monkey, Kellogg’s cereal mascot has been gracing the front of Coco Pop boxes ever since the early nineties. Fun yet sensible, Coco’s personality represents the idea that Coco Pops are an exciting cereal for children that are healthy enough to be approved by parents. And in this particular commercial, Kellogg’s are keen to communicate the message that the cereal has 30% less sugar than before.
But it isn’t just brands that target youngsters that go down the character storytelling route – take the Go Compare man, for instance. Since 2009, Welsh singer Wynne Evans has played an eccentric opera singer for the price comparison website, Go Compare. The brand uses the character to offer viewers a familiar face that they can trust and rely on. Naturally, this leads to these viewers making use of the online service.
Occasionally, brands decide to literally put their product or service up against a similar product or service for the sake of a commercial – these kinds of commercials emphasise the competitive nature of brands in the modern world. A famous example of competition storytelling is Microsoft’s series of ads that puts the Apple iPad up against Windows tablets.
Narrated by a Siri-inspired voice, the series of commercials overtly point out the benefits of choosing a Microsoft tablet over the more sought-after Apple tablet offering. This kind of storytelling is effective for a brand as it proves that one brand – in this case, Microsoft – is more advanced than the other. It also gives Apple supporters little room to argue with the facts as the commercial shows the two devices working side by side.
Brands may choose to align with big events and integrate their story with the story of the event they’ve chosen to support. For example, brands recently released commercials incorporating the Tokyo 2020 Olympics into their already-established narratives.
Luxury Swiss watch brand Omega did a sensational job of harmonising their identity with the Tokyo Olympics in a commercial that promotes Omega’s role as the Official Timekeepers of the 2020 Olympic Games and promotes the Omega Seamaster diving watch collection by blending the identities of Omega, the Olympics and Japan into one. Who wouldn’t want to own an Omega timepiece after seeing this commercial?
Brands may choose to incorporate the season into their storytelling, especially focusing on narratives that pivot around public holidays such as Halloween, Eid, Easter and, of course, Christmas.
Like with events storytelling, the brand must stay true to its own story when telling a seasonal tale, like how Mulberry’s 2014 Christmas commercial still feels very, well, Mulberry.
Titled #WinChristmas, the commercial follows a family that competes to give the best Christmas gift to a female family member. Naturally, the winning gift is a Mulberry bag – a present that beats a hand-painted portrait, a puppy and a snow-white unicorn.
The reason why seasonal advertising is so popular and effective is that it reminds audiences of particular brands around the time they may be considering purchasing their goods.
Additionally, this type of storytelling creates a link between the season and the brand that can be played on, on an annual basis. Just take John Lewis’ connection with Christmas, for example.
The final kind of storytelling we’re touching on is the kind that looks to the future. Sure, a brand needs to know where it came from and where it is in the moment, but it’s just as vital that the brand looks to the future.
In July 2020, Apple released a commercial that shows a young baby girl taking a nap as a voiceover promises her that Apple will have no carbon footprint by the time of her 10th birthday in 2030.
The climate change promise commercial underlines Apple’s commitment to the planet and dedication to bettering themselves. This type of storytelling is likely to catch the ears and eyes of the masses as it's so much easier to support a brand with positive values than one without.
Syncs for Your Stories
The syncs that these household names have used to flesh out their stories reflect the brand’s identity in some shape or form. For example, LEGO’s Rebuild The World advertisement features a super playful track that reminds the viewer how much fun it is to play with LEGO and be in touch with your imagination.
If you’re interested in using one of our syncs to tell your story, head on over to our Sound + Story page.
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