Every Brand Has A Story To Tell, But Which Ones Are Really Worth A Listen?

brand story telling examples

Do you know someone in your life who is an excellent storyteller? Perhaps it’s a family member or good friend who has the ability to have you hooked on their every word. They can bring about emotion, laughter and intrigue just from their own presence and voice. This is the type of person that big brands want to emulate. The companies of the world want to have you enthralled by their words, their imagery and their insights. They want to make you feel raw emotion and tell you a tale that will change your perspective on the day or even on life itself. Many brands are successful at creating this sense of feeling, but some unfortunately fail to communicate their stories properly.

Skype Makes The Impossible Happen With Tearjerker Ad Spot 

Skype is a beautiful example of a brand that has won at telling stories to consumers for years now. The live video chatting tool stretches beyond being an easy means of conferencing in the boardroom. It even goes farther than saying ‘happy birthday’ to Grandma who lives across the country in Florida.

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Skype wanted to tell a story that crosses the globe, and exemplifies the true meaning of family, and they succeeded.

The “Stay Together” campaign actually shows how digital platforms are changing what it means to come together. The 2 minute spot tells the story of Solomon, a Ugandan man who came to America with the clothes on his back and only 5 dollars in his pocket. Leaving his family behind, Solomon uses Skype to connect with relatives and his young son from thousands of miles away. The masterful campaign contrasts America and Uganda with stunning imagery, and concludes with an emotional gift for Solomon. A photographer takes a photo of Solomon’s family on Skype being projected onto his living room wall, while Solomon stands beside them. This ‘Impossible Family Portrait’ is the first of it’s kind and a unique testament to the power of the video tool.

This type of storytelling let’s the product speak for itself. It does not push the value of Skype on the consumer, but rather opens their eyes to the possibilities it presents. There is no call-to-action, no deal offered, no salesperson asking you to buy. Simply Solomon’s tears as he sees the official printout of his first ever family portrait and hangs it on his bare bedroom wall says enough about why Skype is so essential and meaningful to people. The company also projects the sense that it cares about the lives of it’s users and the journeys they undergo.

How does this Skype campaign resonate with you? Are the imagery and story enough to take the viewer from perception to purchase?

“Not Your Father’s Oldmobile” – A Cautionary Tale  

The story of how General Motors lost it’s way with their model, The Oldsmobile, is a classic tale of a reinvention that went terribly wrong. (Rarely do brand-reinventions go right, mind you).

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General Motors banked itself as an all American, slice- of-apple-pie kind of brand back in the 1960s. It produced cars that were not only burly, but very innovative for their time. GM was always on the cutting edge of design and technology, along with being trusted for their craftsmanship and quality. Their tagline was, “Escape From The Ordinary”. But come the 1980s, that’s just what they did…

With the emerging popularity of Asian car manufacturers and changes to the standard look and feel of a motor vehicle, the late 80s and early 90s was a hit or miss for American car companies. Faced with an adapt or flee kind of circumstance, GM tried its hand at adapting the Oldsmobile. In an attempt to be ‘hip’, the brand developed a whole new story for the trusty vehicle, which was now being favoured by a much older demographic. They released a commercial featuring Ringo Starr and his daughter that was jam-packed with early 90s cheese-ball production value. “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” was the new tagline, in hopes of attracting young drivers by rebranding their dad’s dated old set of wheels and making it look desirable again. It went against their original automotive values and tried to rewrite what it was all about to appeal to this new generation of drivers it had little understanding of.

The campaign went against what the brand originally stood for, and cheesed off the loyal customers. It was a certified nail in the coffin for the Oldsmobile, which shut down production a few years later. The key takeaways from this brand storytelling fail are: 1) do not betray what your brand stands, 2) let your brand die with dignity vs. trying to grasp at straws to be something you’re not.

What could GM have done differently to save the Oldsmobile, or was it on it’s way to anyways?

How Starbucks Made Fun Of Their Customers, And Won The Internet 

pumpkin spice latte starbucks
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The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a yearly tradition for Starbucks lovers and even non-Starbie regulars alike. It became such a craze upon it’s release years ago that it has almost become a modern cultural staple in the Western world. The coffee giant recognized their customers pent up excitement for the PSL’s release date each year, their obsession with Instagramming and Facebooking their beverages and the inherent mocking of people (particularly women) who love PSLs. Starbucks decided to poke some fun at this cult flavour following with a clever ad spot.

The story revolves around a made-up town which celebrates the coming of the PSL every year with an annual festival. There is cinnamon stick baton twirling and pumpkin-inspired hair colouring. The spot is beautifully shot in a real-life documentary style that could easily pass as a TLC network reality show you may have the fortune of binge-watching on a Saturday afternoon after Say Yes To The Dress.

The narrative connects to the audience in a way that gently jokes about the PSL phenomenon, and creates a heartfelt depiction of this endearing and relatable small town. It opens up an interaction between brand and customer, a sort of nod from Starbucks that they understand what is happening with this product. It also gives the brand room to expand upon these characters and this fictional town.

Is this type of storytelling creating the right engagement with customers? Where could Starbucks take their narrative next?

Share examples of your favourite brand stories, or ones that have failed miserably in front of the eyes of consumers.

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Tostitos Tasty Tweets: Analyzing The Success Of Real-Time Twitter Campaigns

Utilizing the power of Twitter, Tostitos Canada is giving users a unique real-time experience with the “Open Up The Fun” Campaign. Simply use the hashtag #OpenUpTheFun along with a hashtagged ingredient (ex. #greenpeppers) and an instant reply will pop up with a related recipe and even a quick video tutorial. Pretty neat, eh?

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For Thanksgiving, users were able to find custom recipes instantly using this fun and fast concept. Turkey Chilli Nacho Dip, for example, was a big winner in households across Canada thanks to Tostitos.

“It’s a way to test out different mechanics on how to drive consumers in-store for a call to action.” explains Susan Irving, senior director of PepsiCo Foods Canada. “Twitter is a platform where consumers really like to engage, so we’re getting them to tweet at us and giving them the immediate response they want. And doing it quickly means they can get those ingredients right away, since they might be in the grocery store at the time they tweet it.”

Real-time Twitter campaigns are becoming increasingly more popular as advertising moves towards interaction with the customer rather than talking at the customer. Adidas participated in a real-time campaign using Twitter back in 2013 during the Wimbledon games, which got the ball rolling for other brands. Evian broke barriers in 2014 by using a clever hashtag strategy called #Evianbottleservice. Twitter users simply tweeted their current location (if they were in a select number of locations approved by the company) and used the hashtag. evian twitter online marketing Evian staff members would respond by hurriedly heading towards the location to deliver a free bottle of water to the Twitter users within 5 to 7 minutes of their tweet being sent.

“We are doing something that is a real-time service for the first time ever, but it is a long-term commitment to put real-time social media engagement at the heart of our activation.” explains Olga Osminkina-Jones, Vice President of Marketing at Evian.

Are real-time campaigns the future of online engagement? What will social media advertising look like in the future?

Clean and Clear Features Jazz Jennings in Beautiful New Campaign

Clean and Clear’s #SeeTheRealMe campaign is a fresh perspective on the typical zit shaming acne ads. Rather then pointing out blemishes, the Johnson and Johnson skin care company focuses on feel good, esteem building stories.

Among the collection of mini bios is a story from Jazz Jennings. At only 14, she is a Youtube sensation, author and LGBTQ rights activist. Jazz is also transgender and has become a role model for children and teens. jazzHer Clean & Clear ad spot has been part of a recent cultural shift of including openly transgender people in mainstream media.

The spot features Jazz explaining her initial struggle with being a transgender pre-teen, and her journey of becoming authentically her. It is a story that any teen can relate to. Jazz’s dynamic personality and captivating smile light up the spot. 

Just this year, brands have made significant progress with the inclusion of same-sex relationships in their campaigns – tiffany-gay-couple-fullsuch as Tiffany and Co. who put this real life same-sex couple as the face of their 2015 engagement ad. Hallmark has also featured a same-sex couple in their 2015 Valentine’s Day spot called “Put Your Heart to Paper”. But as far as creating campaigns positively representing transgender people, Clean and Clear is one of the first to get it right.

The ads are also flawless because they rail against traditional skin care advertising. The beauty industry appears to be making a change in the way they communicate what “beauty” is to their audience. They approach the consumer more delicately rather than telling them how their skin should look. In turn, empowering, encouraging brands create a deeper relationship with customers.

The best part about this? If media makes these changes now to promote authenticity and inclusivity, new generations a more accepting world than those before them have. It is remarkable to see brands help shape that future world.

Ventis and Vinos – Starbucks Introducing a Little Happy Hour

Happy Hour starts at 4!

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In a pilot project launching this year, coffee giant Starbucks will be serving beer and wine at select Canadian locations. The project is titled “Starbucks Evenings” and has already been introduced by the company to American coffee shops. The “Evenings” menu also offers h’orderve style pairings with your beverage such as chicken skewers and bacon-wrapped dates.

The Evenings project is a great way to boost sales during low traffic hours. Typically a location will receive 70% of it’s daily business before 2 pm. Alcohol adds to Starbucks expanding selection of products (baked goods, sandwiches, iTunes cards). Starbucks7The company has been working hard to position itself as more than just a morning stop for a cup of joe, and is becoming a multi-service store. In the past few years, the dominating coffee company has been battling fast food chains who are competing with their own coffees. McCafe – McDonald’s successful bean brand is sneaking in as a close second to Starbs.

The US stores providing the Evenings menu have seen substantial success and experts are not worried about failure here in Canada. But some Canadian consumers have concerns. Based on online commentaries, some people don’t feel booze melds with the Starbucks atmosphere. Won’t customers who’ve had “one too many” disrupt the cafe vibe? Or even the boozy smell could off-put those expecting the rich coffee aroma we are used to. Others fear baristas aren’t equipped to be discerning IDers, or are uncomfortable with alcohol being more readily available and “to-go”.

The locations for the pilot project will be confirmed later this month, but they will most likely be based in major city centres such as Toronto. The company alludes that the project will be popular among their main target, women, who will prefer goat cheese flatbread and a glass of wine in a cozy coffee shop over the bar.

wine-tasting-tips-650x406I am trying to be unbiased, but as a twenty something who loves goat cheese and who could take or leave the bar scene, it sounds like my cup of…coffee.

Brands Try To Be Your “Bae”, Lose Credit With Young People

baeThe word “bae” is a term of endearment used ad nauseam by today’s youth. It is a short form of “baby” or “sweetie”. The slang sprung to popularity this past summer after hip hop artist Pharrell Williams introduced it to our vocabularies with his catchy single “Come Get It Bae”, despite it being used by artists such as Kanye West years earlier. It’s lyrical origins can be traced all the way back to 2005, but it took 10 years to rise to mainstream glory. The word saturates internet memes, Twitter feeds and Instagram hashtags. It was recently declared one of the “Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English due to Misuse, Overuse or Uselessness” by Lake Superior State University.

Now brands such as Ragu and Hamburger Helper are jumping on the bae-wagon. But teens are not falling for these attempts to be cool. Picture a dorky uncle at the family barbecue trying to bond with his 15 year old nephew by claiming he’s into the hip hop and saying “yo yo yo” a lot. Part of me hopes these brands are subversively mocking this overused slang, but another part of me realizes that sadly they are not. I like this Tweet from Mountain Dew the best because it exhibits the way older generations place “the” baebefore names of things, such as “Why don’t we connect over The Facebook?”.

With Pizza Hut and Whole Foods begging to be bae, and the word already on the decline, chances are it’s demise is imminent. Young tweeters are responding in a negative way to these campaigns declaring the term officially uncool now that Walmart is using it to sell them toilet paper. I have faith that brands need not worry. With a new year upon us we will witness the dawn of a new slang word. And companies have all year to finally get around to sort figuring out what it means…

Netflix Copycats Spring Up Everywhere, Satisfying TV Binge Cravings

Shomi drama! Shomi romance! What ever you are Craving, chances are one of the many online streaming options will have it for you. It seems 2015 will be the year of the online streaming service with Rogers and Shaw’s Shomi.com, offering a wide range of our favourite series for $8.99 a month. woman-tv-heart-habits-400x400 Or Bell Canada’s answer to Netflix – Crave TV. For a mere $4 a month you can binge-watch classics like 90’s sitcom Seinfeld. (However, Crave TV tacks on a few extra bucks if you want movies and some select TV series). Or there’s Amazon Prime and Hulu as well. If you don’t feel like paying and you like your pirated movies with Korean subtitles, there are countless free, virus induced illegal sites who probably will want your credit card number anyways…

It’s no surprise the internet is changing the way many people view television. It’s creating a new phenomenon mentioned above known as “binge watching”. Netflix has caught on to these 10 hour TV show gluts, aware that people can plod through entire seasons on a stay-home Sunday. Earlier this year, Netflix released a complete season of their hit original program, “Orange is the New Black”, in one mass upload. It was a delight to bingers who easily consumed the prison based comedy-drama in one big feed. TCDORIS EC030

The days of waiting week to week to find out what woman McDreamy was going to choose may be coming to end. (I was a shameless Grey’s Anatomy fan for many years). But for you traditionalist TV connoisseurs, we are still a ways away from this becoming the norm. Despite the uprising of online streaming services, only 10% of television viewers are using them to get their fix. A good percentage of us still watch week to week with anticipation, and maybe some of us prefer that method.

Nike Promises to Keep Us Warm This Winter

Nike has taken a comical approach to the challenges of winter athletics. Recruiting Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids awkward Irish cop) as a news reporter guiding us through the history of coldness. This is the first instalment for Nike’s Choose Your Winter campaign, featuring the Nike Hyperwarm line. Athletes such as NFL star Aaron Rodgers and figure skater Gracie Gold join the cast of this funny spot. It caught my eye as it was reeling on my television this evening, as I walked through the door bringing an arctic chill with me.