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.

Skype video chat social media
Image source: http://search.creativecommons.org

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).

oldsmobile gm vintage cars
Image source: http://search.creativecommons.org

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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Pucker Up for 2015’s Answer to the Ice Bucket Challenge

Twizzler challenges celebs to lock lips over liquorice Lady and the Tramp style to raise awareness for autism.

Following the wildly viral success of last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the world has been waiting for something like this. The sensation that sparked up last June inspired over 2.4 million videos posted of participants dunking ice water over their heads. Ice-Bucket-Challenge-LIt was hailed “The Harlem Shake” of summer, with celebrities, athletes, Homer Simpson and college students alike posting their chilly challenges and tagging their friends. Nearly $100 million was raised for the ALS Association alone, along with millions raised for various other charities of dunkers choice.

The challenge began at Jon Stewart’s Night of Too Many Stars gala to raise funds for New York Collaborates for Autism. And while the Twizzler Challenge is still in it’s infancy, Today show hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Matt Lauer have taken part in an awkward smooch, along with Girls stars Lena Dunham and Allison Williams.

 Things have already taken a freaky turn with one man liquorice nibbling with his dog. Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 9.16.25 PM

As long as participants are donating, or at least know the cause they are representing, then viral video challenges are an effectual way to raise both awareness and funding. Twizzler, owned by Hershey’s, has made a strategic move to get behind a positive, charitable venture that will solidify a genuine, caring brand image.

Evaluating the Evolution of Smooth

It all started in the summer of 2013. A twerking, tweaking former teen star was climbing the charts with “We Can’t Stop”. (What a time to be alive!) And as I watched the insanely popular music video something struck me – no, not the giant bear backpacks and no, not the man eating a sandwich made of dollar bills. A simple application of lip balm in a round, red pod. miley

It was instantaneous I that wanted this. But why? It wasn’t until after a flurry of Google searching I found it these stress-ball sized spheres are 95% organic, petroleum free and full of vitamins. So how could a 2 second flash of product, applied by Hannah Montana (not someone I particularly idolize), conjure in me a need to try every colour available at the drug store? And how has this now ubiquitous brand stirred such a demand in other consumers?

The company, Evolution of Smooth or “Eos” has been around 2009. In recent years it has resurrected a love for lip balm not seen since the 90s. The company also produces hand creams, but it’s the balm that collects the big bucks. It rivals natural competitors Burt’s Bees and conventionally made products like Blistex.

Pop artists are throwing in almost as much product placement of Eos as Beats by Dre headphones. eosNow that’s saying something! Eos has over 3 million Facebook “likes” and over 800k Instagram followers. Celebs like Jennifer Lopez are gramming pics of themselves using unique Eos hashtags. jlo

The company’s wild popularity has sprung about a multitude of copycats such as this cube from recognized lip care brand Soft Lips. soft

Because of Eos’s strong social media presence, the company has invested in few traditional advertising efforts. They know their target audience (young, trendy, social media savvy) and capitalize on it. The product design is genius in it’s simplicity – modern, stylish, uncomplicated, candy coloured and collectable. It’s oversized shape doesn’t have much in the way of practicality (try putting one in your jean pocket), but neither does an oversized clutch or a pair of 5 inch heels. That doesn’t make them any less desirable. The balm itself is again simple in nature. Soft, sweet smelling and easy to apply. The little Eos “eggs” fit perfectly into this generation of chemical conscious consumers searching for product purity.

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.

Vloggers – They’re Bigger Than Harry Potter

You may have heard of her. zoella-gifUK native Zoella Sugg recently published a book called “Girl on the Internet” which has sold more copies in it’s first week than fellow British author J.K. Rowling (you may have heard of her as well, she wrote series a few years back about wizards or something). Zoella, a 24 year old vlogger, has won the internet (take that Kim Kardashian!) with over 6.6 million subscribers on her Youtube channel. The basis of her vlog topics are typically beauty tips and shopping hauls. Zoella’s interweb fame has companies dishing out over $4,000 to her just for dropping their name or endorsing their product in one of her segments. Popular vloggers are now seen as one of the best ways to target young audiences, especially for the beauty industry.

She isn’t the first megastar of vlogging. Comedian Jenna Marbles (Jenna Mourey) became famous from her hysterically relatable how-to videos, such as “How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking” which gained over 5.3 million views in only it’s first week. jenna-marblesMakeup tutorialist Michelle Phan has reached 7 million subscribers which has gained her a cosmetic line with L’Oreal, EM by Michelle Phan.

I find Youtubing is a remarkable way for someone with great ideas to get themselves noticed. I also find the concept of watching someone on Youtube an interesting look into the consumer psyche, playing on the same reason why we become obsessed with reality TV. In my research of popular Youtube channels, I found many informative clips about everything from hair straightening to reviews on breakfast cereal. I also found astounding numbers of views for “Get Ready With Me” videos that featured girls narrating their daily routine from washing their face to picking out which mug they would have their morning tea in. 132,000 people sat through 8 minutes of the day in the life of someone they didn’t know doing mundane things we all do every morning. Welcome to Youtube.

Back to Zoella. I had never actually watched an upload of hers until I heard of her groundbreaking book release, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I started with a video called “My First Time”, which isn’t what you would think. The perky Brit answers questions through an HD lens about firsts such as her first word. Which she can’t remember. So she calls her mom. Her mom doesn’t answer. She leaves a voicemail. She calls her dad. He can’t remember. It goes on from there. The view count? 4, 433, 464.

The life of a young vlogger doesn’t come without it’s hardships though. Firstly, it is hard work to establish a vlog viewers want to see. In the case of Jenna Marbles, she struck it lucky with a video so funny it was a viral hit. And she followed through with more comedic content to keep viewers hooked. Vloggers must be consistent, dedicated to making fresh videos and responding to the community (yes, Youtube is a strong online community). It helps if they display a likeable personality which will help viewers get to know them on a level one would get to know a friend. Vloggers must face the criticism of trolling commentors making harsh remarks or stirring up religion based baloney just to get a reaction. apple-girl-laptop-mac-netbook-Favim.com-362559

And so I add vlogs to the list of ways advertising is rapidly changing. With the staggering rates in which some successful vlogstars get paid by companies ($300,000 a year in some cases), perhaps I’ll turn Sell Me About It into a video log. You can watch me discuss marketing trends as I simultaneously apply mascara. After that I’ll fold some laundry, I’m sure I can gain a few hundred thousand views for that.

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.