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
Image source: http://search.creativecommons.org

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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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.

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.

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.

Death of the Super Bowl Spot?

Growing up in a time when having analog television kept U.S. channels from being substituted to Canadian stations, I was able to watch Super Bowl ad spots in all their glory. tvMy grandmother and I would crowd around our whopping 13-inch, rabbit-eared Sony set and tune into commercials like this intolerably ’90s one below for Nike featuring “Air Jordan and Hare Jordan”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oK7PAvKHqc

But in modern times, will the traditional anticipation of the Super Bowl ads still stand? We’re already noticing a shift in the way the ads are released. Now with video sharing sites such as Youtube, ads can be out weeks before the game. It even seems to be trendy to have an ad so racy or controversial that it gets banned for being aired on game day and is leaked to the Internet where it gains millions of views.

That trend in it’s self seems slightly archaic as it is such an extensive process to produce an ad in hopes of it going viral. A Vine of some guy “twerking” on a water trampoline could be posted within nano-seconds and seen across the interweb in a matter of hours. (I tried to find a related video but was unsuccessful. Apparently it hasn’t been done. Yet.)

VGN’s Brad Schwartz, Ghost Robot’s Zach Mortensen, Wired’s Howard Mittman and Mindshare’s David Lang discuss the future of the Super Bowl spot below.

http://www.adweek.com/video/super-bowl/media-thought-leaders-talk-about-end-big-super-bowl-ad-155298?auto

Each of these media experts shares the same confidence that the Super Bowl commercial is here to stay as long as the big game it’s self. Interestingly, the delivery method may be altered in years to come based on the rise of technology and the watching patterns of future generations. It could even be argued that the digital age has increased the Super Bowl ad experience by allowing viewers to seek out their favourite ads on Youtube and watch them again and again.

As you may have come to realize, if you are a recurring reader of SellMeAboutIt, is that I am by all means a traditionalist. The digital world we’re ever so quickly spiraling into is a cause of anxiety for me. The fact that I don’t possess the patience to wait until game day to reel through new Super Bowl ads is alarming. But this is the society we live in today, and this is the society I’m going to be marketing to tomorrow.