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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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 

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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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A Decade of Youtube!

My first real experience with Youtube happened ten years ago, when the video sharing site was in it’s infancy. I was an eighth grader looking for my favourites clips of Family Guy online, and discovered a Youtube channel with tons of 30 second Peter Griffin gags. giphy

Now Youtube is synonymous with every day internet usage. The site has over 1 billion users worldwide with hundreds of millions of hours of video being consumed. Every day over 300 hours of footage is uploaded to Youtube, with years and years of footage available at a click of a mouse. Music videos and viral clips are bringing in millions upon millions of views.

‘Gangham Style’ – a kooky video companion to a popular pop song by Korean singer/songwriter Psy, broke records with over 2 billion (billion!) views in 2012.giphy

Miley Cyrus, Eminem and the children from the viral home movie ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ have also reached near billion numbers.

Youtube has become an essential platform for many brands to advertise on. Imagine in the next the years what Youtube ads will look like and targeted they will be to each consumer that views them.

Ventis and Vinos – Starbucks Introducing a Little Happy Hour

Happy Hour starts at 4!

starbucks-coffee-alcohol

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.

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.

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.

Loco for Viral Ad Campaigns

Meet Tyler, Taco Enthusiast.

Taco Bell Canada is announcing the infamous Doritos Locos Taco (a beef taco wrapped in a Nacho Cheese Dorito shell) is permanently being added to it’s menu. The taco is a wildly popular item, and one fan decides to show his appreciation for it by getting it’s likeness emblazoned on his arm. Taco Bell is rewarding his honourable act with free Doritos Locos for life.

The concept and video was created by ad agency Grip Ltd, a Toronto based company dedicated to being game-changing, ground-breaking, dynamic, boat-rocking mavericks, so they claim. They have served clients such as Honda, Labatt’s, Budweiser and Bell. Currently a thirty second version of the spot airs on television, while the longer version can be found online.

The concept personifies Taco Bell’s slogan, Live Mas. Veronica Castillo, Marketing Manager for Taco Bell Canada describes the spot as a “bold move”. The ad has led to a Taco Bell Twitter campaign where tweeters are encouraged to tweet their love for the Doritos taco’s permanent residency with the hashtag (#) #DLT4LIFE.

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The video has managed to gain 3,000 views since it’s launch on January 13th. Its not an instant viral success story, but it has some time to grow. Viral advertising is an exceptional way to generate buzz and brand awareness. The Internet loves to see people doing outrageous things, whether it is sponsored by a brand or not. It’s no longer enough to release a commercial on television and hope it incites the intended target market. Agencies are tapping into this fascination for wacky, shocking and entertaining videos and capitalizing on it.

Below is one of the most ingenious viral ad campaigns I’ve seen to date. It is an ad for Tipp-Ex, a company that makes white-out and other correctional supplies in Europe. The video lets you interact and create your own ending to the story, thanks to Tipp-Ex correctional fluid.