For eons now stories and storytelling have been a part of human civilisation. We're wired to tell and listen to stories. While there is a lot of debate on this, many marketers also believe that there is nothing greater than the power of a story to move people. This is the main reason why brand stories are told and there is enough evidence to show that people listen to them. And like any other story, a brand story needs to be engaging. Whether it's a big brand or a small brand the importance of creating the right brand story cannot be ignored. This entails that story should powerful, focused, and consistent over time.
Of course, the main reason for telling a brand story is to gain a thorough understanding of what the brand stands for. Ashok Lalla, who recently moved out of Infosys and is now an independent Digital and Marketing Advisor, spoke to YourStory and told us about how to go about creating an effective brand story. He says that the key ingredient to telling a good, impactful, brand story, which is applicable to both large and small brands, is to understand the key customer motivations and insights around choosing brands and to address those effectively.
Consistent practices build a brand
The story of a brand cannot be built overnight. "Even what marketers call a 'big bang' media campaign cannot build a brand. Brands are built over time through consistent experiences delivered to consumers that are true to its essence. It is important to recognise that a brand’s 'moments of truth' are many and dispersed and one has to address these in the endeavour to build a brand," says Ashok.
It therefore is important to be consistent and absolutely sure of what your brand stands for. "Many young brands seem to forget the importance of consistency in establishing the essence of a brand. A big, consistent central idea is important to creating a durable story," adds Ashok. Once that central idea is established it needs to be communicated in a consistent way across channels. To deliver the right impact the choice of platforms, channels, and media need to be optimized.
How much should you spend on marketing?
While establishing the right mix of communication channels is essential, many young brands are in a fix because of their budgets. While money is important both for developing effective campaigns and running them, one has to be really careful. “Not spending much is a relative thing really, and it's important to spend adequately to deliver the right brand experience consistently. In this regard cutting corners can hurt a young brand, and it's really about striking the right balance between spending and brand development,” says Ashok.
Also read: What it takes to build a global brand
Talking about communication channels, in today’s market the digital medium has become very important. However, according to Ashok, while digital channels do carry the brand story quickly and effectively, the story on the ground (offline) should be consistent with what is being communicated online. He cites a great example to explain this: a great online shopping experience means nothing if the wrong product is delivered.
This can actually do more harm to the brand because it will take the shine off the positive impact the online experience had created. Simply pushing out the brand story through digital amplification is only a means of gaining share of voice in the short term – it is not really helping in capturing ‘share of consideration’ or real purchase. In a similar vein, Ashok feels that promotional offers and online discounts are viewed by the consumers as just that and nothing else. People see them as sales tactics, which they actually are. "Those are not brand building elements," says Ashok.
Brand relationships on social media
Brands often forget that people are on social media to interact with friends and not with brands. "Too much interaction is, well, too much, Brands end up being chatty with consumers. This is a bad idea. What is important is for a brand to listen to its consumers and be responsive to them,” says Ashok.
Ashok adds, “It is not just about posting canned responses within minutes, but assimilating what the consumer is saying and addressing them effectively. This often calls for action beyond the social stream and it's important for brands to let consumers know this, and then close the loop as quickly as possible later on. It's also inadvisable to spam consumers with incessant offers or updates about the brand. Being in the consumers’ stream is good, but being in their face is not," says Ashok.
Think of the consumer
Ashok believes that many young brands focus on pushing their side of the story instead of focusing on what's important to the consumers. They should be helping consumers be more and do more - these are key motivators for people and the brands they buy are only a means to this end. An effective brand story is one that resonates with consumers to create preference and purchase.
There are many companies who even talk from a VCs perspective, forgetting that the creating a brand and getting customer buy-in is of paramount importance. "I've seen several startups define their business from a VC presentation perspective rather than a market and consumer one," says Ashok.
In conclusion, Ashok feels that most young brands seem to relegate the need for brand building in favor of the tactical frenzy of customer acquisition. This devalues the brand in the long run. Brands begin to offer discounts and deals almost too quickly - they forget that discounts are not a means of building customer loyalty. Over time, customers become discount loyal, rather than brand loyal.
"However, there is a positive trend. Smarter brand owners are recognising the value of mature brand counsel that helps them adopt a holistic approach to marketing and better integrates their sales tactics into the mix. This can help them achieve both their short term goals as well as build an impactful brand in the long run," concludes Ashok.