Lenin used to say: “History is a weapon. We don’t want our enemy to carry a weapon, why do we let them make their own history?” Has storytelling also become a weapon in marketing?
It’s good to ask yourself whether it is a weapon. When we think about weapons, we think someone might get hurt – weapon is to wound or kill. I would rather call storytelling a tool that has become very useful. Communication is getting back to the spoken, verbal type. In addition to talking face to face we communicate, for instance, on Facebook, using transcriptions of verbal conversations. In times when we keep telling people about something, the most effective way to spread our message is to use storytelling principles.
Tales and myths were very effective, because they could be passed on for hundreds or thousands years. Today brands also hope to use that same method to make us pass on their relevant message. This is important, because hearing it from another person makes that message more reliable. If you tell me something I will be more willing to trust you than if I see that same message on a billboard. But in order for me to believe you, you can’t use the language I would find on a billboard. You need to tell me something in an appealing way. That is why brands also want to tell stories – and that’s good, I think.
Why do we need stories? It used to be enough to tell about how functional a product or a service was…
I believe there are two aspects behind this. First, the market is saturated. If you look around a shopping mall, you will find tens of clothing stores. The question is: which store will you choose? Brands need to make more and more effort to grab our attention. Another aspect is, that products offered are very similar. I bet if I covered the logo on my T-shirt you wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s Zara, H&M or All Saints. When products are similar to one another, have similar functions and we can’t really tell the difference, we need to show some added value that is recognizable. And the story is to create an individual character of a product.
You’ve mentioned that brands need to show consumers some added value. How do we define it? How do we define consumers’ needs?
Companies very often set financial goals, that is that they want to grow by some percent, reach some revenues level or earn a given sum of money. These goals are relevant from the point of view of managing a company. But when it comes to interaction with customers, the goal needs to be something important both to the customer and the company. I would call this “a company’s ambition that makes a change”. If we’re able to communicate this change to people the chance is good they will identify with it.
Research by Deloitte revealed that for 80 percent of the global Y generation it is crucial that companies not only sell, but also solve the problems of today’s world. And that’s not only about problems typical for a given sector, also about taking responsibility for the society and the environment. Trying to find that goal we need to think about why the company exists, what do we want to change, what do we want to make except for money? No business is made solely for money. There’s always a problem it is trying to solve. This problem can help set the goal users will like. I guess you’d like to hear an example of such a goal (laughs).
One example is Google. On the one hand, it is a browser and needs to make money on AdWords and SEO etc. But on the outside, Google talks about itself as a company that wants to manage information. We are getting loads of information and messages – someone will call me or you in a moment, you’re probably thinking about something, you’ve got some notes in your notebook. Google wants to arrange all that information so that it’s useful for you and you don’t feel like drowning in it. And this is a goal that turns a company into a brand and gives it an attractive image people want to identify with – after all, it’s all about identity.
No business is made solely for money. There’s always a problem it tries to solve. This problem can help set the goal users will like. (…) a goal that turns a company into a brand and gives it an attractive image people want to identify with – after all, it’s all about identity.
From your experience, is this focus on the financial goal the main problem in the process of building a corporate image or do you see other frequent mistakes?
The main problem is, many companies in Poland do not think about themselves as brands. We are a very specific market, which has been growing organically for the past 20 years, which means the demand for some goods was so high and there were so few products on the market that it was enough to produce anything and it would automatically be a bestseller. There was no need to build brands, to think about the image or how to communicate with consumers. Polish companies still tend to think nothing has changed, and that what worked a decade ago is going to be effective for the next 25 years. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. Polish companies also fail to notice that corporations are changing their image, they are no longer impersonal leviathans, but get into interaction with customers.
So what’s the solution?
Companies need to think as brands and not product suppliers, and they need to notice they are not corporations but a team of people, who on their part need to show a human face and communicate with customers. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s no longer about how much we earn and how to produce, but what to tell the consumers so that they want to identify with it. When planning a brand’s strategy it is important to honestly diagnose the company’s situation. Anthropologists say that companies employing more than 50 people are primarily occupied with their internal problems, they see the world through those problems, and so they don’t really know what their situation is like. This is a common mistake among Polish companies, which become the victim of their own success. They’ve grown too big and without the competitive advantages that could allow them to be successful for the next 25 years.
Bartłomiej Brach: Marketing strategist and corporate anthropologist, specialized in the practical role of storytelling in companies. Storytelling methods and use consultant. He was one of the speakers at the Power Of Content Marketing 2015 conference. Member of Markidobrzeopowiedziane.pl
Kategorie: top trends