Editor's note (4/23/2015): We're proud to announce that Bree Baich will be sharing her expertise at The Social Shake-Up 2015 in June. Register here!
It was 9AM on a Friday morning [in New York City] and my goal for the day was to make my way to Kate Spade on Madison Avenue near 67th Street. My sister's birthday was quickly approaching and I wanted to gift her something special; her first 'Kate Spade'. While she's a Michael Kors fan - recently converted from Coach - I'm trying to pull her to the fun side with a little Maise Keyfob.
The only challenge was, not being a New Yorker with an active understanding of the subway system - I navigated myself all the way to Harlem.
"She looks for adventure around every corner." -Kate Spade
Getting lost was an adventure for sure, but having the opportunity to shop in Kate Spade's flagship store gifted me the motivation I needed to walk the 10,000+ steps back from Harlem.
Now, one could ask, "With all the retail stores in NYC why did it have to be Kate Spade?" It's easy. I identify with the brand. I identify with her fun quips, bright colors, outlook on life and her celebration of women. I identify with her brand's story because these are all things I love in life and it's what has turned me into a loyal brand advocate. So, it makes sense that I'd want to share something I love with someone I love on such a special day.
Stories work for business because we [the audience] identify with brands. We see ourselves living the lives in these brands' stories. Therefore, we begin telling stories too. Stories like my New York #missadventure.
Brands need to become media companies.
I recently attended a storytelling seminar with screenwriter, Robert McKee and one of the points he made speaks to this. Companies need to understand that in order to create loyal brand advocates they have to become media companies. And here's why. We used to think about stories within the context of entertainment for movies, television and books, but these days' consumers want brands to entertain. The days of product pushing to gain our immediate attention are quickly falling by the wayside. Makes me wonder if this ever worked. We seem to use commercial breaks as opportunities to grab a refill, microwave popcorn, or squeeze in the all-important bio break. But ask someone what commercial they do like and they instantly jump into storytelling mode because at some level, they identify with the brand's story.
I asked a few peers, "What's your favorite commercial?" And this was how one of them responded:
"I hate commercials on principle. That said, the MasterCard commercial with kids pleading for 'Just One More Day' makes me laugh. But that may be less about the story and more about the cute kids and fact it plays on my latent desire for time off. So, yes, guess it is about the story."
She identified with the brand's story. Sure, she pointed out the cute kids and the humorous angle, but she connected to the idea of paid vacation days. MasterCard didn't focus on their product, they told a story about how children want much needed time away with their parents, "because #OneMoreDay is priceless." MasterCard's branding was subtle and only used as a means to convey their support of the larger story. They understand. They've got our backs. They can help.
What's your brand's purpose?
Becoming a media company overnight isn't easy. Telling stories isn't easy. One way to begin is by identifying your brand's purpose. What is it that you build, sell or support that consumers will identify with? Find your core message and you'll find your story. As for pulling it together, there are a plethora of resources and companies out there primed and ready to help.
While storytelling isn't limited to commercials or YouTube videos, it's a great place to start. For this platform, I get inspiration by watching the stories others are telling. Like this one from [of course] Kate Spade: "The Waiting Game."
Here are a few of the brands my peers offered as great story examples. They're a fun mix of #cantstoplaughing, #ineedakleenex and an #oldiebutgoodie that you may remember:
The Mother 'Hood - Similac
Dream Rangers - TD Bank
Our Song - UnitedHealthcare
Happy Holidays - Folgers
The Boy Who Beeps - GE
Dear Sophie - Google
Family: Unskippable - Geico
Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving - WestJet
Beatrice: Offline Over-Sharer - Esurance
Big Italian Family - Fiat
Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care - The Cleveland Clinic
Do you have a brand story to share?