Beyond Storytelling: Narrative Brand Marketing

by Sean Wood on February 2, 2012 · 2 comments

in Blog

Narrative Brand Marketing

Lately there’s been alot of talk about storytelling as the next big wave in brand marketing. Telling stories about the brand is a great way to encourage the audience to personalize the message, to make it more “sticky” with the listener and to make it easier for people to remember. Last year, Freeworld even released a report about how to improve your CSR Message Through Storytelling (PDF).

Brand marketers are beginning to think like media publishers and creating branded content that can be shared and spread across the web, some companies are even forming internal editorial boards to curate the flow of content about their brand.  So once you get a handle on brand storytelling, let’s take a look ahead at how this fits into a larger framework… the brand narrative.

Narrative Brand Marketing

“Stories” and “narratives” are often used interchangeably as synonyms, but I’d like to draw a distinction between the two terms and explain how a sequence of stories makes up a narrative. Let’s explore how thinking about narrative brand marketing will help guide your story-telling marketing efforts.

A story has a begining, middle and end. But your brand story doesn’t stop. It needs to be continuous and dynamic – allowing audience participation and encouraging sharing through different ways and platforms.

“Narratives, at least in the way I will be using them, are stories that do not end – they persist indefinitely. They invite, even demand, action by participants and they reach out to embrace as many participants as possible. They are continuously unfolding, being shaped and filled in by the participants. In this way, they amplify the dynamic component of stories, both in terms of time and scope of participation. Stories are about plots and action while narratives are about people and potential. ”
John Hagel, The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context

To create a movement, a clear underlying narrative is needed to carry the momentum of the stories told about your brand.

Deeper Emotional Connections

The brand narrative resonates the deepest message of your brand… the purpose and reason why your company exists. Ultimately, your brand lives in the mind of the audience and their loyalty to your narrative determines their purchase decisions but you have to think strategically about the long-term effects of your branded content. Ongoing narratives take into account the deeper forces of society and taps into the deeper consciousness of what is shaping those surface events.

Narrative Brand Marketing requires a clear, long-term vision of success. Looking ahead, our lives are increasingly becoming more complex and companies that plant the seeds of a well-planned narrative will see their brand grow and spread throughout the social web, reaping the benefits in the unpredictable years to come.

Takeaway: Make sure the brand stories you share are memorable, convey an intentional message and fit into your overall brand narratives.

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Image used under Creative Commons – Some rights reserved by opensourceway

  • Jim Signnorelli

    Short, concise and informative article about lessons to be learned from the power of story,…or, as you explain, narrative.

  • Margaret Lisi

    Great article, Sean!

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