Remember the stories you we were told as a child? Stories of fantasies, heroes, wizards and princesses. There was something magical about those stories that imprinted them into our memories, making lasting impressions for years to come. It may have been the story itself, who told you the story or what it makes you feel like when you tell it to the children in your life today. For me, when I read the story of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella to my niece, I immediately feel connected to the story and to my niece, Gradie. This connection makes me feel good about the story and everything that is related to the characters in the book. And with this connection I want to share, purchase and extend my connection to that memory.
There is tremendous power in this connection. The power is most effective through our voices. We have used our voices to inspire the most dramatic changes in our country: civil rights, women's liberty, war, peace. The voices expressed during those times were closest to the cause and willing to risk what it took to make change happen. They became advocates of change through an emotional connection to what they felt needed attention.
Today our voices, although a different generation living in a different time, are still the sources of our most influential opinions. The medium we use also provides immediate opinions to be broadcast across the globe. For a consumer brand, this is a slim edge of balance between advocacy and criticism. Daily, hourly, immediately. With the proliferation of mobile connectivity, people are sharing what they think of you in real time.
For brands, this can be a tricky balance - knowing what stories will connect and inspire their consumers to engage with them – purchase products, overall brand favorability, and ultimately, advocating this brand to other by sharing.. We have seen companies sincerely engage with their audience and increase their brand awareness, brand perception, conversion and brand longevity. So what do you do? How do you reach the fickle masses? Ask them. I don't mean just doing large research engagements with focus groups. I mean ask them every day. At every touch point they come near you and your brand. But don't just ask without taking any action. Use what you learn.
Now that you have gotten their attention, what are you saying? Relaying the most effective message to your consumer is a key ingredient to this tale. Are you reliable? Fun? Innovative? Giving? Define this primary message, along with your understanding of your customers and use these ingredients to create stories that mean something to your audience.
I am brand loyal for many reasons but the primary reason I return to my favorite brands is connection. I have a memory or connection to the brand. How can you, as a brand, create a connection with your audience? Look at what Chrysler did in the Super Bowl. Granted, very few companies can shell out that kind of money to tell a story, but Chrysler was able to get in front of a huge audience and tell their story, a story about an American city fighting for life. Sure, not everyone will resonate with the sentiment, but those who do will have a connection. So what's your story? Are you telling it? Is it creating connections?
As the child listening to bedtime stories and by watching our world change through our voices, I've learned that if it doesn't mean anything to you -- you won't do anything about it. As a brand, if you don't inspire a story or memory in me, I don't care. Harsh but true. I won't waste my time or my money. So…tell me a story.
Laura Long is Vice President of Client Services for Definition 6. In this role, Long provides strategic guidance and direction to Definition 6's clients, while helping clients develop and implement unified marketing programs. Laura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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