Amplifying your story over digital media is what branding in the 21st century is all about – and it’s been a hugely disruptive trend.
When Larry Light was CMO of McDonalds he found parallels between marketers, editors and writers. Just as writers collaborate with their editors to develop the many facets of a story, marketers develop stories with their customers. Happy Meals was one outcome of Light’s storytelling exercise, convincing him that brand managers shouldn’t tell product stories, rather stories about the outcomes their products produce for customers. Mr. Light soon coined the term “brand journalism” to describe this new twist on brand communications.
In the digital age, opportunities to tell brand stories multiply. Buyers for example, freely share stories of their favorite brands everyday – by the thousands – so much that some pundits say marketers have ceded control of their story to others, whether they like it or not. This is hugely overstated. While we can’t control what customers say, we can certainly coach them.
Marketo for example, knows its story well – to help marketers generate high quality prospects; the type that convert to customers – faster. Some users say Marketo’s solution has accelerated their sales cycles two to three times. When this story plays out revenue accelerates and sales costs decline. And so, Marketo simply asks customers to tell their stories within this context. Customers happily comply (see Marketo’s video testimonials).
Brand managers at P&G, Starbucks, BMW and Mercedes have all gotten hip to this storytelling idea, coaching customers to share their own experience, within the context of the company’s brand promise. Look on any auto enthusiast site; BMW owners can’t wait to share exactly what BMW wants them to share: driving excitement. Some do it willing; some are nudged a bit by BMW marketers.
There are of course, those customers who decline coaching – and we welcome those too, for it’s those customers that produce the kind of surprises we like, especially product usage we hadn’t even thought of (as General Mills found when many customers said Cheerios was their favorite bedtime snack).
Like any disruption, find a way to embrace it. Let your customers tell your story over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the blogosphere, and community forums. Coach them (or not) but let those stories flow – for stories engage, stories inspire. Stories help us remember, which after all, is what brand awareness is all about.
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