By Gina Mossey
Storytelling has been a key element of marketing since the industry’s inception. But as customers’ expectations of brand stories consistently evolve, the stakes keep getting higher for marketers.
After decades of being advertised to, modern consumers are more sceptical than ever. Gen Z in particular looks for their brands to have real purpose that gives them a reason to exist beyond making money. Nearly 60% said a brand’s association with a good cause is likely to spur a purchase.
Our recent trip to the PRWeek awards highlighted some fantastic examples of companies that think more laterally to find their purpose and the narrative around it: incredibly powerful stories that truly drive action. As the potential for brands to drive real change gets stronger, here are some pointers we’ve picked up along the way.
Make sure the story is one shared company-wide
Those who will turn out to be the real drivers of your brand purpose are your exec team and your employees. Good causes are emotive. So, the more you can get a sense of the values your entire company strongly believes in, the more heart your narrative will have.
Surveys and focus groups can work wonders here. Including members of the C-suite at key points in the planning phase will mean they are several steps ahead and truly bought into the cause when it hits the airwaves across PESO channels. Workshops work really well in the early stages of bringing stakeholders together to tackle collaborative message development and creative campaign ideation.
All of this will ultimately give an engaging and consistent narrative that will spark connections with customers and make them want to adopt and share it as their own.
Answer the “why”
This question is more important than ever to answer in the early planning stages. Ask yourself why your brand supports this cause. Does it align with your brand mission and values? Not only that, but does it fit with the vision of your leadership team? Is there real potential for your company to make a difference? Do you have the resources to put behind this to make a measurable impact?
If the answer to any of these is “no”, more needs to be put in place to be able to truly drive the initiative forward. Taking a step back to ask yourselves the difficult questions here is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from those who do it well or speak to contacts in other markets to get an outsider’s perspective.
As an integrated agency with its DNA in earned, we practice what we preach by bringing in the earned media specialists when working with brand purpose. The story needs to be genuine and evocative for the customer, skills that PR professionals have honed for years by working with journalists to build stories that capture imaginations. If a story is powerful enough to captivate your earned media, it’ll be one that flies when it comes to driving action across paid, shared and owned channels.
Think long term
Brands that have great purpose are those that are in it for the long haul. Once you’ve taken the time to find your “white space” – where your company can really make a difference – take the time to think about active, measurable commitments you can make. With so many brands storytelling around purpose, customers are sceptical of “window dressing”. They want something tangible to prove your cause is something you care about and are committed to doing right. Shoot for a long-term initiative or partnership that can evolve over time over one-off charity gigs.
If this year’s awards season is anything to go by, stories around brand purpose are here to stay. Driving real change is a marathon, not a sprint. We can’t wait to see what both market leaders and startups alike manage to achieve in the next 12 months. To hear more musings, predictions, and trends around storytelling and purpose, check out this month’s edition of The Stream podcast here: http://bit.ly/2MOgkUm.
Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners’ London office.