The concept of telling and being told them is as old as human civilization itself.
It should be of little surprise then, that this fact hasn’t escaped savvy marketers looking to create powerful and enduring brands.
Of course, there is always another agenda to telling stories in brand marketing, outside of evoking an emotional response in the viewer, and that’s to promote something.
In today’s a la carte content-rich digital environment, consumers don’t want to think they’re being sold something, which is why the emphasis on story has once again taken center stage.
Stories might not directly sell products or services but they do help to sell brands. Research undertaken by Headstream in 2015 revealed that almost 80% of adults in the UK believe that brands telling stories through their marketing efforts is a positive thing, with 55% stating that they are more likely to make a purchase if they enjoy and connect with a brand story.
Undoubtedly video remains the most effective medium for telling memorable brand stories, but creating a compelling film requires a compelling narrative arc. In this article, I want to look at the five essential elements that make up this narrative structure in brand marketing.
We’ll start, as many great takes start, with a quest.
Narrative brand marketing needn’t be fictional in style. In Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ docu-film, the quest lies firmly in the brand’s aim to help women feel more confident about their looks.
A quest is the driving force of every successful story, although it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as destroying a Death Star and or defeating Voldemort, it should still carry the same level of intrigue and impact. A quest creates a sense of purpose and direction to your narrative, captivating an audience and establishing an emotional connection with your protagonist(s).
Things to consider:
What does the protagonist want, and why?
Is the protagonist taking an active role, or are events uncontrollably happening to them?
Will audiences understand the quest, and will it induce an emotional connection?
In their 2016 Christmas commercial, masters of brand storytelling John Lewis introduce conflict with nothing more than a simple glass door, which prevents our four-legged friend from bouncing on the household’s newly constructed garden trampoline.
A source of conflict should sit between the protagonist and the resolution of their quest. Used to induce feelings of suspense and to heighten the audience’s emotional connection to the protagonist, conflicts come in many forms. On the more extreme end lies the Harry Potter and Voldemort duality, with Scrat’s acorn remaining perpetually just out of reach in the Ice Age movies a more light-hearted, yet still highly emotive, example.
Things to consider:
What is standing between the protagonist and their goal, and why?
Does the story contain enough suspense, or are things unfolding too simply?
Is the source of conflict believable?