Dig Below the Surface to Tell Brand Stories

02 Jul 2013
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Michael Wintrob

Is the power of storytelling in danger of becoming a cliché? Is it destined to end up on a business buzzword bingo card next to design thinking and innovation?

Whether you’re on Twitter or at the latest industry conference, storytelling may already seem like old news. Most experts tend to hit the same notes—cave paintings, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, maybe a rant against PowerPoint thrown in for good measure. After a while, it can all seem a bit paint-by-numbers.

Alas, that doesn’t make any of it any less true. The hype is right. But the magic is not in the lofty theory (because it’s kind of obvious)—rather, it’s in the tangible application.

A few weeks ago, entrepreneur Jake Bronstein, founder of Flint and Tinder, used the power of storytelling to tout a brand promise of “Every Stitch Tells a Story,” raising over $1M on Kickstarter for their “Made in America” hoodie that holds a 10-year guarantee.

At LPK, we frame much of our thinking around a brand’s narrative arc, which is the translation of an overall brand promise into the narrative form. Using a narrative arc gives us a broader context and direction for the collection of a brand’s stories. It ensures the many different stories a brand may tell over time are additive and working together for a greater purpose.

Our position is that brand storytelling is more than one story or a metanarrative, but really the telling of multiple stories serving different purposes at different points in time. Thus, we’ve also developed a framework that defines four types of stories brands can tell—Heritage, Contemporary, Folklore and Vision—and how to best use each of them.

To coincide with the publication of an article I co-authored with colleague Kelly Smith for the DMI Journal, we’ll be blogging in the upcoming weeks on LPK’s storytelling framework. We’ll look at ways to actually apply storytelling to transform your brand from a wooden block on the shelf into a real boy.

Want to talk storytelling? Email Strategy Director Michael Wintrob. You can find him on Twitter at @mwintrob.