The Next Competitive Front for Brands Would Be to Own the 'Best Stories' and Most Relevant 'Search Key Words'

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by: Idris Mootee

I attended a meeting today with my team and clients on a project around transmedia storytelling. Very exciting, but won’t way more than that. Storytelling has always been the universal human activity in any culture and society; they capture memories of the past and hopes for the future. In fact, when properly used, it is the most powerful tool to build brands and engagement.

Any business strategy or marketing strategy is in fact a story. Top marketers know how to use the elements of stories and storytelling to drive change. There’s a great story behind every great brand…Nike, Apple, HP, BMW, Louis Vuitton or Tiffanys. What is new today about the art of telling stories is the purposeful use of narrative to achieve a practical outcome with innovation and business strategy. Storytelling is becoming the key ingredient to managing imagination, driving change, and innovation in the 21st century.

Take Nike as an example, the sneaker was just a sneaker, in every way pedestrian, until Phil Knight and Nike came along and connected the aspirational and inspirational rewards of sports and fitness with world-class innovative product performance like that of the Nike Air shoe. Nike’s ad communicated on a deeper, more inspirational level what the product ‘meant’ within the wider world of sports and fitness. It transcended the product. It moved people.

Storytelling has the power to change the destiny of a person, company, an industry, a nation, and–ultimately–the world. I was watching Obama telling a story of how an old lady was teaching him the idea of  "firing up”… meaning "stay positive and confident." He is a great storyteller. He tells them with conviction and authenticity.

For the last fifty years, marketers have been attaching brands to images and turned them into signals. The visuals were meant to allow the customer to imagine herself transformed by the brand/product into an object of envy for others. Consumer stories tell stories of success, desire, hope and happiness in the lives of people who consumes the right brand. Marketers’ trick was to engineer the transfer of meanings and values to generate signs. This is slowly changing and markets should now turn to social networks and other online/mobile channels to do the same thing. Advertising no longer evokes this  “this is me” felling as everyone knows he/she is a paid actor. 

Real-life customer stories will fuel the re-invention of marketing, all brands in the future will exist between the intersection of a value system and stories around them. Expect that in 3 years the competition of noises and images will evolve into a stage which I call stories war. Every brand will fight not to own a positioning (that’s so old school advertising) but to own stories. The next competitive front for brands would be to own the “best stories” and most relevant "key words” for search. Who cares about tag lines and slogans. Most of them don’t mean anything anyway.

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