Narrative space | storytelling for brands who understand ‘Us’ – part I

By Limor Shiponi

Storytelling for brands is about identity and the way it is told, the way it moves in the world between people. Told – as in ‘word of mouth’ which up till now has been and still is the most powerful way to generate good leads for businesses of any kind.

Upon a request by Gregg Morris this short series about storytelling and branding a business is going to be as practical as possible. Yet it is important to notice: you don’t know by reading. You know by practicing again and again. So take my advice and do the exercises, see what comes up.

Brand stories

In most cases brand stories as we know them today are either an idea, a slogan or a well crafted story that will appear in an ad, a commercial or in print/web-text/any other plausible format. Often the work is so creative and well produced it creates a “talk on the street” around it:

“did you see the amazing ad about @@@? how did they think about such an amazing idea?”

“did you see the commercial about @@@ they recorded under water? do you know how much it cost?!”

“This brochure is sooo clever!”

“The ad with the story in it? it’s so moving!”

If you are paying attention you’ve noticed the talk is about the idea, the format, the price, the creativity of the marketing material and that is what gains word of mouth. Not necessarily your business, does it?

That leaves what you’ve hoped to see as a vehicle to YOUR business in the hands of someone else. If you can afford living with than acknowledgment – so be it. If not, keep on reading.

Story and storytelling

What’s wrong with brand stories? they come out fixed. You can’t re-do a TV commercial again and again – it’s too costly and the customer might suspect you are guessing while using her money…

This is where the difference between story and storytelling comes in – storytelling is not a fixed act but an ongoing process, a long-long conversation between everyone who is involved with the brand.

But, you do need some sort of material out there, you can’t wait forever, can you? That’s where narrative space comes into action. Narrative space is something storytellers (oral artists) create all the time. We tell you something that sounds like a fixed story but it’s not really fixed. If you hear us tell the same story again – it will not be exactly the same although it will also not be that very different. What exactly are we doing?

Try this

Go to your company’s marketing material and find a text you feel tells it’s story. Try and find the most compelling text, the one you really like. If you don’t have one take one from a different company, just search the web…

Print it out, find a person to tell the story to, hold the paper in a way you can see the text and the other person’s eyes and tell him the story. Well? what does it feel like?

Now find another person and do exactly the same. What happened this time? did it feel the same? yes? no? did you feel good about the exchange between you and the other person?

I’ll be happy to read your experiences before I continue. Go, do it, come back and tell me what happened. You’ll learn a lot already from this one experience.

3 thoughts on “Narrative space | storytelling for brands who understand ‘Us’ – part I”

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