Monday, April 19, 2010

Marketing Strategy : The Art of Story Telling

The Art of Story Telling

Originally published here at

Branding is the art of story telling. Successful brands are those who tell stories that catch the imagination of the consumers. More compelling the story is- the more customers will love the brand.

Lux for the past 75 years has been telling the story of Bollywood beauties. Dettol has been telling stories of fighting germs and Johnson & Johnson continue telling stories about the love between mother and child.

Story telling is a difficult task and that explain the reason why many brands fail to succeed in the market. Story telling is different from advertising. Advertising helps communicate the stories to the audience but brands have to first build a compelling story.

Take the case of Santoor. This is one of the first brands to tell a story of a beautiful mother mistakenly identified as a young girl because of her younger looking skin. The theme has been consistently reinforced by the brand through various advertisements. The story was compelling, realistic and easy to understand.

Brand stories are not a standalone complete story. The brand story does not have an ending. It is evolving and continuing.


Stories should have a compelling theme. In order for the story to be compelling, then the theme should be powerful and relevant to the consumers. In the case of Santoor, the story theme was based on the consumer insight that beauty is often associated with younger looking skin. The entire brand story was based on this premise. Axe deo brand has been telling stories of how women chase men who are using Axe. Men like the theme of getting chased by women. Axe was told a compelling story of how ordinary men got chased by beautiful women.


Stories should be relevant to the audience (consumers). Marketing Guru Seth Godin in his book “All Marketers are Liars “, talks about the importance of understanding consumer’s world view. He argues that only those stories will be successful which are relevant to the consumers’ world view.

Brands must know their audience before telling stories. They have to understand the audience’s world view in order to create a relevant theme. It is one reason behind the huge success of “slice of life “commercials. Consumers are able to instantly link to the theme because it is something that they can relate to.


Brand stories are continuous. Hence the stories need to be consistent with the same set of characters reinforcing the basic theme. Brand stories can be imagined as a large collection of highly related stories woven with a common thread. Hence it is important for the story teller to have the bigger picture while telling their stories. When the stories deviate from the common thread, consumers get disconnected.

Onida was telling a compelling story of envy with the central character of devil. The story was liked by the consumer and a brand was built. But later the brand deviated from the theme, characters were changed, devil was taken off and soon consumers felt disconnected with the stories.

Often we see brand stories change for no reason. When advertising agencies change, brand stories also change. Once the common thread is lost, consumers tend to forget the story.

It is also important to be fresh while consistent. Adults are easy bored by repetition. So brand managers should ensure that there is freshness in the stories that is being told. These stories should evolve from the big picture. Airtel is a classic case where the brand is able to create freshness with consistency. The brand’s core theme of Expressing Oneself is being reinforced through ads which are fresh and attractive.

Connect with the consumers

Successful stories are those which become close to the consumers. The audience should involve with the stories and should own up the theme. Successful movies are those where the audience become a part of the story. They cry and laugh with the characters and are a part of them during the movies. Successful brands are those where the consumers become the part of the story. The more involvement the consumers are, the more iconic the brand becomes. Apple and Harley Davidson are brands which told compelling stories. These brands became iconic because consumers became the part of the story theme.

Brands are trying to tell stories through different media and platforms. The powerful stories are usually told by consumers to consumers. It is very difficult to make a consumer tell a brand story to another. The story should be simple, uncomplicated and personal.

It is a True Story

Brand stories are true stories and it is not fictional. Consumers understand brand stories through experience. He uses all the sense to understand the stories told by the brand. Marketers often think that consumers will buy the story told through advertisements. Hence the focus was more on building a fantasy which is far from reality. What is often forgotten is that the consumers tend to validate the story through experience. If there is a mismatch between the story and the experience, the brand will not be trusted again.