News & Views

Opinion / Once Upon A Brand

by Contagious Contributor
Giles Lury, director at The Value Engineers and author of How Coca-Cola Took Over the World, looks at what different types of stories can offer to advertisers 



It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a brand in possession of a good purpose, must be in want of a narrative…

Storytelling is ‘hot’. Anything and everything is now a story and everyone wants to tell you their tale.

However like many terms in marketing, storytelling is in danger of becoming over-used and under-valued. This is a shame as storytelling in its various forms has many different uses and has so much to offer.


Having personally already jumped firmly onto the bandwagon with my second book of brand stories just published – How Coca-Cola Took Over the World, I thought it might be useful to stop and consider some of the most often used categories of stories and their different roles:

The brand narrative

This is a means of presenting the organisation/brand as a character and its role as a story. Virgin, for example, has positioned itself as the “white knight” riding to save the damsel (us, consumers) in distress, rescuing us from the clutches of big bad corporations. This fits, as my opening quote suggests, with another hot topic in marketing – brand purpose – because a good brand narrative sets out who you are, what you do, why you do it (your purpose) and the benefits you deliver by doing it well.

Brand tales



This is when brands build emotional engagement by telling the little (true) tales about themselves  how the brand started, the origin of its name, etc. These can be used to build emotional engagement both internally and externally. It has increasingly been used in advertising and on packaging.

The “story-point”

When did a PowerPoint slide last make you cry? (Apart from with boredom). Writing a presentation as a story is one way to try to avoid death by PowerPoint. Using a clear narrative arc, personalising the issues and using other storytelling techniques like ‘the power of three” allows speakers to communicate points in a more engaging and memorable way. People remember stories better than bar graphs.

The customer-ography



Stories are more personal than numbers or profiles. So the telling of personal stories is another means of gaining emotional engagement. The parallels between the personal and the business, or political situation is then highlighted to make a specific point a technique used by CEOs and politicians worldwide. This clearly builds on the use of qualitative research and overlaps with work on customer journeys.

Brand fables

The use of stories about brands as a training tool, to provide inspiration and/or instruction for the marketing team or broader organisation. They can be used to show how employees should act, as a means of helping your organisation consider how it might perform better, or to encourage people to think in different ways. This is, of course, where my book sits as each tale ends with a moral and a challenge to think how you could apply it.

So while this hasn’t been a story, there is perhaps a moral and a challenge –
Storytelling comes in many forms and each has its own role. How and when can you use storytelling effectively?