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What’s the story?

01 November, 2016 Reading: 3:36 mins
Hugh Massam

By Hugh

If content is King and stories are at the heart of our content, what is it that makes for a good story?

What’s the story?

Four things Chanel, Airbnb and John Lewis have in common!

Content is still king... and a great core story can be the heart of that content, in any medium. At a recent KISS away day we distilled four things any great story has:

  • Relevant truth: facts your audience care about make a story powerful, used overtly or subtly. Stonewall simply says, ‘Some people are gay’. Airbnb plays on the ‘home away from home’ proposition. Marmite makes itself more memorable by embracing the fact that ‘some people hate it’.
  • Emotional impact: of course baby animals have it – but so does the smell of a new leather bag, or hearing about a key event in someone’s life.
  • The brand experience fits: Veuve Clicquot and Chanel don’t only have legendary founding stories (‘Veuve’ [widow] refers to the newly widowed Mme Clicquot who took over the champagne house in 1805 aged just 24, turning adversity to a USP), they strive to deliver a consistent high-quality product, with only subtle innovations. Their story and brand strategy are aligned, from the packaging they choose to the events they sponsor. John Lewis wouldn’t have its legendary UK reputation for service without its ‘partners’ (all the staff own shares) and of course positive service stories get repeated, on average, seven times.
  • A clear persona: from Chanel No 5 to the Cambridge Satchel Company, strong brands have a clear personality, based on ‘non-negotiable’ foundations that show over time.

Airbnb rethought its brand in 2014 as it grew but realised its story had always been about ‘a home, not a room’ and ‘a connection [between people], not a transaction’ – this is a clear thread to its communications and it seems to work. The emphasis on guests and hosts telling their stories through bios and reviews fits perfectly with this. With 60 million people using Airbnb this summer, the world’s biggest accommodation brand has the hotel industry worried.

Countries, of course, have stories. Recent chapters in the ‘brand GB’ story include two stunning British performances in Rio - second in both medals tables, ahead of the US in the Paralympics and China in the Olympics! Other chapters include the uncharted territory of Brexit and a change of Prime Minister, so what is Britain’s wider story for the world now? This matters because clearly the world’s politicians and financial markets are strongly driven by 24/7 breaking news and favour predictability. A set of interlinked stories is vital, with a consistent spine. Any information vacuum will be filled, so Britain needs to emerge soon with a strong and positive narrative.

Stories are the oldest form of human communication, and in many ways they’re irreplaceable. Humans are natural storytellers and research shows that thanks to mirror neurons our brains are designed to connect right from birth with what others say and do, responding emotionally and even physically. So of course stories are hugely powerful tools face-to-face - for leaders managing change, to help your customers remember you at a busy trade show, or maybe help you stand out in a competitive recruitment market.

We sometimes say a brand is a tiny space your customer chooses to give you in their mind. A strong story with these four elements can get you that precious space. And a story framework means everyone can tell a consistent story in their own authentic way.

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