Content development and content marketing have become popular words in the PR and marketing industries. Creating new and insightful content is widely accepted as the most important way to capture hearts and minds, especially for those brands which wish to create value and impact in their narratives and the way they communicate with their client base.
Despite the popular use of the word “content”, writing good stories for marketing or PR purposes is a task which must be sustained longer than short-term goals. We keep saying that people don’t buy products but stories. The rationale that clever taglines, promoted through elaborate SEO strategies works, and will continue to work, but only as long as meaningful dialogue is established between the talking parties.
Why bother with good-quality content, other than the self-evident reason of “we need to say something when everyone is talking”? Good content builds your brand equity. From the one-sentence phrase of “Just Do It” to more elaborate storytelling (see Nike’s LeBron James commercial), great brands have decided to utilise the power of words and imagery to tell compelling stories of why their products and services belong in your life. Take, for example, another great sports’ brand: adidas. Their premise is simple but powerful: emotions drive action and action for a fitness brand is key on two different dimensions: it compels you to make a purchase and secondly, it empowers you to act, to go out, to exercise, to make a difference, to seek empowerment and motivation through a change in perception. It makes you feel that “Impossible is Nothing” and that regardless of whether you have been endowed with good fortune or had to struggle and strive to fulfill your aspirations, adidas will help you develop a true fighting spirit. To consolidate this narrative, adidas told the story of Lionel Messi and his personal struggles from challenge to high achiever.
Both examples above highlight the trusted route of using brand ambassadors as role models to influence consumers. While in the digital world, the mediums have changed and the available tools to tell a story are more diversified than ever before, the basis of using global superstars to create and share content remains. Combined with issues of social awareness and topics which matter to citizens of the world such as poverty, discrimination, racism, conflict and education. Their latest campaign “First Never Follows” is a storytelling treasure. By combining football, celebrity athletes such as Paul Pogba and a compelling narrative, adidas urges you to act and never be second. Just like the brand.
The fashion world is another industry where storytelling and content has created amazing discourse with audiences. Statistics have consistently proven that luxury goods remain high on the buying preferences of consumers around the world, elevating storytelling to a vital component in establishing an emotional attachment to buying decisions. Celebrity endorsements are just one way to provoke the imagination and, therefore, create the possibility, of becoming somebody you aspire. Whether high-street or high-end, fashion’s storytelling has also become greatly digital even if traditional craftsmanship (often portrayed as the opposite to mass digital consumption) justifies a hefty price tag. For those brands which are particularly interested in the millennial target group, digital is necessary but choosing the right channels is also fundamental in sharing your content; you can’t be everywhere.
Content in the fashion industry is all about loyalty and representation. We like a designer or a brand because we feel represented by their storytelling. In a recent storytelling conversation organised by Business of Fashion, the panelists explored how storytelling interacts with Disney’s influence on fashion. As commented by Sebastian Manes, buying and merchandising director at Selfridges, “We think about how we can entertain our customers. Just putting the product on the shop floor is not enough anymore”.
Influencers have become the most compelling storytellers in the fashion world. Stories need to be more real than ever before simply because everything is documented in real-time; a great show will be instantly shared by thousands and if the brand’s storytelling is great to start with, influencers will act as multipliers of that narrative. The same goes for wrong storytelling; anything misplaced can become a brand’s downfall, even if it is just a bunch of words.
Let’s take, for example, Chanel. Coco Chanel’s words have become T-shirt quotes, digital quotes, mug quotes, wallpaper and screen savers. Did she know that her “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different” quote would become one of the brand’s greatest content strengths? Chanel has a powerful website. As soon as you visit, you will see a boxed text reading “The Story” (in the brand’s native French site reading as “L’Histoire”). Take a look at the way the brand has developed a story for each iconic Chanel product: the handbag, the Camellia, No. 5. Stories have been developed for Chanel herself, for the Paradoxes of Chanel, for concepts and periods in the brand’s development. Each section is a chapter and each chapter is told through a film. Chapter 18, titled “Gabrielle, a rebel at heart”, must be one of the best storytelling results a brand has ever made: it incorporates history, evokes emotion, provides information, raises social awareness, it creates dreams.
Buying situations. Feelings. Stories. People rarely buy products for the sake of the product or seek a service for the sake of the service. They choose you because the EQ of your offering matches theirs.
How do we, then, create storytelling that shakes the consumer to the core? I suppose the first thing we need to secure is sentimentality or emotionalism. Generate feelings of euphoria, shock, surprise, happiness, motivation; you can make your pick but make sure the sentiments are intense and empowering. Even a seemingly negative feeling of sorrow can generate action (i.e. deciding to purchase only from cruelty-free companies). We then need to align storytelling to the brand itself. In other words, storytelling must represent the core processes and products of the brand. If you are a brand which produces romantic and airy summer dresses, your storytelling must be equally romantic and summery; you can’t use hard stories or rigid storytelling when supporting a free summer spirit waiting to fall in love. The same goes for influencers you choose to employ. Imagine a celebrity endorsment stating in public that their least favorite season is the summer time. These examples demonstrate that your storytelling needs to be aligned with the product and the philosophy of the brand. To achieve this, we find it easier when we first write the mission, vision and philosophy of a brand or company and then start building storytelling from there. Thirdly, storytelling needs to be carefully curated when used online. Bad exposure must be reduced as much as possible, which means that storytelling needs to be straight-forward and understandable for the platform you wish to publish it on. In the digital world, consumers are motivated to report, through their social media accounts or blogs, on their experience buying and using brands; this type of earned media is crucial to the success of any brand storytelling. Consumers follow consumer behavior and when your storytelling is widely accepted as valid, happy customers will work to tell your story for free. Fourthly, storytelling and content is more than just words. We can now develop short story films, 30-second videos, slideshows and websites, articles and images, photography and mentions; the list of storytelling mediums is endless. Brands should thus develop a basic story line, one which they will follow through and simply change when sub-projects emerge or when new channels are being employed.
The notion that storytelling is used in excess by marketeers is also a double-edged sword. We often see online bad content produced by people who can’t be storytellers, the same way a storyteller cannot become a website developer or social media guru. While we all need an apt knowledge of everything there is to know in the industry, it is imperative that those who can imagine, plan and essentially produce good storytelling do just that. The fashion industry is a perfect example of how the people with real creative and storytelling flair can work wonders, selling not just products but also a lifestyle, a way of thinking, perceptions and behaviors.
(This article was produced by Anirot in March 2017, as part of its AniRITL initiative. Reproduction should make reference to original source).