A recent blog post by the always insightful Max Kalehoff’s reminded me of the seminal 3 year study undertaken by the Advertising Research Foundation. Released a couple of years ago, and summarized in this Brand Week article, the study called On the Road to a New Effectiveness Model contends that connecting the modern consumer to brands through advertising was most effectively done through stories.
A lot of us, particularly those who have worked in the not for profit space, have known that for a long time now. You can throw facts, figures and information around, but when it comes to connecting a brand with the public, stories build bonds the way nothing else can.
Stories are the bridge between our experiences and those of another, be it a person or a brand. It is fundamental to our species to want relationships with others. And decades of imbuing brands with human characteristics have made us expect to be in relationship with the products and companies we give our hard earned money and time to. The more relatable the brand, the stronger our relationship is likely to be to it.
In fact, the very definition of what a brand is has evolved over time. A brand does not exist in and of itself and is so much more than the sum of its parts. What a brand is is no longer separate from the person who experiences it. The user of a brand is increasingly part of its definition.
In the words of American poet Maya Anjou “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And stories are the fast train to feeling.
Storytelling is primal. It is at the core of who we are and how we understand our world. Every civilization has used story to make sense of itself and the universe, especially that which is unknowable. We rally around shared stories, be they religious, national or family. They bind us, unite us and sometimes they pit us against others.
They are our truths and what calls us to action. They are what we cling to in our darkest hours and what we use to bring another to our point of view.
Stories are very powerful. And brands that understand the power of story are the ones that will best weather uncertain times.