Great Brands are Built on Great Stories
by Ryan MacInnis
Storytelling dates back to the Stone Age, when cave paintings were used to communicate and pass down tales between tribes and families. Fast-forward to today, and storytelling has evolved past print to digital communications. In the world of digital marking, the success of a brand revolves around the quality of the story being told. This blog will explore three brands that have great stories to tell.
With over 150 years of history, Burberry has transformed a retail brand into a massive disruptive resource. Founded by a 21-year old dressmaker, Thomas Burberry, the brand is rich in tradition. Having started in a small store in London, the chain now operates in over 450 locations. But what makes this brand great is its ability to tell the story of innovation and retail evolution. On burberryplc.com, Burberry has a detailed timeline that marks when something pivotally disruptive happened to the brand. This ranges from Sir Ernest Shackleton wearing a Burberry Gabardine in Antarctica in 1915 to the British women's Olympic team donning Burberry uniforms in 1964.
What makes the brand so successful, is its ability to stay ahead of the trend and be as disruptive as possible through the way it tells its stories to new audiences. CEO Angela Ahrendts, in a "Future of Storytelling" interview, says that brands are built on capturing a story so that the next generation understands how the brand was built. According to Ahrendts, consumers need to trust that you're going to deliver and that the messaging pertains to a space they care about. Burberry is making the in-store shopping experience just as seamless as online. The largest Burberry store in London, for example, emphasizes music and emotion over product, revolutionizing their in-store experience. Targeting a millennial audience, Burberry is taking a "video first" approach, streaming over 65 British artists to other stores and devices on their site called "Burberry Acoustic" in order to reach the digital fan base that will be their next line of targeted consumers.
By innovating and coming up with new ways to be disruptive, Burberry's story will grow and expand, giving the brand an exclusive place in retail history.
The name McDonald’s is as synonymous to consumer-leading fast-food as the golden arches are to a driver passing by. What started as as a barbecue restaurant in 1940 is now the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants that reaches over 100 countries globally.
According to franchisedirect.com, Raymond Kroc played a vital role in the jumpstart of the brand as an equipment supplier to restaurants of an exclusive distributorship for a milk shake maker called “Multimixer.” Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald were already using several "Multimixers" in their local store in California, but Kroc proposed the franchising idea to the brothers and as of 1955, they had McDonalds.inc
It was the "Multimixer" that initially attracted by consumers. The novelty and convenience of fast food, introduced by McDonald’s, brought them back for more. This unique story was a propelled the McDonald’s brand to initial success. But they continued to build on this story, telling it in new ways… building on their original success.
They told their story through popular media icons that started with Samuel L. Jackson in the 70s, and then Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Justin Timberlake in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. By using these iconic figures, McDonald’s was able to reach a larger audience, while changing the way we view fast-food. In a market that they were inventing as they went, McDonald’s came out with their slogan, "I'm Lovin' It" in 2003 in which a catchy jingle and three easy-to-remember words took the brand to superstardom.
Recently hiring a chief digital officer, or CDO, McDonald’s will look to improve their storytelling through digital marketing to keep pace with an ever-changing market. They're also offering different food options such as vegetarian, a salad selection and soon-to-be wings. Even the golden arches are finding new ways to be disruptive in their own industry.
We know, Facebook is everywhere. Heck, my grandmother checks it now as part of her morning routine. (Thanks, Mark.) Aside from my own qualms with the "Facebook takeover," this brand is a great example of effective storytelling, mainly because it surrounds a ground-breaking idea and promotes individuals to share their own stories on the site.
Mark Zuckerberg, who went from computer hacker to industry innovator, had his sights on setting up a social media platform where you can always stay connected and in-tune with what everyone else around you was doing. Similar to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and so many others, Zuckerberg didn't graduate college, but was driven by passion and the big idea. The Facebook story is unique because of the impact it has had on our lives.
If you check someone's smartphone or tablet, most have Facebook. As the mobile tsunami sweeps through, Facebook is riding its wave. But if we think about the idea that great brands are built on great stories, and relate that to Facebook, a few things come to mind:
1) Inspiring Great Ideas- The impact Facebook has made using such a basic idea is massive. Zuckerberg found a pain point among his peers, something that Myspace or Friendster couldn't do, and built an engine that will be talked about for generations. Even a simple idea can solve some of the world's biggest problems.
2) Building your own Brand- Facebook allows users to tell their own stories. The stories might be about daily problems, raising money for cancer, or how a group of individuals built a home in a week. From Facebook, other sites pick up these stories, major news stations get involved, and lives are changed.
3) "The Social Network"- The movie about the Facebook story was a huge hit, and, as the title implies, Facebook will be the benchmark for all other social projects.
In today's ever changing digital sphere, where everyone is connected through mobile devices and social media, being able to craft and tell powerful stories is key for the success of a brand. Everybody is a storyteller and the world is never going to stop wanting to hear stories; these stories are our past, present and future.