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Storytelling: How brands position through narratives | Slangbusters Blog
Nov 29, '19

Storytelling: How brands position through narratives

Branding in advertising- where brands communicate through stories

A freelance writer by day and an actress by night, I can’t help but notice the overlaps that my professions have. In the past few weeks since I started writing for Slangbusters, I realized that there are a lot of similarities between how branding is done and what goes on behind producing good theatre. One commonality I found was- storytelling. The assimilation of the two is becoming imperative for the brands to have day by day. So let’s get into it.

You might be an outsider to the world of branding and to the world of theatre, let me guide you in.

Imagine that creating a brand is just like mounting a theatre production. It will naturally include characters, setting, conflict, action, climax, and the finale. The main character of the story is guessed who, you! What is it that you want your main character to achieve in your play becomes the motivation of your character to move in a certain direction. And that motivation translated in the branding world becomes the vision of the brand that you want to have. It is basically what you stand for, what do you believe in, your values. Now all of this might seem heavy loaded, but it’s really not, it’s very simple.

For example, Nike believes in athletic excellence, not just in shoes or sports equipment, they stand for a good athletic experience in sports.

Values define the character traits of your company. A lot of companies claim values like integrity, innovation, excellence without any plans to actually incorporate such values. These words have lost their meaning because of such frequent and baseless use. They don’t necessarily believe in them and that always shows. Why? Their story says otherwise. Imagine buying passes for a play and then them showing something entirely different. You would be infuriated, right? The same happens when brands speak of a story and then deliver something else.

What social media and digital platforms have done is that they have opened a dialogue with the masses. A conversation has begun, people now have the right to choose where, when and how the content is consumed. Gone are the times when advertisers adhered to the philosophy of reaching frequency to influence audiences, to drive awareness, and to make the sale. Which was easy to do then, given the limited mediums where the audience could be readily found. All one had to do was simply interrupt the audience’s flow and turn their attention to you. Interruptive advertisement is still alive today, but with changing times if the consumers don’t want their entertainment experience to be interrupted then the advertisement has to become entertainment.

There are some very interesting campaigns that align with the story that the brand is promising and hence, this cohesiveness results in brand loyalty.

• P&G’s Always — “Like a Girl

The personal hygiene brand Always came up with a brilliant campaign. According to their research, 72% of the girls feel that society limits them and that during puberty their confidence plummets. Therefore, P&G campaigned an ad to change the meaning of “Like a Girl” from an insult to an ultimate compliment. It motivates the target audience and distinguishes itself from the competitors.

• Airbnb — “That’s why we Airbnb

An old campaign, nevertheless still equally effective. It’s all about the plurality of choices both in life and travel. Airbnb caters to the specific needs of the traveler and does not expect the traveler to conform to what is there. It thrives on the idea of individuality and acceptance. Heroing community-led content, Airbnb continues to play its’ strengths.

• Nike — “Until we all win

Nike is famous for creating such stories and strong statement based campaigns that align with “just do it.” To recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women and to push gender equality Nike came up with an ad featuring the tennis Superstar Serena Williams and how she overcame the cries of the critics and came up to be the woman that she is today.

“I’ve never been the right kind of woman — oversized, overconfident, too mean…too black for my tennis whites, too motivated for motherhood. But I’m proving, time and time again, there’s no wrong way to be a woman.” (chills. Literal chills)

• Coca Cola — Acapella song — Taste the Feeling

8 out of 10 Coca Cola stories are not created by them but by their fans.

This time Coca Cola came up with social media influencers to remake the ‘Taste of Feeling’ song, orchestrating the entire song with the sound of a movie theatre, the sipping of ice-cold coke, the popping, and shaking of the popcorn, making it a beautiful story. Also, their brand is literally about taste the feeling. What better than a story to evoke a feeling?

Why do stories matter?

This is how humans have communicated since the beginning of time- by telling stories. We have been telling stories even before when we learned how to read and write. We told stories to our children, priests told religious stories to instill religious and moral values, leaders told their heroic and adventurous stories to lead us.

Stories sell because stories make us believe in things, in ideas, in visions.

Why does brand storytelling matter?

According to an infographic published by OneSpot, 92% of the audience wants brands to make ads that feel like stories when consumed. At the most basic level, the brand story is your unique connection with your audience. People are tired of being talked at and sold to, they now crave genuine connections with brands.

Stories trigger a biological response. It grabs our attention, activates our brains, and stirs our emotions — and that goes for storytelling across all mediums. When you’re invested in a good story, your brain physically responds to it.

A good story releases dopamine — the pleasure drug, helps us in recollecting the facts stored in your brain in association with the emotions of the story. Different mediums of storytelling affect us differently. For example, while watching a video our mind mirrors the emotions aligns with the story which we see on screen. In a similar manner, when we hear someone speaking it triggers neural coupling — the brain begins to favor the story according to listeners’ own ideas, beliefs and experiences.


I lay a lot of importance on characterization when I am doing a play. It is a practice that has become a part of me now. Some people find it rather irritating because I lay so much importance in building a character the added factor of the time it takes doesn’t help my case also. But it is completely worth it. It is how I have been trained. Because, when I know what my character exactly is, I will know how would she move, how would she speak, when would she speak, what moves her, what makes her sad, irritable, happy, what are her aspirations so on and so forth.

As I said, it is a time-consuming experience.

But in order to start off, I use the trick of 5Ws and 1H of Journalism.






And How?

And while researching for brand storytelling, I found out that the process is more or less the same, all one has to do is change the context. If your brand was a character, how would you define these?

Who are you? — How was your company formed? What are your values, mission, ideologies? What kind of people have you employed? How do you keep them motivated?

What is it that you do? — what sort of goods or services do you provide? How have you made a difference in the life of your customers through your service? What is it that you ultimately wish to achieve?

When did it all start? — the origin story. Who were the founding members? How did it all begin? What was the need that you found in the society that your company wished to fulfill? What have you achieved over the years?

Where do you wish to go from here? — What is your larger goal? What is next? In such changing times, how will your product evolve and change? Will the company vision and philosophy go through a change? What are your plans for expansion?

Why you do what you do? — what made you choose the kind of goods or services that your company offers? How do you think your services benefit the customers?

How you do what you do? — How do you make the goods and services and how do you deliver them to your customers? What is the process that your company undergoes to take care of your customers?

Freytag’s Pyramid

It is impossible to not talk about Freytag’s Pyramid when we are talking about storytelling. Today, Freytag’s Pyramid is extensively used in marketing strategies. It is a seven-step framework that inspires good storytelling. It makes the audience live the character’s story and feel the character’s complexities. It can persuade the audience to believe in an idea, a cause and can influence them to buy a specific product or service while believing that they too are a part of something bigger.

Let us try and understand this with an example. In May 2018, L.G. released this ad film.

Let’s break it down according to Freytag’s structure:

1. Exposition: The first slide itself we see — “we are mentored… inspired to succeed in life. This is a story of success through determination and innovation.” Telling us, the audience what exactly will this video be about.

2. Inciting Incident: A young girl finds out that her father had terribly failed in math when he was in 8th standard, but her father lies and says, he was okay at maths.

3. Rising action: The story builds, she shows the exam paper to her father proving he is guilty.. He then narrates the incident, how humiliated he felt that being the son of a mathematics teacher he had scored 3 out of 100 in maths.

4. Climax: The daughter then decides that she will coach her father to re-give that mathematics exam to mend the broken relationship between her father and her grandfather. All of this is accompanied by beautiful vocals of Mohit Chauhan and very apparent L.G.’s product placement.

5. Falling Action: We see the father is reminded of his own father when he sees his daughter teaching him, and guess what was he teaching? He was teaching innovation=invention, now in the ad, this works on two levels. One, it is the belief of L.G. to keep innovating and inventing and second is that this value had always been his father’s but somewhere along the years, he had forgotten those values. L.G. too is now claiming this value, making the user believe. Just like the father, we too are reminded of the goodness and the innovative nature of this brand.

6. Resolution: The father has worked hard, the paper is set, the exam is given. The daughter then couriers her father’s paper to her grandfather, and he is just so happy to receive the answer sheet.

7. Denouement: A few days later, there’s a surprise party for the father and when he is least expecting his own father comes with his answer sheet with 99 out of 100 marks. They both hug each other and cry. A very vulnerable beautiful moment is created and the father hugging his son and says “mera beta!”. And the ad ends with the same white screen with the text that says — “L.G. celebrating the New Relations, Emotions, Innovations, Year after Year.

There’s another story for you, imagine you are a startup or an established business looking to rebrand and refurbish itself. Now imagine that you have even answered all your 5Ws and 1H. Now all you need is a branding partner that will sew all these answers together to create a timeless brand. Let’s just say, you contact Slangbusters. Well, that, you don’t have to imagine. Contact us now!

— by Nikita Sharma, Freelance Content Writer, Slangbusters Studio

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