How leading companies are using compelling stories to drive their brand

As the internet diminishes distances virtually and brings us closer together, the human touch has ironically become somewhat of a scarcity. Telling a compelling story could help you, as a brand, fulfil the basic human need for interaction by communicating as more than just a faceless entity.

Powerful storytelling is often easier said than done. Companies are starting to realise that story marketing is crucial in appealing to the modern consumer. Your customers could potentially be buried in the landslide of content that businesses put out every day. 

Have you ever gone to bed thinking about that one thing you heard on the radio?

The root of a great story lies in not only its emotional appeal but how memorable it is. As the average Internet user spends 11 hours daily interacting with different media, think about what it takes for your brand to stand out.

Here are some ideas to inspire your next story.

Nike – an advocate for progressiveness 

Over the past few years, Nike has set a precedent for successful storytelling. Each Nike campaign is crafted not to sell sweatpants, but aspirations and dreams. 

Their stories follow a similar narrative of professional athletes overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams, but you rarely see anyone getting sick of the whole “Just do it” agenda.

In 2016, Nike starred Colin Kaepernick in a “Dream Crazy” campaign after the athlete knelt during the pre-game national anthem in protest for the social issues in America. Following backlash from the NFL and a significant amount of the public, Nike engaged Kaepernick in an advert with the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.” 

This was widely criticized by several groups of Americans and Donald Trump but was seen as one of the most exceptional moves in marketing from Nike. While one end of the spectrum started to buy Nike shoes just to burn them, it touched the hearts of many from the protest movement in a win-win for the sportswear brand. 

The bold move by Nike brought traction to its brand equity by placing them as a progressive brand that cared about people. This resulted in a 5% stock rise and an Emmy for outstanding commercials.

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Thai Life Insurance – family above all

Thai insurance companies are known to master the art of emotional marketing, with imaginative ads that incorporate a fusion of themes such as fear, humour, trust and family. 

Check out this “Silence of Love” ad by Thai Life Insurance. This first minute of the skit follows the life of a girl with a deaf-mute father as she narrates her resentment for him. At this point, Thai Life Insurance has not only leveraged people’s attachment to a family but also the general compassion that society has towards differently-abled people.

The true challenge not to cry, however, comes when he finds her unconscious on her birthday. He spends the next minute in desperate, silent pleas for the doctors in the hospital to save her. The ad then cuts back to the previous scenes, now subtitled. Here the father shows his love for his daughter as she wistfully looks into the distance. The ad ends with the slogan: “Remember to care for those who care for you.”

This perfect execution of “sadvertising” has over 8 million views on Youtube and it’s easy to see why. Insurance, or rather, the selling of insurance is often seen to be a pushy, intangible thing that some people tend to avoid. In a short span of three minutes, Thai Life Insurance managed to sell a gift of love.

Dove – changing perceptions of self

How does a personal care brand make you end up in tears?

Dove carried out a study in 2010 where they found that only 4% of women would describe themselves as beautiful. In a mission to bring that number higher, Dove Real Beauty Sketches follows a group of women on their journey towards self-discovery. The women were asked to describe themselves as sketch artist drew them. After that, a separate drawing was made when another woman was made to describe them. The second sketch churned out more smiles, fewer wrinkles and more charming faces overall. The ad on Youtube has a massive view count of over 69 million. 

In most instances of storytelling marketing, there is a noticeable lack of product selling. This is replaced by a focus on welling up tears with “emotional” becoming a huge buzzword in marketing. Beauty and self-care brands are starting to push for more inclusivity and self-love as connectors to their consumers. This presents a heart-versus-head debate where feelings usually triumph over logic in advertising on an empathetic approach.

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BMW – a little friendly competition never hurt anyone

The automotive industry has long taken on the narrative route in positioning itself in the market. Think Honda and family come to mind. With Mercedes-Benz, you will think of luxury. Think Jeep and your mind wanders off to adventure. 

Following the retirement of Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche last year, BMW congratulated him in a short clip. The Retirement is about exploring your wide open future campaign brought endless possibilities to growing old. Dieter Zetsche was shown bidding his goodbye before jetting off to the next phase of his life in a visionary exemplification of friendly competition.

The message that BMW sent is that retirement would be sad, if not for the freedom it could bring. Accompanied by your trusty BMW i8 Roadster, of course.

Showcasing two of the biggest competitors in the Automotive industry in this heartwarming friendship fosters an unexpected sense of goodwill. It appeals to not only car fans, but to Mercedes-Benz fans in particular.

The trend of storytelling marketing comes in at a time where brands are sparing no effort on curating honest content. The focus is not solely on advertising anymore. With the rise of digital, companies are given more chances for creative expression without limitations. 

Always remember: the goal here is to be disruptive. 

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