Wired Brand Storytelling

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What makes a good story?

It seems like a simple question, but finding the right formula for telling a story that captures, excites and moves an audience is much easier said than done. Creating the best stories to accompany products and brands is a daunting task that advertisers have to navigate every day.

Kim Kelleher sat down with three master storytellers in advertising during “Wired Brand Marketing” to hear how they are answering this question about what constitutes good storytelling. Their advice is pretty straight forward: make it human.

The session began with Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer at Uber, who talked about the importance of humanizing brands. Over the course of her career, Saint John has worked for major companies such as Pepsi and iTunes and only recently signed on to Uber. Her primary goal with the company is to have people move past the technology of the service and get connect with the brand emotionally.

“At the end of the day, technology serves human beings,” Saint John said. “It’s time to evolve Uber so that there is more humanity, connect on an emotional level and hear stories about the drivers and the riders.”

Saint John stressed that in order to tell a good story in advertising, you need to understand the nuances within your brand and stay true to them. The best storytelling comes from a full understanding of the environment brands are operating within. This means knowing the cultural cues, the language of the workplace and the behavior of both employees and customers. Saint John said because Uber is a disruptive, break through company, she needs to tell the stories of people who are same way in order to remain genuine and match the identity of the brand.

Saint John is also a strong believer in music’s power to help elevate and humanize stories. Because music is so universal and tied to people’s memory, it can be used as a powerful tool to draw audiences in and help initiate that emotional connection with consumers that advertisers desire.

Jennifer Breithaupt, Global Consumer Chief Marketing Officer at Citi and the second seminar speaker, also stressed the effectiveness of using music in advertising to humanize stories. Breithaupt presented market researching showing that 80 percent of people are more likely to remember an ad if it has music and even more likely to be engaged with a commercial if it is accompanied by a song they like.

“Music has such an emotive power,” Breithaupt said. “Songs are tied to important moments in people’s lives. First concert, first kiss, first break up. You want your brand attached to enabling these memories.”

As part of the conversation about good storytelling, Breithaupt debuted three spots Citi is releasing as part of its effort to continue humanizing the brand. The three ads all show moments of happiness: a little girl dancing in the rain, a group of millennials walking on a pier as the sunsets, an older man in a suit standing on his shopping cart. All three spots include a song that helps elevate the feeling portrayed in the ads. The message that accompanies each commercial is “What if your bank could help you feel a little more like this?”

Citi wants its brand to be a part of customers’ everyday life, bettering their experiences beyond simple banking transactions.

Marc Mathieu, CMO of Samsung Electronics America, was the third and final speaker of the event. Mathieu said humanizing megabrands such as Samsung through storytelling is essential to a company’s success.

According to Mathieu, storytelling is in the DNA of Samsung. With all its products, Samsung strives to empower people to use tech as a means to share their own stories, whether through text, video or VR.

Mathieu showed the audience a Samsung ad that capitalizes on people’s desire to share their stories using a variety of communication tools. The ad tells the story of two young people falling in love through live messaging, a new feature Samsung is rolling out that allows users to create gifs, draw animations on their photos and bring creativity to text messaging. The ad is effective because it not only tells a heartfelt story, but it provides people with a new technology that makes mixing pictures, video and text possible. Mathieu said that young people in particular have a desire to communicate in a more creative and visceral way. Identifying this desire was key to unlocking the new live message feature and figuring out the right story to tell to introduce it. The key, Mathieu believes, is being aware of trends and needs among costumers then acting on them.

“Marketing is like surfing,” Mathieu said. “You need to spot a wave and ride it.”

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