The Five Key Elements of a Brand Storytelling Strategy
The Five Key Elements of a Brand Storytelling Strategy

We are in the beginning of the golden age of video content and much of it is being consumed commercial-free (On Demand, DVR, news feeds and/or distracted by the second screen).

Visionary brands have chosen to supplement interruptive advertising with an investment in deeper brand storytelling, from the 4-minute brand film to the episodic short-form series to documentaries. They have chosen to stop interrupting people from what they want to watch and have started to become what they want to watch. But in many cases these brand investments have come up short because of a lack of a fulsome strategy and a firm understanding of what success looks like.

Today, developing a great story is only a fraction of the equation. Before a camera is ever turned on or an execution is started, we develop a Brand Storytelling Blueprint that determines how we will amplify success of the content, create lasting influence for the brand and generate sales for the organization. While there are other important elements in defining a storytelling strategy, these are five key elements we focus on:

  • Defining and Owning a Narrative
  • Content Framework and Storytelling Concepts
  • Engagement and Distribution Strategy
  • Product and Experiential Strategy
  • Measurement and Monetization   

Defining and Owning a Narrative

You can no longer think of content as a one-off. You want individual stories to be tied to a larger overarching strategy and the space you want to live within your most important audience's minds and hearts. When you think Nike, you think motivation. Apple, human innovation. Red Bull, adventure and extreme sports. The narrative(s) your brand determines to own must take into consideration your culture, your audience(s), your existing brand, your products and the whitespace in marketplace. Determine the intersection of where your key audiences are under-served by story, where your brand has a rightful claim and where the business opportunity exists. This narrative will be the nucleus that all stories tie back to and where you generate lasting influence.

Content Framework and Storytelling Concepts

How do you plan to keep audiences’ attention beyond one story? How will you create lasting influence? The speed of content today is moving so fast that there is a need to be consistently in front of your customers and prospects, adding value at every engagement. That doesn't necessarily mean a new high-end piece of content daily, but there needs to be some semblance of continuity and a behavior an audience can learn to expect. When we think about a content framework, it is really a roadmap of how you will storytell, from your more frequent engagements (think daily imagery, articles, infographics, short clips) to your ultra-premium stories (film, episodic, etc.). Again, all of these stories need to be connected through the narrative you are trying to own.

Engagement and Distribution Strategy

The biggest trouble today is not just creating great content, it is how are you going to get it in front of the audiences you care about. For reference, there are 2.5 times more scripted TV series than there were in 2010, yet 62% of consumers still struggle to find what to watch. If you put it out there, they will not just come. You need to take a very intentional approach to distribution, working through owned, paid and earned media opportunities.

  • Owned is not just focused around your owned digital environments (website, app, social, e-mail lists, etc.), you also need to think about your physical spaces as well.
  • As you engage influencers and like-minded talent, make these connections authentic. Bring the talent in as a central piece of the content creation and ongoing storyline vs. a one-off product push to reach their audience.  
  • Do not be afraid to be very targeted when necessary on paid strategies and have a clear understanding of the audience ecosystem and who influences who.
  • Earned media should always be a strategy. Viral is not a strategy. There is a difference.
  • Do not be afraid to partner with other non-competitive brands that are looking to reach a similar audience.

One of the biggest pitfalls for brands in realizing ROI around storytelling is that if an audience does actually engage with one piece of content and really enjoy it, there is nowhere else for them to go. Either there is no more content to consume, there is no product or experience to engage with or there is no data collected by the brand. It seems obvious, but if you are developing great content and spending money driving an audience to it, try and gain something tangible out of it that can lead to a "next date."

Product and Experiential Strategy

How does your content move beyond just being 5 minutes a prospect spends with your brand? Did you naturally tie it towards a product line that a consumer wants or did you develop an event around the release of the content? How do you create customized products around that content experience? How are you injecting the brand into different events beyond basic sponsorships? These solutions are customized to the narrative, the content and the audience but are quintessential in trying to drive revenue and close the loop.

Measurement and Monetization

Every measurement strategy should be different based on the goals of the business, but one thing we believe strongly in is measuring time. Time is our most valuable asset and the closest thing to measuring attention. Move beyond vanity metrics of just impressions or views and understand who is spending real time with your content on all digital platforms. Set benchmarks around time, engaged/complete views and advocacy of content (shares/comments). Develop proprietary data solutions to quickly understand performance of content holistically, with the ability to dig deeper into platform, talent, storyline, etc.

A monetization strategy is absolutely key in proving success; you need to think like a media company. There are several ways to ultimately change your brand storytelling arm from a cost center to a profit center and here are a few ways to look at it:

  • Brand sponsorships: Allow other brands to be involved in your content and offset production costs.
  • Integrate your product into the content seamlessly and naturally and develop customized packages, events and merchandise. Create easy ways to track the attribution.
  • Monetize your owned environment: If you are able to build out a strong owned media environment, you may have the ability to sell advertising against it.
  • Licensing deals with content buyers: There is a tremendous need to fill up cable lineups and streaming libraries and media companies are looking for premium content. 
  • Develop exclusive content for your most loyal customers that they may be willing to pay for.

Ultimately, brand storytelling is about delivering something of value that an audience can’t get anywhere else. But, before you get started, make sure you have a long-term strategy in place to reap the full return on your investment. To hear more about transforming your brand into a media company, check out some of the webinars hosted by me and David Beebe.

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