It’s in our natural makeup to listen, learn, assimilate content and assemble it into a story. For example, when someone asks if we like a restaurant, we don’t respond with a one-sentence answer: we talk about the ambience, the experience, how we found it in the first place and the events of the night that took us there. In everything we do we create stories: threaded, intertwined histories of events, coloured by our perceptions that create the order and structure of the information we process daily.
This idea of narrative should be at the very core of communications. When we find a product we like or a company we respect, we want to know its story. We want to glimpse the vision of how and why it got there and then connect it to ourselves somehow. This is how we create structure and value in our own lives.
Communications are changing as we enter into an age of dialogue. Consumers, customers and other stakeholders no longer want to be instructed on how to think, what to buy and how to act. They want to take part in two-way conversations by sharing experiences, exchanging relevant content and influencing each other. This has been made possible through the emergence of the digital age, with numerous content rich environments, such as social media allowing people to express themselves, and share knowledge and experiences like never before. Communications that simply instruct, rather than invite people to share their opinion are becoming a thing of the past.
Companies must tell stories that truly engage with their audience, putting aside catch phrases and spin. They must leave behind the false façade of “brand awareness” and “product engagement.” The story of a business and the people behind it is far more important. It can become a real, concrete tool for attracting new customers, if told with power and clarity.
Let me give you an example of what I see as a successful piece of communications – a recent advertisement by Renault that fully utilizes the power of emotive storytelling.
The campaign focuses on the fact that Renault now offers a four-year warranty on its range of cars. Rather than dwelling on the warranty or explaining how vital that extra year of free cover is, Renault choose to tell a story that shows how much can happen in the space of four years through an emotive short film about the developing relationship between a boy and his step-father. The story sparks emotion and encourages people to think about where they could be in four years, rather than simply telling them that Renault makes good cars. Whilst I’m wise enough to know that buying a Renault won’t bring me eternal happiness, I feel I have a closer relationship with the Renault brand. I associate it with stability, reliability and companionship through the challenges that life can bring. This is the power of storytelling.
Furthermore, I think Renault has been extremely clever in utilising the potential power of the dialogue age. Telling an engaging story has allowed Renault to leverage its advert through engaged audiences that have a point of view about it and share it with their friends across social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, not to mention public digital spaces, such as YouTube.
Good stories are told and re-told many times over. The real stories of a business lie not in the ‘About Us’ section of a website, the biographies of a CEO or the financial statements. They lie in what the key stakeholders have to say about what makes that company stand out.
If you’d like to see the Renault advert I talked about, follow the link below: