14 October 2013

Communicating a Brand’s Character Begins with the Story

Brands used to have voice-overs. Now they have voices.
Brands used to have logos. Now they have images.
Brands used to push messages. Now they must communicate character.
Brands used to focus on the rational connection between product and public, but today a brand’s products or services are more about the emotional connection. What a brand says it is – and in turn how it makes people feel – is critical to a brand’s overall character.

Emotion has always played a central role in brand perception – think about the classic Coca-Cola spot with Mean Joe Green or the iconic Apple Macintosh introduction in 1984. But with a fragmented and unbundled media environment clamoring for our attention, brands must shift to telling real stories that make an emotional connection first or risk losing their audience (and market share) altogether.

​Dick’s Sporting Goods turns an old glove into a story about family. St. John’s Ambulance teaches life-saving techniques by making the audience part of the narrative. And this “ad” by TrueMove H, a Thai mobile phone company, redefines what advertising is and should be.

These are stories with character. They tell us not only what the companies sell but, more importantly, why – their character is the “content.”

These approaches succeed because they focus on making people feel the emotion of the story vs. merely presenting “logical” proof points. The ultimate goal for any brand is earning trust – but this can only be achieved through a better understanding of who the brand is and why it exists.

There’s no magic spell or secret algorithm required to make this happen. Just tell a real story. Talk like a real person. And don’t settle for treating the public like a string of data.

A great brand is more than a logo, product or service. A great brand goes beyond a message or tagline.

A great brand is a human story. And stories are what “Communicating Character” is all about.

Gary Goldhammer is Hill+Knowlton Strategies' U.S. Digital Strategist and is based in our Costa Mesa, CA, office.