The Brand Storytelling Marketing Manifesto: Repost 3 Years on!

Red pill

When I started writing about storytelling I wrote the Storytelling manifesto. I still like that post most and I keep coining back to it as I launch my latest brand at Novartis. I’m reposting just because I think it’s still relevant today.

Original post:

In setting out a new marketing manifesto for pharmaceutical brands, I’m looking to the future where most health care products will be seen as a commodity, low-priced and undifferentiated. It’s going to be true in the future as it is now that you are going to need a brand with good evidence but it’s not going to be enough to motivate your customers out of this commodity mind-set.

The new Brand Storytelling Marketing Manifesto sets out to give a framework to change that future for your brand. The central theme for this is Storytelling which allows your customers to understand and interact with your brand. Here is the manifesto.

  1. Employ left and right brain tactics
  2. Fulfil human hierarchy of needs
  3. Dig for metaphors and archetypes
  4. Persuasions, motivation and enthusiasm
  5. Create evidence based stories
  6. Choose your point of view
  7. Engage word of mouth advertising
  8. Open source branding
  9. Make your brand authentic
  10. Have a beyond the brand strategy

Think of this list as an alternative check list for the health of your brand.  See if your brand is tackling these new marketing tasks. It’s likely the more of these employed by your brand the greater chance you have of separating yourself from the coming commodity market.

Employ left and right brain tactics

This works on the principle that we use our brain if different ways depending on what we are looking act. The more logical the task is the more left-sided activity. The opposite is true for emotional interactions. Typically pharma sales engage in rational arguments based on features and benefits to win the hearts and minds of its customers and this is low impact. Yes, we do have to communicate facts and figures about our brand but there needs to be an emotional reason for change as well.  Objections to marketing positions are never all rational in fact they are mainly emotional. Why then do we insist that the sales team focus mainly on facts and not the impact of the brand from an emotional standpoint?

Fulfil human hierarchy of needs

Maslow introduced and refined the common human hierarchy. These range from the physical needs at the bottom to the philanthropic and problem solving needs at the top. How does your brand create a rich set of stories balancing these needs to provide optimal brand desire and motivation for change?

Dig for metaphors and archetypes

Thinking deeply about the way customers think about their aspirations and problems, reasons to need  your brand, allows you to find highly effective stories that your customers with understand easily and be able to communicate your brand value when you’re not there.  If you analyse your own sentences you will find almost everyone contains a metaphor. To help people understand our meaning we liken the object of the conversation to a well know situation that the listeners can make a mental picture.  Take these further down and there is a fundamental set of themes that are cross cultural. These themes intern have fuelled and shaped the way we live in our societies. Stories of right and wrong, Heroism, Frivolity and protection are common stories we tell and use metaphorically to explain ourselves and our actions. These Story Arcs and metaphors have been used by many industries (especially film) to create great brands. Think Indiana Jones, Star Wars and James Bond. Pharma can use these tools to unlock ways of communicating our brand value in an easy to understand way.

Persuasion, Motivation and Enthusiasm

At the heart of our brands we have to look at what aspects of our marketing as assigned to persuasion, motivations and enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm stems from Greek, Enthos – A god within. Enthusiasm is created when that God within is found and fuelled by you brand. Do your communications aim to win customers or fans? I rather have a fan any day. Customers come and go but fans stay with you. They talk about your brand and help create a space in crowded markets for you. If you not looking at your customers and saying who will be a fan and how do I treat them specially you’re missing your most valuable customer. This is the Heart of persuasion of the masses and generates Motivations and enthusiasm.

Create evidenced based storytelling

Even though we have discusd much more of the right brain aspects of marketing,  the left must balance .Even if you convince people to try your products, without evidence your brand will fail.  When the emotional side of the brain is convinced about brand truths these need justifying with hard accurate data. Take a leaf out of the Cochrane collaboration and build your evidence to support your brand in the same way as it’s developed. Having a well referenced story enables you to tell it with confidence. Often its references to market changes your story predicts that you need to spend the most time to build up your evidence store.  You may have to run market research or clinical studies to prove your point but that is worth the time and expense.

Choose a point of view

Careful choice of the point of view each of your brand stories is told from will enable your brand to have its greatest impact. Many stories are told from the third person perspective. Some stories are told from the first person. Personally I like these a lot as they are able to transport the listener better. This can add both personality and emotion to your brand.

Engage Your (Word of) Mouth

As you look at your brand communications establish how your customers are able to pass on your brand story. Critically can your story be told easily? Working out good reasons for your customers to talk about your brand is essential to create your brands position. It enables you to reach more people than traditional advertising.

Open Source Branding

Plan to let go of your brand. Make it a part of your plan and enable your customers to engage and take up your brand as early as possible.  If you’re able to let go of your brand and be confident in the direction your customers take it. Your brand will grow faster. Think how you have enabled your audience to create a part of the brand so it feels like they own it. Software brands are normally ahead of the game with open source programming. Think about if you would like to be view as Apple (open Source) or Microsoft (antitrust law suits).

Make your brand authentic

Authenticity is a reflection of all your activities with your brand and company. It’s what your customers see and believe about you, your brand and your company. Does all the action you take support the brand story you have set out to tell. If your brand is about being in step with the p;p see this and your brand story will lose its credibility.

Have a Beyond the Brand Strategy

In line with brand authenticity you need to have embraced a beyond the brand strategy. This speaks to the stories you create about your company and services.  We have to recognise its important for people to get close to a brand and the company behind it. As a company you can reflect and act in ways that support your brand story but add meaning by telling stories of why the brand matters to the company. Many companies are employing this strategy but it’s not often synced up with the brands it sells. Innocent get this right as do IDEO and Whatif?