Brand Storytelling: Ditch the fake-real and get interesting

I am really starting to hate the word ‘Authentic’. It’s joining the ever-growing list of overused go-to words for lazy marketing. Along with ‘succulent’ and ‘hand-cut’ it’s getting to the point where I have a physical reaction to its utterance.

But why the massive increase in it’s over-use in the marketing sphere? Well, this is down to the explosion of brand storytelling as a marketing vehicle. Reports by publishers such as Marketing Week and consumer data provider GlobalWebIndex describe that the shifting of marketing channels to social, and increasing demand for video as the consumed media of choice, create a need for authentic brand storytelling.

What the heck is brand storytelling?

Any decent marketer will tell you that to effectively sell your product or service, you need to reflect your target audiences’ values. (For those of you who want to read more on the concept of brand persuasion, read this excellent article by stealing share.

As our view has become more globalised, we are searching for products and experiences that are authentic or unique. There is also an increased desire for transparency from brands, so consumers can seek out brands that align with their personal values. To meet the consumer demand for ‘real’ brand stories, we are seeing marketing videos concentrating on individual customer experiences and how the brand or product has changed their life for the better. Basically, telling a simple authentic story with a clear message.

Authentic…..Sick of it…it’s bullshit.

As an ethical marketer I am an advocate for letting people see into your company brand and the passion behind the logo. Individual stories are powerful, and can lead to positive change and pursuasion. However, there is a much darker, cynical side which couldn’t get further from the ‘authentic’ story. Take for example this lovely video produced on behalf of Shell to pitch natural gas as the sustainable option to millennials.

Unearthed have already done a great job of dissecting this advert over on their site. But suffice to say, it doesn’t take a lot of digging to understand that natural gas isn’t a sustainable option for the future, ummmmm, as it’s a fossil fuel.

This video ended up being pulled apart by its target audience as they happen to have an extremely sensitive bullshit radar, probably a side effect of being exposed to mass-marketing their entire lives. Brand storytelling in an ‘authentic’ way can be a double-edged sword. If the brand only commits half-heartedly in a cynical ‘fake-real’ manner, they will be discovered and the damage done to brand perception will very much be a reality. So, let’s ditch the pretend authentic and just be real, ok? If you are selling a great product or service, let’s find the connection to your market and sell it honestly. Let’s hold a torch for straightforward advertising, just like Liz Whiston and Dave Shelton penned for Ronseal in 1994, “It does exactly what it says on the tin“.

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Daniel Speed

I've been around the block a time or two when it comes to brand creation, evolution and connecting with target audiences. Starting off a career designing magazines and websites for the RAF back in the 90's, I have had the pleasure of helping Brands such as the NHS, Aldi and Dunelm connect and communicate to their customers. Hoping some of my ramblings will inspire the next generation of designers and brand managers.

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