Hooking Customers with Compelling Brand Stories

Screenwriter and consultant Richard Krevolin explains why the best brand narratives are about customer allies instead of heroes.

Every brand has its own story to tell. The question is whether it's a story that resonates with customers and drives customer loyalty. Indeed, compelling brand narratives position a brand not as the hero of the story but rather the ally that "allows consumers to reach their goals," maintains Richard Krevolin, a screenwriter and brand narrative consultant at Power Story Consulting.

1to1 Media caught up with Krevolin to discuss his new book, The Hook, and how to become a more effective storyteller.

1to1 Media: What do executives often get wrong about how to tell their brands' stories?
Richard Krevolin: The way I explain it is the bait has to find the fish rather than the other way around. Brand managers and marketers often tell a story they love, but it's not one that speaks to consumers. It has to be a story that emotionally connects consumers to their brand.

Can you be an effective marketer without being a good storyteller and still produce viral content?
Content marketing is fascinating right now. A lot of the content that goes viral is story-driven but there are lists like the "10 Best Ways to Avoid Divorce" that are also popular. That's not a story, that's a list of 10 ideas. I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there's some successful content that's data driven. But in the end, great content is about being compelling and entertaining.

The great content that we remember most has an emotional element to it and that comes from the narrative, not from the data. Look at Panera Bread as an example. I've done some work with them and they're great at introducing new sandwiches. But instead of just listing the ingredients, they offer stories about how those ingredients came to be part of their menu. They even have a story section on their website with tips on healthy living. Telling those stories distinguishes Panera Bread's brand from its competitors.

What is the best way to measure the effectiveness or ROI of storytelling?
The tricky part of storytelling is it's not data-driven or rational. It's hard to create metrics that measure the impact of storytelling. I developed a process where we start with the brand DNA as agreed upon by the members of the company. And then we create stories out of that so you're sure the stories you're telling correspond with the DNA of the brand. If I can get all the marketers to agree on the brand DNA, then we can look at the story that exists in the company or create new stories that align with that DNA so we can ensure the stories are furthering the brand.

It's easier to work backwards when you change some of the narrative to affect a change in the ROI. That's the goal: to change the stories and track sales and see if stories are improving sales. The other valuable thing about stories is that they're really good for presenting insight from data. A good storyteller can spin hard numbers into a story to make sure the audience retains the information.

Which mediums do you find interesting as storytelling evolves?
Video via social media is exciting. Video has legs in a way that if you create one that people enjoy they share it and do the marketing work for you. Social media is allowing video to have an afterlife it never had before. Even the smallest company can create a great video.

Who should be responsible for telling a company's story?
It's always interesting when I do company workshops. Sometimes it's the people you least expect who have the most compelling stories. Traditionally it's the chief marketing officer or someone from an agency who crafts the story, but I push for everyone to chime in on the brand's story. Because sometimes the best storytellers are in human resources or a department you wouldn't think of who have a great nugget to share.

I've also been in workshops where the advertising people have told less compelling stories than the IT or accounting guy next to them. That touches upon another issue, which is can storytelling be taught? I believe that intuitively, some are better at it than others, but it can be taught. And you have to keep doing it. Many people aren't willing to do the rewrite and rework a story over and over until they get it right.