Branded storytelling or branded myth?

Let’s face it. Branding isn’t new.

We can put a new polish on the idea of storytelling and call it whatever we want: Marketing, communications, engagement, conversations, blah, blah, blah. Like we invented it? From the beginning of time, in every culture, tribal leaders have told stories that changed the world.

We are fascinated by the mythology of heroes who dominate those narratives, comparing our trials and tribulations to theirs. It’s how we educate new generations, so they can navigate the challenges of life that are common to us all.

Stories are used to persuade because they are the best way to articulate meaning. Consumer psychology has shown that stories wield the most effective power to organize complex information and create emotional connections to brands. Stories laced with emotion can subconsciously cement new constructs within the human brain to be recalled later.

What to do. What to think. What to purchase.

This is why understanding your brand’s story is crucial. What your brand stands for, what its mission is, what its goals are: these are all part of the story. As marketers, we tell stories through various media. We tap into traditions of old, creating characters that resonate with our audiences. We want to not only educate out audience, but have them feel something.

After this work, how do we evaluate if our storytelling is good? Truth is the test.

Mythology has its place in literature, but in branding, a story is only good if we can find reasons to believe it. If your employees aren’t consistently fulfilling the promise in your brand’s story, the structure is bound to crumble. That’s why the most important component in modern advertising is not the consumer, but your internal staff.

The Greek poet Archilochus said this more elegantly than I: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”

In the Participation Age, the tolerance for disingenuous claims is lower than ever. Our customers have access to a wealth of unfiltered information that will quickly expose empty mythology at the first scent. Social media has put the power of your story in their hands, not ours.

We can’t afford to be inauthentic.

We have to work at epitomizing what we claim. We have to teach and practice what we preach.

It’s less important to tell our story than to BE our story.