Markus Gull

Why effective brand stories are best about real life.

UPDATE: It's a sunny morning in our beautiful little town, and it smells like spring and Sunday. The front door opens, finally: Daddy is back from his business trip! Benny and his mum greet the homecomer like a ... yes: homecomer, almost crushing him in their rush of loving joy. Even Laura comes down, still a bit pubescently sleepy, but still, because now everything is whole again, everything is good again! Ronja, the predatory house cat, sniffs daddy's bag, because he has brought something for her too. He simply thinks of everyone and everything. Just like Dad ...

He sees everything with his alert, flashing eyes, but he sees especially well with his heart - Daddy, the great little prince - and of course he notices immediately what beautiful things have happened here in the meantime.

CLOSE UP: We see - please tick as appropriate:

  1. Things turn green that should rather not turn green, Dad's face for example, because he also suddenly feels it, this Leiner moment(and does not experience it as the rest of us usually do with the usual moments).
  2. Furnishings that normally don't move move because house spirit Mia was at Mömax before and here afterwards, and after a moment of shock everything looks better right away.
  3. David Alaba emerges from the kitchen box and points out to everyone present that although he is the only one who is a kicker, they could all be kika if they wanted to be, and that is really good news for a change.

Are you all right?

That's exactly what advertising is, and that's exactly what gets on people's nerves so insanely that more and more spend money on it so as not to have to encounter any more. Admittedly: the first part of the commercial is invented, in fact only found, it exists in all of us. It is the longing of us humans for an ideal world that spreads in the backs of the heads of those responsible for marketing communication to such an extent that it obscures the view of reality.

It is a big misconception that successful brand stories have to be nice and good, all the contributors have to come across as likeable and there has to be at least a little bit of fun at the end. That is one possibility, but it is anything but a prerequisite for effective storytelling. Story needs one thing above all: truth. Truth is the great, irresistible strength of story. Story is the reflection of our real life, our values, our deep longing. Story also needs empathy, because empathy is real and rooted inside people, sympathy evaporates. When both come together, there's nothing wrong with it ...

Brands that seriously and respectfully go where it hurts, where real life lives and people really need something, are in the right place for successful brand stories. That's when their values and aspirations connect with those of their audience. That's when advertising becomes conversation and storytelling becomes storysharing, values shared with each other. We are in agreement.

The current campaign of IKEA in Sweden "Where life happens" aims at this. The spot "Every other week" screws itself perfectly into the lives of all too many (ex-)families and dramatises the products in a dramaturgically skilful way. The brand is a particularly active mentor on the father's heroic journey. The insertion of the product names and prices then unfortunately reduces the momentum.



In the story "A good listener" something similar happens, the brand as mentor acts a little more indirectly than in the previous story, yet on the carpet of densely woven truth.



To ensure that good advertising stories do not remain stupid advertising, IKEA would do well to extend "Where life happens" into real life, perhaps with smart initiatives for single parents among its employees, in the stores, on the website, out in the world. Because then a powerful brand story not only becomes true, but a tangible reality. Then the so-called immersive brand experience is created, i.e. the possibility to really experience the brand values comprehensively. And then the brand gets the most precious thing it can get from its audience: Time. Time with Brand.

Does that apply to all companies and brands? No, but for the successful ones. Truth in the brand story is not a question of company size, but a necessity for successful communication. It doesn't matter whether it's a global corporation, an SME or an EPU - every person, every brand, every company has an image, some kind of story, stands for something, even if it's nothing.

Picture credits: Shutterstock | Chepko Danil Vitalevich

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