Great branding is storytelling - Why Jeep's new campaign won't work while Apple and Disney will sell forever

In All Marketers are Liars (2005) (, Seth Godin urges marketers to tell a compelling story about their brands. Great stories, he says, have nine components (pp. 8-10). They (summary is Godin's; examples are mine):

1. Are true in the sense of being "consistent and authentic" -- think Nike and its "just do it" slogan

2. Make a promise - one that is "bold and audacious and...exceptional" -- think Target with its determination to make chic affordable for all

3. Are "trusted" -- think Johnson & Johnson with its baby shampoo that you wouldn't hesitate to get in your eyes

4. Are "subtle" - they leave something to the imagination -- think of Google and its "don't be evil" tagline - what does that mean? You have to mostly make it up yourself.

5. "Happen fast" -- engaging the consumer quickly -- think of Hewlett Packard when its says "the computer is personal again" - you immediately grasp what that means

6. "Don't appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses" -- think of the smell of Starbucks coffee

7. "Are rarely aimed at everyone" -- think of Harley Davidson (although Harley is now going after women motorcycle riders, so they may be violating this rule)

8. "Don't contradict themselves" - every element of the story hangs together -- think of Saturn cars and their continuous emphasis on the individual and customer service from point of manufacture to point of purchase

9. "Agree with our worldview" - which is why not every brand story is for everyone -- think of Coca Cola vs. Pepsi, each appealing to a distinct kind of customer

Jeep is a once-great brand that ruined its story. It used to be a tale about surviving in the rugged outdoors. Now, they have reduced the brand to "fun." ( It's horrible. I don't buy the new Jeep story; it breaks rule #1 and #8! Fun is completely inconsistent with the concept of survival, which is at the heart of Jeep's brand heritage.

An example of a brand with a good story is Apple, which tells a story about "freeing creative spirits while slaying the Microsoft dragon." This is from Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog (, which has a good "ten truths of branded storytelling." They urge marketers to have a unique STORY proposition in addition to a unique SELLING proposition.

Of course the ultimate brand storyteller is Disney, which has managed to maintain a story about a magical happy place ( for decades. They don't call it the "Disney magic" for nothing.

You can turn your brand into a story. Make it a great one.