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) (http://www.allmarketersareliars.com/), 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." (http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=63128) 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 (http://blog.futurelab.net/2006/07/the_ten_truths_of_branded_stor.html), 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 (http://www.brandchannel.com/features_profile.asp?pr_id=109) 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.