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.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.