How to Use Story to Energize a Brand -- 5 Tips to Help Develop Emotionally Resonant Brands

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Character, a Portland, OR-based firm, provides tips on how brands can effectively use story to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Companies that are looking to gain a foothold in the marketplace may want to consider how they can use story to create meaning and connection. The partners from Character, a brand consultancy that develops story frameworks and characters for brands, offer the following 5 guidelines to determine how story can give your brand a competitive advantage. Several of these were featured in October's Fortune Small Business magazine cover story, Energize Your Brand, where founding partners, David Altschul, Jim Hardison and Brian Lanahan, of Character, explain the firm's goal of bringing story to every brand.

1.    Understand what you are selling. In low involvement, impulse-driven categories where an emotional connection is critical, a story that is built around the defining qualities of a brand can differentiate it in ways that are more sustainable than product attributes.

2.    Conflict is what makes stories interesting. Throw out common marketing wisdom that a patina of perfection will make the brand seem attractive. The reality is that consumers will fail to connect emotionally with that type of brand.

3.    Look to brand's history to identify key themes and underlying conflicts that drive its story and make it unique.

4.    Your brand story is not what you would like to tell your consumer about your brand; story is the meaning your consumer takes out of all her experiences with your brand.

5.    The most effective and motivating stories are based on fundamental truths about the human condition that arise directly from the central conflicts of the story.

In addition, a recent The New York Times magazine column, The Story of O's, explains how story has helped build the Cheerios brand for General Mills. Character's three–day retreat with the General Mills Cheerios brand team helped them discover a new way of thinking about what the brand wants (in this case, to enable family connection) and gave them the courage to take their advertising in a different, more powerful, direction. The Character team taught the group how to think of their brand as a character and helped them find the simple human truths about the brand. The end result is a truly emotional connection with the consumer.

Character has since worked with iconic brands Chrysler, Old Spice, and Wal-Mart to help them find the story behind their brand, as well as new products like Fuelosophy and Flat Earth.

Character (http://www.characterweb.com), based in Portland, OR, develops Story Frameworks and characters for brands. The Character team combines backgrounds in animation, filmmaking, screenwriting, improvisational theatre, brand management, and new product development. The firm has done character development and brand story work for such clients as Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, General Mills, Pepperidge Farms and Unilever.

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