Most prosperous companies have creation myths: Jobs and Wozniak toiling away in a garage; Page and Brin penning plans for Google at Stanford; Coca-Cola’s secret formula locked in a vault. These tales not only help forge, but also reinforce company cultures through time. For a business of any size, stories like these become the underpinning of formal training and development, as well as water-cooler talk.
In advertising specifically, the art and craft of storytelling is central to building, maintaining and strengthening the bonds between consumers and brands. Chevrolet has been associated with “baseball,” “hot dogs,” “apple pie” and the American ethic for almost 100 years. Pepsi has been “the choice of a new generation” in one way, shape or form for more than half a century. These ideas, and the words, sounds, and images that bring them to life, are the products of great advertising.
In this environment, a narrative is not told and controlled from on high, but begun by the storyteller and then advanced by all those that respond to the story and the storyteller’s reactions to these contributions. Consumers get their stories by deftly piecing together a narrative from multiple sources, rather than one authoritative messenger.
These great innovations in storytelling and story-building give marketers the opportunity to form real, meaningful, human connections with consumers, to inspire people to become genuinely involved with their brands, to become authentically responsive to their participative audiences, and to give consumers the powerful, lasting sense that they have a level of ownership over the brand itself.
However, we are not living up to our potential. We worry that the dominant conversation in the industry, focused as it is on using new technologies to form greater efficiencies in the distribution and analysis of advertising unites, misses the point of what goes inside, outside, and around those units. We are concerned the industry is more concentrated on counting likes and clickthroughs than forming deep relationships with people, and that subsequently consumer interaction with brands is largely limited to likes, short comments, and critiques. From this angle, interactive media is in its infancy. We must get better at our jobs.