Tag Archives: story

What Santa Never Told You About Authentic Storytelling


In previous blog posts, we have long stressed the point of view that a key marketing trend is that of authentic interactions with people. One acknowledged way of interacting with people, in a real way, is through storytelling. Disney does it and just look at how Santa and his helpers has been doing it for years.

How do they do it in a seemingly effortless way? We’ll use this post to examine ways of crafting an effective story for your brand – in case Santa doesn’t leave instructions under the tree.

Admittedly, marketing agencies have long used the story approach to campaigns but we believe times are changing. Instead of a brand telling a story, why would it not use all of its elements to allow customers connect with a story they want to be part of?

As we approach the Festive Season, we believe that perhaps technology is not such a threat to bricks-and-mortar retailers that everybody is writing about. This is mainly because shop owners can still offer the human touch. The one caveat here is probably the influence of weather conditions on travel.

Of course, these retailers must augment the experience for the shoppers with multi-sensory and multichannel experiences but the real challenge is to enter the world of the customer and to be a part of their story.

How brilliant would it be if brands could move people from being observers into being part of a story, why? Because us marketers have known for eons that stories activate emotions which in turn motivate people to act i.e. to get involved.

To help you visualise what we’re saying, let’s look at a potential scenario using a standard story structure:

  • The consumer is the protagonist in the story
  • The experience is what happens (the touchpoints – where it happens)
  • The competitors are the obstacles for the customer getting to what they want
  • The product or service is the reward / the outcome

The point we’re making here is that brands should have a look at how they structure their stories. It’s not about telling it – it’s about engaging customers directly in their storylines by taking them on a journey and providing a reward at the end. This reward may be for the customer or even somebody else e.g. a charity cause.

Here’s a thought – could brands help people with their own stories? Could they help people change their lives (or others) through what they buy? The thing is storytelling can make a difference so why aren’t brands using it to make a difference for their customers and ultimately their bottom line.

People might not remember your brand, but they will remember a good story.

We mentioned above that storytelling makes a difference. Let’s see how it might – using a Leinster Rugby story as an example.

Story version A – “Jim decided to come into our shop and buy a Leinster Rugby jersey. He had the option of an array of colours, sizes, and excellent cotton quality. There was also an online option.”

Story version B – “Jim is a long-time supporter of Leinster Rugby and had an old club jersey that had seen better days. The team’s on-field performance was going through a lull and supporters were getting disgruntled. To show his continued support Jim purchased a new jersey from our supporters’ club outlet, looks great and is now delighted to be part of the team’s resurgence.”

This is a made-up example, but anyway – which one will you remember most? The second one I reckon, because we provided elements that you might relate to. In version B, we tried to use the standard story structure outlined above i.e. a character, a reason why, a little conflict and a resolution.

Our example stresses the point that promoting the features of your product / service in the structure of a story doesn’t really work. Set yourself apart by incorporating your brand elements into an authentic story that people can relate to.

Here are the elements of a good story:

  • Characters – give your audience somebody to relate to so that they can empathise
  • Plot – this is the build up to the conflict which leads the audience to want to know what’s next
  • Conflict – something has to go wrong e.g. the Leinster team above were going through a lull
  • Resolution – show your customer how it was solved and the takeaway (your product)

Tips and Timesavers.

Have a look at how you are structuring your current brand story. How is your tone and are your visuals appropriate? Look at testimonials or case studies that you can use. Always have a look at whether you are creating a great story or just telling people what you offer.

Facts (product features) are useful but let’s face it they are not as powerful as stories. Anyway, stories are how we experience life. We read books and blogs, watch TV and listen to the radio. We watch sports and share stories with friends at parties – so why wouldn’t we be open to more storytelling?

The beauty about the current, connected environment is that brands have many more tools at their disposal for extending stories and for people to share them. As alluded to above, there are more opportunities to be authentic with your brand and thereby immerse people into the essence of your brand.

Here are 10 elements to consider when i) creating a story and ii) when outlining your story

           Creating a Story

  1. Enhance the appeal of the story by explaining where your brand comes from
  2. Discover what attributes your brand can credibly claim that are appealing to your audience
  3. Associate meaning to a weakness that might turn it into a strength
  4. Create a sense of exclusivity or scarcity
  5. Demonstrate the value to users
  6. Use influential users of your service/product to add credibility

    Outlining a story

  7. Be authentic and tell your story with emotion
  8. Relate your story to your customers and highlight the benefits of your product/service
  9. Take your customers on a journey through the matching of your values and theirs
  10. Humanise your story and don’t be afraid to use humour


The myth that some brands are clinging onto is that people want to hear about their brand. They don’t! They want to be drawn into an experience that’s relevant to them – not you.

This makes sense really as any story should aim to please the person to whom it’s told. Self-promotional stories told by brands are unlikely to strike a chord with the intended audience and just end up annoying them.

Here is a really comprehensive storytelling guide infographic I found on hubspot.com. We hope you have a wonderful Festive Season.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Warning: To be human is to love a good story.


“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

10 steps to start telling your story right now.

Why do businesses and so many marketers continue to ignore the fact that customers are human and like a good story?

Do you think I’m stretching it a little when I suggest that your customers, or prospects (people), want to see, hear and understand the real you?  They want to know your story. I don’t believe that they want to hear you broadcast how good you are or how much they need your product / service. Do you know why? Because you are not talking to them in a natural way and they see no value for themselves, in your corporate blurb.

I alluded to this in a previous post, but I believe that it is worth reiterating here. Treating people as humans is a business requirement and not just a casual option. In fact have you noticed that your colleagues, your employees and even your online followers are all human also? Not only that, but they all have one other thing in common, they want brands to relate to them in an interesting way that brings them benefit.

The way that businesses can do this is quite simple to understand but a little bit harder to put in place. Our tips and timesavers below will outline some ways that you can start to make your brand more human with storytelling.

Once upon a time ……

It is true that for brands to break through the ‘noise’ today, they need to be more interesting and relevant. I read recently that ‘friend of mine’ awareness is replacing the traditional marketing measurement of ‘top of mind’ awareness. This reinforces the power of word-of-mouth and also the way that purchasing decisions are being influenced. A friend’s advice is an emotional one and usually acted upon. So if brands are to make any inroads into building relationships with customers, they must connect with people in the way that a friend might – through emotion.

The main way of doing this is by telling a story.

‘Once upon a time ….’ is one of the most emotionally charged string of words, ever. From when we were babies, we always tuned into what comes next after those magical words. Brands have to start telling and stop selling. People in general want to know more about you but will only listen if it is interesting and relevant, to them. How to achieve this from a business point of view, is by revealing a story theme within the guidelines of a clear communication strategy.

Think about it, a brand is really an amalgamation of stories anyway. The ideal would be for you to pull these stories together into a theme and proactively manage them. Of course, if you don’t tell your story, others will and it may not be a positive version.

Topics you could source internally might include:

  • the added value offered by your brand,
  • various audience experiences,
  • your employees,
  • the rationale behind your identity and your image,
  • what others say about you.

In fact, why not allow your stories ‘fit in’ with those of other people. Even better – become a hub for the sharing of ideas and conversations. Give people a face, a voice, a platform to be heard.

When discussing this point with some of O’C&K’s clients, they often say “but we don’t have a story to tell, that’s why we advertise”. Our answer is that every brand has a specific story to tell which should be told because it is the one thing that your competitors cannot replicate. And from a sales point of view, people connect with stories not products.

For instance, the original iPhone was sold as a life changer about how people could connect rather than a pocket computer. What Apple Inc. did was to make the customer (you and me) the hero of their story. Whatever you might think of Apple they definitely changed our lives with the smartphone.

If you decide to start telling your story however, it must be your authentic story. Not some aspirational place where you want to be. Let people know who you are – across all communication, online and offline. Be consistent and constantly thinking about ways that you can add value to your customers.

Brands that I am interested in are ones that I learn from, I laugh with or I love what they do for others. Of course business values are great but I find that they are all similar – have a look at a company’s values page on the next few websites that you visit and you’ll see what I mean.

To me, it’s kind of obvious that businesses need to connect more with people through personal values which means getting emotional, however strange that may sound. I guess social media can help us in this regard. It gives us the opportunity to talk directly to, or listen to, customers. Even a simple ‘thank you’ on twitter can go a long way. As I have always said to sponsees – ‘try to over- deliver on a personal level with a sponsor’. In that way renewal of a sponsorship contract is more probable, nine times out of ten. It’s all about the personal touch.

Tips and Timesavers.

The real trick here is not to focus on your own story, your own campaign, new services or your achievements. Talk about why people’s lives will be improved as you strive to achieve your vision, not how you’re going about it. Tell stories that make people laugh, make them sad or make them mad.

Here are some tips to start you on your journey:

  • Brainstorm with your team. – It is important that you know who and what you are before you can start connecting with your audiences. What is your culture?
  • Determine your audience. –  ID, research and prioritise your top 2/3 audiences. What different requirements have they and what tactics are required for you to satisfy them.
  • Focus on the relationship that you want to build. –  Be a human and have a personality.
  • Don’t interrupt your audience. – Speak in their language and be part of their story.
  • Listen to their story and provide value. – Your story must be of benefit to them in some way.
  • Get your team to be social. – Everybody on your team is a potential curator of stories.
  • Get your audience on board. – By connecting with their emotions they will buy into your story.
  • Leverage different mediums. – Find out where your audiences are and go ‘play’ there.
  • Be human all the time. – Show pictures of you and your team – doing ordinary stuff.
  • Plan it. – Have an editorial calendar, a social media policy and measure impacts.

Telling your story – a science or an art?

If you don’t see yourself as a storyteller, an external professional can help you to encapsulate your company’s story. The downside of not doing this is that your communication with people is going to be unfocused and less effective. Also, don’t waste time trying to set-up multiple channels of communication because, once you have determined your audience, the channels will select themselves.

Adam Weinroth, CMO, OneSpot has provided us with an interesting infographic on the science of storytelling.

The human element of storytelling is to ensure that your team and your audience are sharing compelling content. If that content is aligned to your brand promise and vision, it will be relevant and useful to all parties.

By the way, don’t allow the thought of writing the content to put you off – you can outsource this element also. The important thing is that your internal team is operating like a newsroom and is focused on your communication strategies.

Having a human brand means that you keep in mind that your customers and employees are human too. Humans like stories and are always looking for value in them. That value may be educational, entertaining or simply an alignment with their beliefs. Go on, tell us, what’s your story?

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K


Your brand should not be the story, it should be in the story.

Taking a break from writing your brand story

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

It’s not your message – it’s their story.

My thoughts on the effectiveness of advertising stories were reignited last Sunday. I was one of the millions of people watching the Super Bowl. In the run up to it I was also getting my head around why a company would shell out $4m for a 30 second ad, to be aired during the game.

Being in Europe, I didn’t get to see the ads live on the big screens, however, YouTube has footage showing 17 of the best, if you want to check them out. I was interested, though, from a marketing point of view. I wanted to see how good the ads were because let’s face it, if they are going to be viewed by 100 million people, I guess they had to be pretty good. Before I looked at them, I formed a mental checklist to use as a measure for effectiveness, as I watched them. Here’s my unscientific list:

  • Is it obviously directed at a target audience and would it connect?
  • Does it reflect the brand, as I see it?
  • Do I ‘get’ the message easily or is the product irrelevant to the ad content?
  • Would anybody care if the brand didn’t advertise – will I remember it.
  • Is it integrated with other marketing activity.

Sorry, if this all sounds a bit boring, I know there will be masses of research done by professionals to determine what did and what didn’t work, at the event. Of course I appreciate that there are different dynamics for judging any type of advertising but for me from a marketing point of view, and the only one I shared on my Facebook page, was the Hyundai ad. I think it satisfied my list above, except I can’t be sure about the last one as, I’m not aware of their other marketing activity. What do you think? Did any of the advertisements have a profound effect on you? Anyway, just to put a smile on your face here is a clever and funny video in relation to this topic by Adobe Marketing.

Now that I’m on the subject of advertising, if you’ve read some of my previous blogs, here and here in particular, you’ll  know that I’m not a great fan of ‘broadcasting the message out’ to customers. If you are / were in the marketing communication business you will remember ‘penetrating’ the market looking for customer eyeballs and monitoring ‘traffic’ to collect data. Rarely was there a mention of having a conversation with the customer.

Tips and Timesavers.

We all know that an individual recommendation can be way more influential than most types of marketing. Word-of-mouth has always been a strong factor in influencing behaviour but historically, it was usually on a one-to-one basis, currently with social media tools the ‘one’ is talking to thousands. So the trick here (actually it’s not a trick at all), is not to blast out your message but to join the conversation in an effort to stimulate positive mentions. Businesses can do this by providing a good experience, that is relevant to the customer / prospect and therefore creating a shareable story. Your brand should not be the story, it should be in the story. I was just wondering how many of the ads at the Super Bowl related to their customer’s story? I still think the Hyundai people got it very close.

All of your marketing activity should be aligned with a focus on what’s relevant to your customers. A lot of SMEs appear to be put off being online because they are afraid of negative comments and damage to their reputation. At OC&K we are constantly amazed at how many times we have to explain to the ‘doubters’ that people may be talking about them anyway – so if you’re not online managing your own reputation, then somebody else is.

Anyway, as alluded to above, isn’t it much smarter to be working with your customers and forming a relationship with them rather than shouting at them with your message. Ultimately, you are looking for your customers to share, mention and generally promote your brand because they want to, based on their experience. They won’t do it because of their demographics or because they’ve ‘liked’ your Facebook page.

I don’t suppose we’ll see any research from the Super Bowl advertisers showing if the viewers changed any behaviour because of the ads, but I’d say the half time experience might have driven sales for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Bruno Mars, alright.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K