How to Build a Retail Story
Does Slaughterhouse-Five have anything in common with a Target-created holiday marketing campaign? After all, one is a satirical novel about a fatalistic time-traveling soldier, and the other is an annual, sparkling, beribboned event that drives shoppers into a buying frenzy.
Of course they have something in common. Why would I set up such a jarring comparison if I weren’t taking it anywhere? So it goes.
Both the novel and the marketing program have true scope and depth. They use visceral language and demonstrate vivid imagination. And they are both great examples of storytelling.
Brand storytelling is not new. Marketers have been using emotional narratives to connect with consumers for decades. What has evolved are the tools with which we create stories, and the shopper who demands them. Both have become infinitely more sophisticated.
I’ve written about storytelling and storymaking previously, focusing on their critical importance to the retail marketer, and the necessity of telling the tale visually. Today, we’ll look at how to create the brand story.
Which takes us back to Vonnegut. A complicated and deeply insightful man, the prolific author understood the rules of storytelling (and how to break them). His words to aspiring writers – about creating an emotional stake, writing tight and never wasting the reader’s time – stand as great advice for the storytelling retail marketer. (No matter what he says about my beloved semicolons.)
Vonnegut said that a great story is human, emotionally true and wholly original. It’s the same on the page as it is in the store. The retail marketer must look at the brand with honesty and humor and compassion to find and articulate the real story. Dig deep. Some questions to explore:
- What is the problem that the brand solves? What value does the brand deliver?
- What makes the brand different from others in the category?
- What is the brand’s mission? (In ten words or less.)
- Why does the brand exist?
- What does the brand believe in?
- What doesn’t the brand believe in?
- How was the brand founded? By whom?
- Who is the ideal face of the brand?
- What is the brand’s proudest moment?
- What was the brand’s biggest setback?
- How has the brand changed?
- What mistakes have been made? What adversities have been overcome?
- What do consumers say about the brand?
- How does the brand define success?
- What is the brand personality? Tone of voice?
- How do you change shoppers’ lives?
- Why should shoppers care about the brand?
- What accomplishments inspire the most pride?
- What story does the brand live every day?