Don't be a One-Night Brand
In a society conditioned by instant gratification and superfluous, swipeable snippets, brands know how to pull consumers, but are they sticking around for coffee the morning after? Here’s why storytelling is still an integral part of your brand’s strategy if you want to avoid becoming a one-night brand.
Sitges is my kinda town. Thirty minutes south of Barcelona, it has a romantic slothfulness to it that goes particularly well with a few bottles of Cava and a very long lunch. However one afternoon, we decided to head out in search of some booze-free, cultural ballast. An hour later, we found ourselves outside of ‘Casa Bacardi.’ A permanent exhibition that explores the connection between Sitges and the founder of Bacardi, the tour would end with a trip to the lounge bar for a mini masterclass in cocktail making. So, with ‘Tour’ ticking the cultural ballast box and the ‘Mini’ in masterclass qualifying it as booze-free, we made our way in.
I’ve never been much of a rum drinker: in terms of spirits, I’ve been a vodka loyalist for many, many years. Cemented at the age of 21, when I spent 6 months in St. Petersburg, a city where vodka runs deeper than the Neva. For them, 8 glasses of vodka is just as hydrating as 8 glasses of water; the word itself is in fact an affectionate diminutive form of the word for water (vodka = vodka, water = wodka) so I had always wondered whether someone had once made a whopper of a pronunciation clanger, resulting in the health department advising Russians to drink at least 8 glasses of vodka a day.
As a city, St. Petersburg is the cultural equivalent of getting a slap round the face with an aftershock that is located precisely on the sweet spot of where pleasure meets pain: the cold is unbearable but life-affirming; falling ice daggers terrifying but exhilarating; heroic stories of locals protecting their arts were awe-inspiring but so often rooted in tragedy. Riffing in Russian with the locals, drinking what was supposedly vodka but probably paint-stripper, you feel their political outrage, pride and passion - and as your throat burns your eyes glisten and you become invested in them, their stories, and their accompanying national tipple. Rum, on the other hand. Well I’ve never been to the Caribbean, nor swashbuckled with a pirate. Not one single story of mine started, or finished with rum. So as we stood waiting for the tour to begin, I realised I couldn't elicit a single emotion towards it - quite odd given that Bacardi is the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world, plus the fact that I’ve never been shy at Happy Hour. The tour began: we tracked Bacardi’s founder Don Facundo as he journeyed from Sitges to Cuba in 1830, we soaked up the Bacardi family’s experience of revolution and exile, their notoriety as providers of prolific parties and the superstitions that led to their legendary bat logo. As we tasted a variety of aged rum, the tour guide described Bacardi’s revolutionary rum-making process that would go on to change the way rum was made forever. Finally, we made our way to the lounge, where we learnt how to make Cuba Libres, Bacardi Old Fashions and Mojitos. The tour only lasted an hour, but a few stories were all it took for my Cuba Libre to evoke the fearlessness of a freedom fighter, my Mojito transporting me back to the parties of the prohibition….
Ok, so that’s definitely an exaggeration. But, what isn’t an exaggeration is that I know I left Casa Bacardi feeling considerably more excited by Bacardi than I ever had before. A state of ambivalence was elevated to one of admiration and affinity - all it took was me learning their story, which of course is the bedrock of any meaningful relationship.
When we meet someone in real life, we spend time getting to know them better and develop connections, through asking questions and listening to their anecdotes, opinions and beliefs. Stories have quite literally been shared since the beginning of civilisation, and of course this has been absorbed into business - the rules don’t really change. Telling your story is crucial to building your brand, but telling stories takes time, and so in today’s uber fast, overly automated and instantly gratifying society, the art of storytelling has had a fight on its hands...
A traditional storytelling arc appears: The slow build, The climax, The resolution. But as a society conditioned by instant gratification, we have traditionally been ‘too busy’ to entertain the build; “bring us the climax or we’ll find someone else who will”. Pandering to a consumer who wants the juice but doesn’t care about the squeeze, brands can only afford to pump out the shiniest, sexiest micro snippets of themselves. They are faceless, boiled-down bits that we can devour and disregard, a climax without a backstory means you simply become another one-night-brand on their bedpost.
Now, I realise that I had the luxury of spending an hour with Bacardi. Of course your consumers rarely spend this much time engaged with you, so how can you possibly start to build a relationship in a Tinder-inspired world of swipeable, 15-second instagram stories and 2-second videos?
Three is the magic number: Remember that traditional storytelling arc: ‘The Build, The Climax, the Resolution.’ Use three acts to frame your story. It’s just enough detail to reel your audience in, but not so much that they lose the key points.
Identify your story’s villain: Nothing connects a group like a common adversary. The most successful disruptor brands started by highlighting the problem with the status quo and their personal experience of it - this had the power to generate a rock-solid community that was born out of a shared frustration.
Start a dialogue: Ask for engagement (crucially with no strings attached, we don’t want to be a one-night-brand, but we definitely don’t want to enter bunny boiler territory), involve your audience in your business and turn your brand into an experience customers can consume and feel they can have an impact on, allowing them to form a greater emotional attachment.
Including techniques like these into your storytelling will transform customers who came to you for a one-off service into a loyal tribe that will support your growth, engage with you, buy from you and, most importantly, will come back for rounds 2, 3 and 4.
With the pace of life perhaps being slower than usual for your customers, long-form storytelling - through interviews, feature articles and blog posts - is now increasingly salient, and is being met with engagement and focus - proving itself to be a relaxing and entertaining medium in these uniquely time-rich days. For more information on how Boca Grande can help you make a lasting, positive impression speak to us at firstname.lastname@example.org