The Art of Brand Storytelling 26th February, 2013

In a recent article, Rebecca Walton, the newly appointed head of brand for UNICEF expressed the need for the charity to develop a central brand narrative.  The reasoning behind such a claim is in sight of two main aims – firstly, to better integrate its marketing and secondly, to boost its appeal to supporters within the UK.

Reading the article triggered an initial thought in my mind, which traced back to a piece I read at the end of last year in Direct Marketing News – which stated 2012 to be ‘the year of the story.’  Indeed, 2012 exemplified the notion that brands and charities alike have to utilise upon their brand narrative, and storytelling in order to deliver their message and increase their level of engagement with the consumer.  In an age where anything is available at the touch of a button – the importance of delivering the right message or story is critical.

Of course, the relationship between the brand and the art of storytelling has been around for years – you only have to look at some of worlds most loved brands and you will know and understand their brand story, take for example, Ben & Jerry’s.  Yet what distinguishes these brands from most others is that their narrative truly engages with the consumer.  Not only do Ben & Jerry’s promote their own story, it seeks to integrate the consumer’s story within it, see for example, their ‘Capture Euphoria’ campaign which encouraged Ben & Jerry’s fans to upload photos of themselves in situations where they felt Euphoric onto Instagram.

Unlike Ben & Jerry’s, UNICEF believes that it has not created enough of a brand narrative through which to engage with the public.  However, Watson expresses, ‘UNICEF is very trusted, it’s very rational and intelligent’ yet she feels that as a charity, it is sometimes overlooked.  UNICEF’s decision to develop its brand narrative highlights so significantly that yes, content is key, but what has developed to become equally as important is how the brand story and its content is delivered.  Walton explains that the internal shift within UNICEF is designed to make its communications and brand marketing ‘more strategic, more integrated and more effective.’  As witnessed throughout the industry, brand narrative can be used as a powerful marketing tool, but if they are not communicated in the right way, the connection between charity/brand and consumer can be tainted and sometimes even disengaged.

What is most fascinating about brand storytelling and engagement is the avenues that can be explored through the development of technology.  Technological innovations in relation to communication channels have seen the development of Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram to become part of the overall brand narrative.  Such communication tools allow the consumer to engage with the brand whenever and wherever they so wish.  Encouraging the consumer to immerse and engage themselves with the brand’s story – in the hope that the targeted audience will have a life-long affinity to the brand which in UNICEF’s case, should lead to support and donations.

As another element to UNICEF’s new brand strategy, the charity has decided to focus on partnerships and public engagement.  The charity wishes to build on its existing partnerships with the International Cricket Council and will seek to explore additional avenues into sports.  What is becoming ever more apparent is the use of partnerships as a means to target the audiences charities/brands wish to engage with.  Partnerships allow charities/brands to engage in activities which in many cases lead to progress and an expansion of the overall brand narrative.

If we relate back to UNICEF’s two main aims to develop their brand narrative: to integrate its marketing and boost its appeal to UK supporters.  What we are able to learn from this decision is the importance of not only the brand story itself, but the means through which it is communicated.  Technological advancement and the inter-connectivity that has escalated from it, alongside strategic partnerships can help develop and expand a brand’s story into avenues towards audiences that previously may never have been reached.