Storytelling: Branding in Practice

By Srinivasan, Shiva Kumar | South Asian Journal of Management, July-September 2005 | Go to article overview

Storytelling: Branding in Practice

Srinivasan, Shiva Kumar, South Asian Journal of Management

Storytelling: Branding in Practice By Klaus Fog, Christian Budtz and Baris Yakaboylu Edition 2005; Publisher: Berlin: Springer; translated from the Danish edition by Tara Siemens; Price: $49.95; Pages: 238; ISBN 3-540-23501-9

What is the role of storytelling in building a brand? What are the differences between using storytelling as a general tool of communication and using it, more specifically, in building a brand? Fog, Budtz, and Yakaboylu, who are experts on storytelling at SIGMA, a communications firm based in Denmark, argue that the purpose of storytelling is to identify the 'core story" that animates a company. This process of identification is however not an end in itself. It is a means to build in the values embodied in the core story into the company's branding strategy since differentiation through product attributes has become increasingly difficult. To differentiate their offerings in a situation of technological equivalence, companies need to tap into the emotions of the consumer. One way of doing this is to 'tell a captivating story' about the company or the product. But, in order to do this, brand managers need to understand the rudiments of both the story and the art of storytelling in a manner that is broad-based enough to include the traditional elements of advertising, marketing and public relations.

The book is divided into two parts comprising five chapters each. The first part is titled 'The Toolbox' and the second, 'Storytelling Applied'. Both the parts begin with a conceptual discussion of the issues involved in storytelling and are illustrated with brief case studies of American and European companies. The first part sets out the basic elements of storytelling: The authors spell out the notion of a company's core story and the modalities for initiating a program for storytelling in organizations. The last five chapters illustrate the applications of storytelling to brand building, which include advertising and the role of the media as a partner in the act of storytelling. The book ends by arguing that storytelling can help to integrate the functional divisions in a company by generating a core story to anchor its branding strategy.

There are, according to the authors, essentially four elements to storytelling. They are: The message, the conflict, the characters and the plot. The specific set of relationships that can be generated by the deployment of these elements will constitute a particular story. The message is the so-called 'moral' of the story. Good storytellers will focus on only one specific 'message per story'. The conflict is the narrative mechanism which makes the story interesting. In the absence of the conflict, there is no story-just a sequence of incidents. The movement of the story is the attempt to resolve the conflict. The characters are the people in the story who embody the conflict. The main character is called the hero; the hero is generally in pursuit of a goal or a mission. In order to attain his goal or succeed in his mission, the hero will need the help of a benefactor and a supporter in order to overcome the difficulties created by an adversary. If the hero succeeds in attaining his goal, there will be a beneficiary.-

The success of storytelling as a technique will depend upon the ability of the storyteller to get the listener to identify with one or more of the characters and worry about their future. The structure of the story spelt out here is the same as that of the fairy-tale. Organizational stories can also be mapped onto this simple structure to clarify the loci available in a given story in order to identify the role of the hero, the benefactor, the supporter, the adversary, the beneficiary, and the goal that was achieved for the organization. The story however is not the same as the plot. The plot is the temporal organization of the story; it is unraveled through the generation and resolution of a conflict. The elements of a conflict are the introduction, the point of no return, the increase in the conflict, the climax, and the fading or resolution of the story at the end. …

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