There’s a large movement currently for brands to “tell their story”, to enable them to be more approachable to customers. Communications pro Gini Dietrich does a great job of showing the strengths of storytelling for brands on her leading Spin Sucks blog.
There are some great examples of brands that win when they insert a more story-like feel to their ad or marketing campaigns. Take Apple and Google, for instance, as highlighted by the two videos below:
Yet, as good as they are (and both gave me a chill when I originally saw each one), they’re still clearly promotional pieces for technology (even though that technology does a great job of bringing people together).
Because of that, they can never quite live up to the same kind of emotion a real human story evokes.
The Simple Power of Love
Two stories came into my radar in the last couple of days, and – for me – show exactly why natural human stories trump brand storytelling.
The first is about two twins in Akron, Ohio, who suffered a rare condition called “monoamniotic birth”, which meant they shared an amniotic sac and placenta while in their mother’s womb.
This is a dangerous condition that could see the twins become entangled in each other’s umbilical cords, starving them of oxygen and leading to major complications.
However, the twins – Jillian and Jenna Thistlethwaite – were born without any major problems last Friday, May 9. And the truly amazing part – they were holding each other’s hands when delivered.
There may be many reasons for this to have happened – but for me, the twins knew the challenges they had to overcome just to survive, and gave each other the strength to do so, and continue to do so outside the warmth of their mother’s body.
As the mother Sarah said:
They’re already best friends. I can’t believe they were holding hands. That’s amazing.
The second story, shared by my friend Justin Kozuch, is about a mother who showed the love for her 18-month old son far outstripped concerns for her own safety when she saved them both from a fire in the apartment where they lived.
Christina Simoes was lying in bed with her son Cameron when she saw flames in the building. The speed of the flames trapped the pair, and the only thing left to do was jump out of the window.
Knowing the fall could be dangerous, Christina wrapped her son tightly to her chest, hugged him and told him she loved him, and then leapt from the building. The fall broke a bone in her back, which may lead to complications and limit Christina’s ability to walk. Cameron escaped with just a bruise on his head.
When asked about her heroism, Christina brushed off the term and simply said:
I didn’t think about it. All I was thinking about was getting him out of there. He mattered way more than I did.
Human Stories, Human Emotions, Human Connections
We, as marketers, talk a lot about connecting emotionally with our audience. Roger Dooley, a consultant and author based in Austin, Texas, has a fascinating blog (and books) on the topic over at Neuromarketing. It’s well worth your time and subscription.
It’s something my co-author Sam Fiorella and I also look at in Chapter 2 of the Influence Marketing book, and how the human psyche controls a lot of our decision-making process when it comes to taking an action.
However, the “problem”, for want of a better word, with emotional marketing is it treads a very fine line between being authentic, and being a slickly-produced video or narrative for a new product. Get this part wrong and the connection you’re looking for is broken.
A real human story, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from this – because we know it’s real, and that’s where the power comes from.
Brand storytelling is a useful tactic when it comes to awareness and acquisition/retention – but it still plays second fiddle to real human stories (just look at the success of the Humans of New York project).
And as long as people can see the difference between a brand and a human vision, that gap will remain. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…
There’s currently a fund-raising initiative for Christina Simoes over at gofundme, to help pay medical bills and replace the stuff she lost in the fire. Its aim is to raise $30,000 and presently it sits at $26,027. If you’d like to donate or support, click here for more details.