Friday, November 7, 2014

Agency Strategic Planners: 3 steps to better connect with your target audiences using storytelling.

As a strategic planner, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out and make an impression in consumers' mind. As a graduate student in Northwestern University's Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program, I have been research making connections and have found two articles with key insights to consider".   

In a recent article from AdAge "Starbucks Launches First Brand Campaign 'Meet Me at Starbucks'"Columnist Maureen Morrison explained that the coffee giant made an unusual move by not directly featuring its products in the spot. Rather it used a slice of life technique to document a  day in starbucks lovers life. Shot in 59 different stores across 28 countries, the documentary demonstrated the broad appeal and universal community bond that Starbucks stands for. The touchy documentary also illustrated people from different background and different life path, but united by one single brand, and how they incorporate Starbucks as a ritual in their daily lives. The video offers a great content piece to connect its seemingly remote and unrelated customers around the world. Most importantly, with this movie, people identify themselves with others and embrace starbucks community. 

Similarly, Ogilvy & Mather New York did a stunning job in their ``A Ticket To Visit Mom” campaign for British Airways. Using documentary as the format of storytelling, the spot touched the heart of millions Indian migrants in North America by the imagery and sound of their childhood memory. The featured ad also went to won the Chiat Day award 2014. The key concept here is that British Airway did not just sell the product attribute of ``Most Frequent Fight To India From North America Than Any Other Airlines”. It told a story of reunion and love that evoked the deepest human connection in its target audiences. Such strategy produced a significantly favourable result that differentiates British Airways from competitors. 

Based on my assessment of above articles and draw from my experiences as a graduate student in Northwestern University Medill IMC program, here are three action items I recommend you to implement immediately to strengthen the connection with your key audiences:   
  1. Trigger Emotions - As ad agencies are in the business of persuasion, there is nothing more important than triggering an emotion among consumers therefore create a point of difference in their mind. By making documentaries, in which nothing is staged or scripted but pure human emotions, brands connect individuals in a genuine way that every consumer can identify themselves with. This is especially true for global brand and category leader, documentaries provides a narrative that brand aficionados can reconfirm their own community and share the passion and enthusiasm they have alike the emotion embedded in the customer experience becomes the center of the conversation.
  1. Think of Higher Level Needs - Michael Porter said that only cost leadership and brand differentiation create value for a company. Storytelling enables brand differentiation. Brands need to create sentimental value for the audiences - not only to satisfy their physical, emotional needs, but also spiritual needs. As members of the society, people desire peer recognition and community connection. They are in a journey of constantly redefining the brand and themselves - it is not a simple consumption relationship anymore.
  1. No Hard Selling - The product should not be in the center stage but the people who interact with the brand and make their own story. In other words, tell the story through consumers words. The principle here is to create authentic, genuine emotions that will resonate with customers and not pushing the product directly. By helping customers to achieve their mission, brands will receive credits automatically.
All in all, consumers are looking for genuine connections that they can trust and rely on, rather than the conventional transactional relationship. In both Starbucks and BA commercials, the center piece is the customers personal journey. No more words needed to be explained, by the storytelling, the brand will be inked in their subconscious thus influence their future behavior.

Lynn Lin previously worked in global consulting firm Protiviti Inc. as a risk management consultant. Currently she is pursuing her Masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications in Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. As a aspiring strategic planner, Lynn Lin specializes in brand management and digital marketing strategy. She also holds a Bachelor degree in Business and Management from Aston University in United Kingdom.
Questions and comments? Please contact me:Twitter @lynnlinimc  Linkedin 

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