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Narrative Strategies for Brand Building Part II: The Brand Story Package

In Part I, “What is Brand Storytelling, Really?,”we showed how well-crafted brand narrative strategies can increase both revenue and brand equity. Here in Part II, we will examine four key archetypical story chapters that form the brand story package: the creation narrative, the purpose narrative, the quest narrative and the sequel — any and all of which can be leveraged to create a complete, overall brand narrative that is resonant and successful. To help, what follows are descriptions of these archetypical chapters and real-world examples for each.

The Creation Chapter

A creation chapter, just as it sounds, is the narrative about how a brand came to be. It’s a chapter of birth and newness. According to Joseph Campbell, perhaps the foremost thinker when it comes to intrinsically human storytelling, the creation portion of a brand story begins with the world as it is — the status quo — which is invariably flawed. Then, in response to this flaw, something changes. Something new enters the story world: the brand. Of course, in a good creation chapter, the brand comes from humble beginnings, destined ultimately to rise and take on the problem that plagues the ordinary world (see “purpose” below). Thus, the brand becomes that which any good marketer desires: The brand becomes the hero.

For example, consider both of our brand paradigms from Part I: Apple and Proclamation Jewelry. Apple came from humble beginnings in a garage where Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne built the first Apple I. Similarly, Proclamation Jewelry originated in a humble tavern in Houston, Texas, where its three founders decided over cocktails that the men’s luxury jewelry market had every right (and opportunity) to be as bold and glamorous as the women’s jewelry market.

In both cases, groups of Davids came together to plot a challenge against the Goliaths of the world (IBM and the conventional men’s luxury jewelry market, respectively). Likewise, both brands have quite wisely elected to make their creation chapters widely known. Brand creation narratives are essential. They are the seed that ultimately grows into the brand’s most important quality: its reason for being or its purpose.

Another fine example of a brand creation narrative in action is Chrysler’s “Motown: The Musical” TV spot which claims Chrysler itself was born of the pure, authentic, down-home music of Detroit.

The Purpose Chapter

If the creation chapter is the “who” and the “when,” the purpose chapter is the “what” and “why.” The creation narrative has already told the birth of a brand whose purpose is to overcome and defeat some flaw — some “monster” — in the real world. But why? Just as Luke Skywalker was meant to destroy the Death Star and Beowulf meant to defeat Grendel, so too must every good brand have its destined purpose. Thus, the purpose chapter becomes perhaps the most important chapter of the overall brand narrative, for it bestows upon the brand a reason for being. Indeed, the commercial success of any product, service or brand depends on its reason for being. Or more accurately, on its ability to fulfill that reason: to solve a consumer’s problem.

As part of its creation chapter, we’ve already learned that Proclamation Jewelry set out to design the highest-end, boldest men’s jewelry so that men would have the right to express themselves through fine jewelry just as women do. Thus, the purpose of Proclamation Jewelry was to set men free — to allow them to fully express themselves.

Likewise, when Apple was conceived in a garage, its founders felt the world was being suffocated beneath the user-unfriendly monopoly called IBM, which at the time ruled the technology and computer worlds with an iron fist. Thus, the purpose of Apple was once again to free consumers from the oppressive, “Big Brother” rule of IBM. Two consumer problems: expression and freedom. Two solutions: Proclamation Jewelry and Apple. Two purpose chapters on which to build strong overall brand stories.

Often, the purpose portion of the brand narrative contains a declaration — an acknowledgment of shared vales between the brand and the consumer and therefore their shared mission. A beautifully executed example of a purpose chapter comes again from Chrysler. In its Super Bowl spot “Halftime in America,” Clint Eastwood uses shared values to recruit the consumer into the Chrysler army — whose purpose is to overcome the downsizing and exportation of manufacturing — to save Detroit, or more accurately, to save America.


The creation narrative has told us the “who” and the “when.” The purpose narrative has told us the “what” and “why.” But the most exciting part of the overall brand story — the confrontation, the battle, the face-off — often comes during the quest chapter, or the “how.” This is the moment where our hero — the brand — confronts the enemy. (More on enemies and “foils” in Part III to come soon.)

Apple, again, tops the list when it comes to quest chapters. Squarely painting IBM as the great nemesis, Apple executes a mission in the form of a large-breasted super model to free the consumer from the oppressive rule of Big Brother: the IBM monopoly.

The Apple Super Bowl TV ad “1984,” directed by Ridley Scott, is the seminal expression of how an authentic brand purpose can drive toward the most poignant of brand quests...and success.


The Sequel

Needless to say, the goal of any smart brand is at least in part longevity. No brand sets out to develop an overall brand story that leaves them in a cul-de-sac, a corner or a dead end. But all stories must eventually come to an end, right? Of course, but a smart brand reinvents itself, develops a new brand story and discovers a rebirth or a new purpose or quest. This is the sequel.

Apple did an exemplary job of reinventing itself as a design company (as much as it is a computer company) with a mission to make technology as beautiful as it is utilitarian. But one of the smartest sequel narratives of recent years comes from financial services brand Prudential whose “Day One” campaign masterfully presents the end of a consumers career not as the end of an old chapter but as the beginning of a new one.


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