Spin is dead. Customers Want True Stories

In a marketing forum held at INSIDE STORY on 10 May on brand stories, the feeling was some long established brands can benefit from rediscovering and rekindling their heritage which waves of new marketers marking their mark has eroded. The concern was negative stories have to potential to overtake the storytelling agenda – opening Pandora’s box.

Forum presenter Chris Middleton (former global lead on the Jack Daniel’s brand and storytelling champion) discussed how for JD a key was to live with these tensions and allow contradictions and controversy to happen. By giving up a degree of control – good things happen. Great stories (not just good stories) are stories that have light and shade, highs and struggles, tensions and even, controversy. It’s the colour and nuance of positive and negative that makes the story more credible and real. The Ronald McDonald House and childhood birthday party stories live side by side with Super Size Me and the consumer activist stories. For JD, tradition and authenticity live side by side with the ‘rebellious’ and ‘bad’ persona.

Negative stories will get out anyway and, without a storytelling component to the marketing strategy the risk is that negative stories will be the only ones out there.

Shown from left in photo above is Chris Middleton, Liane Ringham and Jane Rutter.

Storytelling is a hot topic in brand marketing and for CEO corporate storytellers alike are looking to connect with staff and customers through compelling and unique stories. Successful story telling brands like Jack Daniel’s show the benefits of fostering brand stories – with a dedication to stories that are unique and true.

Jane Rutter one of Australia’s most prominent flautists also attended the event and talked about how music is used to tell stories.

Storytelling appears to be a solution which can help internal staff understand brand values and enables them to fuel word of mouth – a more compelling influence on purchase than advertising or anything else according to most research.

Interviewing and workshopping with long term employees and retired employees can be a great source of wonderful stories. Customers have their own stories and these can be fuelled by employees’ stories and other customer stories. Once out in the customer space, a customer blog and a story at a BBQ can be worth much more than an official company press release.

With the GFC, we can be finally sure the era of spin is over as people seek out companies and brands they can trust that show integrity and honesty in everything they do. An evolving breed of marketers is emerging who are brave enough to tell it as it is and have the support at the top level of the organisation to give up the illusion of control that is vanished with the age of the internet.