Let me tell you a story | KHWS

Let me tell you a story


“Just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature — a face, a figure, a flower — and in sound, so too it detects patterns in information. Stories are recognisable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.” Frank Rose ‘The Art of Immersion’.

Rose, a well-known writer on digital culture, explains the purpose of storytelling and how we find meaning in these patterns whether it is new information, a timeless tale, or spun lies that we are hearing. The point is this: we will all receive the messages differently.

Humans like to be entertained by stories. Whether it is to reinforce their understanding of the world, or to inform a new way of thinking, we apportion value to things both individually, and under the influence of others. A prime example of the latter being wealthy Chinese consumers willing to purchase fresh Dorset air from a jar.

When it comes to consumer purchasing, these patterns in information become people’s worldviews. The term worldview is coined from Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories’. He explains, “worldview is the term I use to refer to the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation.” However, the challenge is for brands to frame their stories, in order to leverage the worldview a consumer already has. Meeting the consumer on their level is at the crux of many successful brands. This is achieved by affecting the consumers’ emotional and logical buying behaviour, as demonstrated in the following examples.

Deadpool (2016) 

Anyone actively using social media would have been likely to see a promotion for the Marvel film Deadpool, at some point last year. Marvel used social media to attract and excite audiences whose worldview align with this story, or brand narrative. In the film the main character is constantly ‘breaking the fourth wall’, speaking directly to the audience and remarking on the action. This provided an opportunity for the marketers behind the movie to promote it by using different social mediums e.g. via a Tinder profile or Twitter status updates. They built demand for Deadpool’s crassness and dark humour and were able to create a cult-like following who wanted to watch a Marvel film that they knew was targeted at adults. The result? Deadpool ended up being the second highest grossing R rated film ever. It’s hard to believe that it took years before enough funds were generated to create the film, because producers did not believe there was a big enough market.

Under Armour

This sports brand started in 1996 as one 24 year old selling Hi-Tec sports t-shirts from his Grandmother’s house. Under Armour was known as an American Football brand but now they are one of the fastest growing sports brand in a variety of different sport markets. Part of the reason why they were successful in venturing into different sports is their smart choice of sponsorships and by focusing on the sports stars themselves. This is evident in their choice of sponsorship for various athletes and teams in different sporting fields:

American Football – Tom Brady

Boxing – Anthony Joshua

Football – Tottenham Hotspur

Mixed Martial Arts – George St Pierre

Rugby – Welsh Rugby Union

Swimming – Michael Phelps

Tennis – Andy Murray

Under Armour’s story is focusing on the athletes and their real life successes. From this, the aspirational message is that the ‘greats’ wear Under Armour. The company is able to frame their story with the likes of Anthony Joshua’s life story – simply by him wearing the brand. Now anyone with the worldview that they want to be like Anthony Joshua, potentially also has the worldview that they should wear Under Armour to achieve this. Under Armour only went public in 2005 but now competes with the biggest brands in the industry, Nike and Adidas.

So what messages can we learn from this? What these examples show is that the brand’s story is not just a narrative but a collection of information and feelings that will influence consumers. It’s then up to consumers to detect patterns based on the information available to them. These brands have been successful in framing their story through effective mediums that are reaching and aligned with consumer worldviews. Whether it’s a fictional character using social media like a real person, or a sports brand using sports stars to perform in their products, these stories evoke emotional responses which lead to purchases. And that’s a story every brand wants to hear.