Evolving Stories from Marketed Communication To Co-Creation

Create by DoremiGirl


Not all brand stories are created equal. Nor do they have the same social value. The traditional process of brand storytelling that uses advertising, collateral, digital etc., is a process owned and lead by a brand/business and their agency partners. Such forms of brand communication will usually attempt to talk “to” people through an out-bound (push) marketing approach (see Theme #2 regarding Mass Media Push). Contrast this to brand stories born externally, crafted by people about brands, and in collaboration with brands. These stories are usually inspired by direct experiences, emotional connections, and engagement opportunities that allow people to be heard, and/or co-create directly with brands themselves. The outcomes are people-powered brand stories that represent a new form of value, or social currency. As more than 80% of all online content is now user generated, the value of user generated brand stories will only grow exponentially. The social currency value of content will ultimately depend on the perceived authenticity of the story itself, and the share of human versus manufactured voice, within brand communication.

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Evolving Brand Stories From Product to Purpose

True Story by Kevin Harber


This post series has so far explored five different ways in which brand stories have evolved in recent years to become more humanized and people-powered.  Many of the themes represent manifestations of internal corporate culture, philosophy of leadership, and systems of management and communication.  In contrast, the sixth theme is more granular – pertaining to the origin of the story itself.  It’s about how source and sentiment can make the difference in creating either information that merely explains “what” or “how” versus actual stories that engage and communicate purpose and reason for being.  So what’s driving this defining difference?   There are four key areas of disconnect which fuel or weaken a brand’s story engagement potential.

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Stories of Leadership: Moving Beyond Authority to Influence

SocialVoiceBranding_Conductor by  Matthew Stinson

THEME #5 of Post Series on Humanizing Brand Storytelling

A brand’s story is comprised of many elements, phases, and characters.  One of the most important being the leadership story of a brand.  The rise of social networks has played an important role in bringing the stories of great brands, and the leaders behind these great brands,  to life.  Social networks have democratized communication between business and people, as well as the conversation regarding leadership.  Through social networks, anyone can connect to the inspiring words and shared wisdom of leaders everywhere.  Conversely, leaders themselves have access to unlimited sources of inspiration to fuel their vision.   Social networks have also redefined how we perceive leaders – and in the process, elevated our expectations.  Today, it takes far more than the respect for a title, or recognition of authority, to earn the support and trust of followers. People look for reasons TO BELIEVE in the vision of one potential leader over that of another.  When these reasons are grounded in humanizing leadership traits that transcend policy or promise – people can then connect emotionally to a bigger, and unify ideal and story.

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Evolving stories beyond closed to open social collaborative



The arts are one of the few industries that exist today where exclusive control may result in a stronger creation.   Think of musicians who have succeeded without a record label, or independent films powered by open social interest.  In business, the opposite is happening.  Greater innovations are being created through shared IP and collaborative strategic partnerships.   This open approach to business development is counter to traditional beliefs that IP if closed/proprietary, or so unique that it is incompatible with competition – would be of greater value to the market.    The business culture and leadership vision, whether closed or open,  is evident in a brand.  Brands born out of a culture that is closed and control-minded, usually show limited interest in engaging with people and pursuing new collaborative partnerships.  In contrast, brands born out of an  open, social, and collaborative business culture, are usually the brands that are most enduring, share-worthy, and human.

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Evolving stories FROM Demographics TO Social Communities




Great brand stories, not unlike human stories, can inspire vibrant conversation, sustained interest and engagement – especially within social communities.  But only to the degree to which there is meaningful and mutual interest.  Think about the ways we come to understand a person?  Our innate social instincts strive to find common points of connection, understand context, and interpret their behavior.  In other words, we synthesize what we learn and observe in order to better understand and connect.  Contrast this approach to what happens in business when a brand attempts to connect with people.  Ironically, the default response is to break down through analysis.   Strip down into simplistic demographic terms, and segment in order to shape what is known.  This process of re-interpretation is meant to simplify information – but in the long run it produces a distant and simplistic understanding of the customer.  The difference of generalizing insight/information vs. pursuing meaningful customer “intelligence,” is not only a difference in philosophy and methodology.  More importantly it is proving to be a significant business disadvantage.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Einstein

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Evolving stories FROM: Mass Media Push TO: Engaging Relationships

Theme #2 From 7 Part post series exploring The Evolution of Brand Stories & Themes



As human beings, we know that aggressive communication doesn’t bring people closer.  Instead, it repels most people away and undermines the chance for dialogue and relationship.   Yet somehow when it comes to the communication and marketing of brands, this very basic human principle is perceived as a weak and ineffective approach to building business.   In brand marketing the merits and impact of mass media align more with the concepts and success principles of manufacturing than that of human/social dynamics.

Before social networks, mass media was the only option businesses had to market and connect their brands to people.  This “pay to play” business model defined successful brand connections as the result of more aggressive tactics, larger media budgets and ubiquitous market presence.    This approach meant that not only could a brand be “top-of-mind.”  But it can also buy its way into people’s lives– welcomed or not.  From a mass media perspective, this dominating level of brand presence represented “success.”    Contrast this with social networks wherein power is derived not from strength of force, but from the strength of emotional engagement and relationships.  The growing influence of social media is proof that there is another, and even more powerful way, of connecting brands to people.  Social networks are a reminder to all that quality – not quantity, of connections can make all the difference. 

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Evolving stories FROM: Corporate Size & Stats TO: The People Within

Humanizing Storytelling for Business & Brands: Evolution theme #1


“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”  – M. Scott Peck

The traditional stats such as the number of employees, office locations and number of years in business used to be the lead-in, if not the main points in a corporate introduction and story.   Phrases such as “In business since..” or “the largest manufacturer of…” was often believed to provide credibility by its very declaration.  Thereby commanding respect from others.  Employees were usually referred to as a number or in general and in aggregate form.  The typical exceptions for highlighting an employee by name was reserved for the prominent leaders that businesses felt should be of interest to investors and the public.

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Seven Ways to Humanize Storytelling for Business & Brands

New post series by Anneliza Humlen @ADHumlen exploring the evolution of storytelling and themes.


“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it” – Hannah Arendt

Prior to the emergence of social networks, brand stories would typically unfold as a controlled narrative told from the perspective and interests of the business/brand.   As traditional media such as TV, print and digital brought such stories to life, distinct traditions formed in how stories were communicated and the content of the stories themselves.   The combination of absolute control and the limits imposed by such traditions, would often limit the growth and appeal of the stories.  Many of the story themes that were once regarded best practice and believed to be useful, we now know via social media as ineffective in generating meaningful and enduring interest.   The new tradition of storytelling for business/brands evolves from what “THEY (corporation) want people to know,” to the stories that people can relate to on a human level.  The story themes that support a more “human” centered form of storytelling have now become the  “new traditions” in growing business/brand interest.

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