David Beebe On The Why, How, and ROI of Brand Storytelling

Brands using storytelling to bolster their market presence and/or customer loyalty may seem like a cliché, but the reality is that most brands aren’t producing true storytelling and are coming up short, leaving them with little results to show for it.

David Beebe has been developing meaningful stories and consumer engagement pieces for some of the world’s top brands, including Marriott. In his talk, at AAF Buffalo’s new Signature Speaker event, David dove into the history of brand storytelling and some examples from the work he’s done.

Throughout history, stories of company growth tactics and customer participation have driven some of the most successful brands to the top of their respective industries. Michelin created the Michelin Star rating system that the culinary industry lives and dies by today. Michelin stars have also, in turn, grown local businesses worldwide. Guinness started recording amazing human feats in a book, that in itself became a business in the line of being the ultimate authority for impartial validation of amazing accomplishments. Yet another worldwide phenomenon.

To make things even more unpredictable, the customers themselves have changed. No longer are they all drawn to a limited number of exposure pieces for storytelling and advertising (newspaper, TV, and radio). They now have access to tens of screens each day and have thousands of messages and stories delivered to them daily. How does a brand stand out in that world? Not through a half-hearted, underfunded digital video piece. Thought, quality, and an impactful story are all critical to the creation of brand storytelling that delivers ROI.

Today, with the ability for customers to record and publish their own content on social media, brands can choose to tap into those contributions or ignore them. Customer ratings, Instagram photos, story videos are all real time customer stories that are published into the wild without the constraints of brand identity, voice and tone, or values driven messaging. The customer holds the honest truth and brands can shape that experience, but not script it.

Tapping into real-time customer interactions can make or break a brand. Ignoring public feedback will allow that feedback to overshadow a brand’s strategic messaging with the grassroots honest truth. If those messages aren’t aligned, you’re dead in the water. Some companies, like Marriott, have setup full departments of digital response teams to address and control the live customer interactions online.

Stories can come from the brand itself or the audiences it serves. The only question is, what is a brand doing to shape those stories to meet its own expectations of quality and customer experience? Brands need to be serious about these customer interactions and understand that the customer controls much of the narrative, so embracing their involvement is the key to success and the real return on investment.