Marketing, for the most part, is fast-paced, innovative, and sometimes even glamorous. That is, unless you’re stuck trying to create messaging for a “boring” brand. We’d all jump at the opportunity to work with well-known, consumer-facing brands, but the reality of our work is that we’re often speaking for the less flashy B2B companies. For these, we sometimes end up spending just as much time wrapping our heads around what the company actually offers as we do creating a strong messaging platform for them. Modern Marketing is about storytelling (among other things), and no matter if the brand is an exciting new mobile app or tile grout, there is a story to be told.
Modern Marketing is about storytelling… exciting new mobile app or tile grout, there is a story to be told.
So, how do we tell the stories of “boring” brands?
Start with the Why. Find out what the brand stands for and what message it supports, and bring that message to the forefront of consumers’ minds. Simon Sinek, author and marketing consultant, may have said it best: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Instead of a run of the mill problem/solution story, focus on telling a “possibility story.” Possibility stories imply a positive future for the brand, and highlight the ways in which the brand is working to overcome obstacles. Possibility stories empower the audience, making them feel as though they have a stake in the future of their favorite brands.
Similar to the way people buy why you do what you do, people buy products from brands whose personalities resonate with their needs and the way they view the world. When you think Apple, you might think: sleek, techy, or clean. When you think Lego, you probably think: colorful, youthful, and imaginative. Successful brands have strong brand personalities, and as marketers, it is our job to infuse those personalities into each and every story we tell. Siemens is a great example of a B2B company adding personality to their brand. As an electrical engineering company, one would assume they have limited capacity to “wow” buyers and consumers with strong digital content, but, they’re doing it. On their Facebook page, Siemens features video stories of their engineers and illustrations of their work over the past 200 years, which humanizes the brand and brings a compelling perspective to their place in history.
To get at the heart of a brand’s personality, pay special attention to the insights gleaned from stakeholder interviews, and always keep your buyer personas in mind.
We’ve said it before: meet consumers where they are. This is especially important for “boring” brands, because using too much technical jargon will confuse consumers and scare them away from your product or service. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This certainly holds true for content marketers. It is our job to not only get the story across, but to make sure it resonates with our audiences. Write digestible content that’s easy for others to read, share your work, ask for feedback, and revise it often to ensure your story is comprehensive and, more importantly, engaging.
The best stories tug at the audience’s heartstrings, motivating them to buy a product or service because it makes them feel as if they are contributing to the greater good. A great example is a public service announcement about a seatbelt. What’s more boring than a seatbelt? Sussex Safer Roads, the creators of “Embrace Life,” played with audiences’ emotions by making them think about the safety of their loved ones, encouraging them to reconsider the “boring” seatbelt. What’s more, viewers were hooked on the storyline right away, because at first, they didn’t know what the message was going to be about. Captivating your audience’s attention every step of the way is vital to successful storytelling.
Another successful way to engage consumers in a “boring” brand’s story is to add a little humor. Let’s talk about insurance. It’s no secret that insurance is less than glamorous, but Allstate has continuously overperformed by providing consumers with humorous brand stories, and introducing us to characters like Mayhem. As marketers, we want to tell stories that consumers will remember, and Allstate’s Mayhem told us a story we can never forget. For “boring” brands, humor just might be the best route to take to engage consumers and leave them wanting more.
Social media isn’t just for flashy, consumer-facing companies. In fact, many “boring” brands have taken to social media and used the various platforms to their advantage, highlighting their company story in a new and exciting way. For example, CBRE, a commercial real estate company, has an impressive following on Instagram. Why Instagram? In the words of their CEO, Paul Suchman, “Instagram presents an opportunity for CBRE to demonstrate the elasticity of our brand. Real estate plays such a huge part in all of our lives, both professionally and personally. Instagram enables us to transcend the traditional B2B conversation and become meaningful in the consumer space.” If you’re working with a boring brand, consider branching out into uncharted social territory, as it may pay dividends in the long run.
Last, but not least, don’t pretend your brand is something it isn’t. Consumers want transparency. In fact, 73 percent say they are willing to pay more for a product from a brand that promises total transparency. A great example is Avis’s “We Try Harder.” Avis, a car rental service, could certainly be categorized as “boring,” but they ran a memorable campaign that did something no other brand had ever done: they were completely transparent with their audience, calling attention to their #2 spot in car rental services. At the end of the day, you want to make sure your audience isn’t left with any lingering questions about what your brand provides, or what you stand for. By being transparent with your audience, you avoid dissatisfaction later on.
When it comes to great storytelling, personality, emotion, and transparency are key. Before you begin crafting your story, remember why you were excited about the business in the first place. Remember the passion you see in the CEO’s eyes when they talk about the company and their life’s work, and strive to create content that matches that excitement, and generates new excitement among buyers and consumers alike, with every word you write.