When “Story” Loses Out to Short-Term Sales Tactics, Brand Value Suffers
October 11, 2017
The op-ed piece below, written by an ad agency executive, reminds me why storytelling — supported by compelling visual imagery — remains so key to building long-term brand value for a company or other type of organization.
The author of the op-ed, Susan Credle of FCB, argues that in the chase for short-term sales, data-driven and technology-based tactics have become more important than building long-term brand value.
Credle is right that story and creative visual imagery connect in a way that short-term sales pitches don’t, and are the foundation of long-term brand value.
The fact is, there is a place in the marketing and sales mix for both.
Credle’s op-ed piece follows.
Advertisers Need to Be Storytellers — First and Foremost; Today’s media environment is obsessed with disposable content
By Susan Credle
The Wall Street Journal Online
When I first started in advertising, I studied all the disciplines inside an agency — research, account management, production, media, creative. I was fascinated by all the departments but ultimately decided to pursue a career in what has long been described as “the creative department.”
Many people say the advertising business is a service business. But I truly believe the best agencies in the world make a product. We call that product The Creative. But lately, I have sensed — and in some cases seen — that The Creative is becoming an afterthought.
Data and technology dominate the conversations. And conference rooms and conferences are filled with formulaic approaches. “Make a template and put the creative in this box” approaches. Often, we appear to be more concerned with filling up these boxes than with the actual creative.
Sure, there are still bright moments when someone creates a piece of work that captures our imaginations and our hearts and it goes what we euphemistically like to describe as “viral.” The world notices and likes and shares and we brag about the billions of impressions the work generated through earned media.
The funny thing is, when I ask people who aren't in the business about these brilliant pieces of creative most of them look at me with a blank stare. This is a new phenomenon for me. A decade ago, if I mentioned a brand I liked at a cocktail party, the next 30 minutes would be people telling me about that brand's advertising and marketing. That's the kind of creative that ad executive Jeff Goodby calls “Cab Creative.”
Why are there far fewer “Cab Creative” ideas out there today? According to the award shows, there is a lot of great creative being made. So what's up?
I have a theory. We, as an industry, have forgotten that first and foremost we need to be storytellers. But storytelling isn't just a piece of film. Great storytelling in this business happens everywhere if it is done right. We tell brand stories not only in traditional advertising but with events and sponsorships, through advocates, with new products, with new technology, packaging, licensing, stores.
Anywhere the brand shows up is an opportunity to tell the story.
The best people in this business are relentless storytellers. The most successful brands are purpose-driven and don't get bored with their story, because it is authentic to them. They retell it over and over again in new, surprising, creative ways. The story doesn't change because of a new CMO or a new agency. The pace might get more dramatic, the plot might take a twist, but it is still the same story.
When you are telling your brand's story, you aren't spending money — you are investing. And with each investment, the brand becomes more valuable.
But we have created a media environment that is obsessed with disposable content. Bits and pieces of work that rarely add up to a big story. If someone came up with the Macy's Day Parade in 2016, odds are it would last two or three years before someone else decided it was time to do something new. Where is our ambition, our commitment to tell these epic, equity-building brand stories?
How long will the brilliant REI #optoutside story last? Will the McWhopper become an annual Peace Day tradition? What will Rémy Cointreau do with the 100-year story they started this year? Will the Nivea Doll be sold world-wide? Will the Samsung Safe Truck technology be required on all 18 wheelers?
The day Pepsi stopped being The Choice of a New Generation, they let go of a brilliant narrative they are still trying to reclaim.
We have an incredible opportunity — and I would say, responsibility — to create famous, lasting brand stories.
In 1903, Géo Lefèvre had an idea for a stunt to boost the circulation of his struggling daily sports newspaper, L'Auto. Today Mr. Lefèvre's creative idea is called the Tour de France. How many of us are dreaming that big? How many of us are walking away from these potentially legendary stories?
Great marketing isn't about one ad, one piece of content, one moment in time. It is definitely about more than data and technology. It is about a relentless and lasting commitment to a brand's story, and the elation of waking up every day with an opportunity to help write the next chapter.
These are Never Finished stories. And I believe they create the most valuable brands in the world.