April 20, 2016

Nothing But The Same Old Story (And That's Why We Love It!)

This week's post comes courtesy of my colleague Anne Tannam, guest contributor and Brand Manager at Islandbridge.

Recently I was chatting with my colleague (and sometimes brother) about Guinness' 'Made of More' and Smirnoff's 'We're Open' ad campaigns, and his reactions to both.

These ad campaigns celebrate inclusivity and integrity, focussing on individuals who see beyond the restrictive norms of society to our common humanity. In one of their ads, Smirnoff uses the example of Chris Fonseca, an amazing dance teacher, who happens to be deaf, and John Hammond, a music scout, who heard no colour in music.

What's The Story?

With such similar content and messaging (seeing beyond our differences to the bonds of real community), he was surprised how different his response was to both. In the case of 'Made Of More', he felt a strong emotional response to the story. However his reaction to 'We're Open' was more a critical evaluation of the ad and how well it worked.

Simply put, he watched the Guinness ad heart first and the Smirnoff ad head first.

There are many possible factors at play here that may predispose his preferences, one being personal taste, another being tribal (we are Irish and the black stuff flows through our collective veins), but I got to thinking about how we connect with brands through story and though we like some variation to add a bit of spice to the relationship, ultimately, we are looking to hear the same story over and over again, to reassure us that the rules of engagement have not changed and that our shared values remain the same.

A Brand New Old Story

So I had a look online at older Guinness ad campaigns and discovered that Guinness has been telling this story for years and years. The characters and backdrops may change but the values stay the same.  It's a magical story of an individual who dares to think differently, live differently, love differently, and how community is built when we celebrate those ordinary, heroic traits in all of us. It's a universal story and if Guinness were a Pixar film, theirs would be A Bug's Life and Flik the hero.

I asked myself the same question about Smirnoff and what story they were telling and in the end concluded that the ad is less about telling a great story, and more about asserting an attitude, an attitude that is of great value and substance but struggles to reach the heart the way a great story does.

When a brand consistently stays true to its story, it frees up its audience to enter the story and respond, not just as consumers, but as fellow travellers on life's adventures. And of course, in that state of emotional openness, we are much more likely to be persuaded to buy whatever product is on offer. We're got to live in the real world after all!

Over To You

What has been your response to the Guinness and Smirnoff ad campaigns or what other brand stories have you responded to recently? We'd love to hear from you.

Anne works alongside Gerard and the team at Islandbridge Brand Development to help our clients develop a brand framework within which they can build new relationships and strengthen existing ones to gain competitive edge and grow their business. 

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