A Simple Way To Rethink Your Brand Narrative

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Many brands fail to realize that the branding game is not one of broadcasting and Social Media.

The true marketing imperative is to tell a great brand narrative. It’s a cohesive story that takes place over time and in different channels. Brands often grapple with how to integrate Digital Marketing and Social Media into their marketing mix because they’re consistently working off of a very traditional mass media/broadcasting mindset. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of time and space for traditional advertising to help a brand gain attention, traction and mindshare, but what we’ve really uncovered through the digital channels are more options and different ways to engage, connect, share and grow.

A different way to think.

In my Blog post, The Next Layer Of Social Media (October 26th, 2011), I talked about thinking of your media as passive, active and then a combination of the two. By elevating your marketing to that height, it gives you the freedom to rise above the channels that are currently popular. It also forces you to focus on the business case behind doing anything. Once you’ve figured out your comfort levels in producing passive and active media, it then becomes the challenge of figuring out what you need to do next. While some brands are starting to get their wheels beneath them (and better understand how to pull it all together), the truth is that all too often you have brands trying to be more social in very traditional media (like when TV commercials have that hue of being "social") and more often than not, you’ll find brands being very traditional (and broadcasting-like) in the more social channels (like when brands beg people to "like" them on Facebook to enter a contest).

The space between.

If all a brand does is blast out messaging about themselves, it becomes a broadcasting model. If all a brand does is try to engage in the Social Media channels without ever asking for the sale or prompting their audience to better understand the business rationale behind all of the content they are creating, it could be fatal as well. The brand narrative (consistent and across all media) is crucial for success, and here’s a simple way to start thinking about it…

  1. Our interests. Why is your brand doing this? What are you trying to say? Who are you saying it to? What channels are being used? What’s the point? How will this affect your business in a positive way? What is the overall economic value that these efforts will bring to the business? What do you need the customer to do?
  2. Their interests. What do the customers want? What are they looking for? What will make them connect? What do they need? What channels are they active in? What do we know about them? What’s the point for them? Will they really (really) care?

The real story is in the middle.

Our interest. Their interest… and the real story lies somewhere in the middle. If it’s all about us, the customer doesn’t care. If it’s all about them, they may not remember us. Imagine this model as a venn diagram and think about that little, overlapping space in the middle. That’s where the real story lies. That’s where the great brand narratives of our time are created. That’s the creative white space to focus on.

Remember: great stories are created, nurtured and shared over time. It’s long, hard work and it only gets more complex as it starts working and getting traction.


  1. As it has been proven for all time, brands are not created by companies but rather by the intersection of experience and product by the customer. So to your point, the hard work is the relationship that takes time to build and then nurture. To far too many, it is difficult to resist the campaign mentality when the perception of quick wins happens but we know all too well, these are more about luck and certainly short-lived.

  2. Mitch, I need to thank you for being so awesome and sharing the knowledge, I can’t believe how much we can ll learn from people like you. Your blog posts, articles and Podcasts are amazing food for thought.
    Cheers mate.

  3. Cannot disagree with anything here Mitch. It is all quite well-stated.
    What I might add though, is that an organizing principle for a narrative, ours/theirs/middle, is what will make it “true.” A brand plan is nothing more that an organizing principle intended to sell.

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