02.11.2019

Branded Storytelling in the Digital Age

by Les Patin

In the beginning of the Internet, there was Myspace, AOL chat and… cat videos. Fast forward, and it’s no surprise that Instagram accounts like @dougthepug and @nala_cat continue to win our hearts and our attention.

Often wanting to speak their consumers’ language and score a share of the engagement numbers, brands will integrate puppies, kittens or [insert engaging content topic here] into their social media storytelling.

However, some brands struggle to integrate engaging subject matter in a way that aligns with their brand story — and therein lies the problem. If we’re posting puppies just to post puppies, and we aren’t tying back to our brand/product at all, what’s the point? On the other hand, if we’re just posting sales pitch content with our brand all over it, why should people care?

Enter the strategic puppy. He’s adorable. He’s engaging. He’s relevant to your brand.

In this post, we’ll explore what it means to balance engaging content like puppies and kittens with a well-considered brand strategy.

So, what are other examples of engaging content?

Puppies and kittens just scratch the surface of engaging content examples. At Resound, we identify engaging content as something that helps to tell an aspirational story about us, the audience. For example, rosé. Millennials love the pink hued wine so much that it’s part of our generation’s cultural identity (just look at our Instagrams). And who would pass on the chance to at least post a picture with the hashtag #roséallday to their Instagram Story when the opportunity arises? Not me, that’s for sure. So, if a rosé moment aligns with your brand’s narrative, why not integrate it? It’s a win-win (plus, you get a glass of wine out of the deal).

Another example is travel content. Because we all have a bit of wanderlust. For Resound client Pocketalk, we’ve employed a strategy in which we provide ambassadors with the pocket-sized two-way translation device for trips abroad in exchange for images from their travels. What we often receive are beautiful photos featuring the product everywhere from Paris to Tulum. It incites the travel bug, and it makes for an authentic story that aligns with the Pocketalk audience.

Okay, but how do you tell an authentic brand story every time?

Rediscover your brand story and tell that one. There are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re aligned with your brand. Revisit the brand guidelines, the mission, the goals. What elements of the visual system or brand narrative can be used creatively on social media? Remember what you’re selling. Put yourself in the consumer’s seat.

One of my personal favorites: Herschel Supply Company* has a knack for telling a consistently authentic brand story on its social channels. On Instagram, the brand has a collection of themes, colors, hashtags and design styles that are carried throughout the Instagram grid. For example, the company uses the hashtag #welltraveled to share images of locations around the world from third parties. They also incorporate the hashtag in their own branded photos when it’s relevant. In addition, Herschel uses the branding on their products to keep the branded story alive without being too in-your-face about it and weave in photos that align with the color story they’re telling.

Finally, how do you strike a balance between authentic storytelling and well-branded content?

One word: authenticity. Your brand already has a story to tell. Part of your job as a social media manager is mining for the beautiful parts of the brand story and consistently sharing that.

It’s 2019. Don’t overlay a logo or just post a picture of something that has nothing to do with your brand at all. In a world where we’re competing for space on curated feeds, it doesn’t really pay off in the long run.

Caveat…

At the end of the day, you’re going to want to jump on certain trending bandwagons, and, if it fits your brand, that’s okay. Create a post around a big game, National [insert food] Day, whatever you want! Just remember to be true to brand, always.

*not a Resound client