Know your brand’s overarching meta-story. Align your communication, marketing and business development efforts with your brand’s core, and your goals as an organization. The rose blooms because it blooms. Innovate and forge ahead, not because you must, not because everyone else is doing it, but because that’s who you are and how you work.
Communications as Experience Design.
I’ll be doing a series of posts on why good communication equals experience design in the coming weeks. I have arrived at this understanding in my professional life, and it seems to be important enough to share. I believe that communication can benefit organizations, when it’s done with clients/consumers in mind. When you truly align your business goals, your marketing and communications, traditional, digital and mobile, you win. I’ll start with this post, diving into some communication theory and how it applies in the real world.
Let me take you by the hand and, hopefully, show you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.
Brands are stories.
Every successful brand has a story – a meta-narrative, an archetypal plot that defines it. AdWeek counted seven, just recently. Whether you realize it or not, your brand’s meta-narrative has a huge effect on every decision, from marketing to business, because it sits deep in the very core.
Wikipedia defines Meta-narrative as a “global or totalizing cultural narrative schema which orders and explains knowledge and experience“ - a story about a story, encompassing and explaining other “little stories” within conceptual models that make the stories into a whole.”
Case studies: Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Nike, Apple, and BuzzFeed edition.
Strong meta-narratives help everyone in the organization make choices. Whenever your organization is about to pursue a new direction, announce a new product, start a campaign or simply comment on something that’s in the news, ask yourself, how does this micro action support the overarching meta-narrative? Or, more simply, is it in line with your brand and what you stand for, what you represent.
- Tim Hortons sending children to summer camps supports the brand. Tim Hortons sponsoring hockey teams and other local programs supports the brand. Tim Hortons introducing a new dark roast beverage – first time they did this since 1964 – supports the brand how exactly?
- Starbucks partnering with New York Times so the customers can access digital content for free supports the brand. Starbucks collaborating with designers Alice + Olivia for new tumbler designs supports the brand. You can tell they really are having fun with their brand at this point. Starbucks introducing wine and beer to their stores is Starbucks carefully walking a line.
- BuzzFeed, which started as a popular destination site, famous for listicles, memes and cats, is rapidly expanding in new directions, like taking a bold plunge into longer-form, investigative reporting. Master-narratives can and do evolve. I can’t wait for them to hire a Fashion Editor. Would make so much sense, as this would be in line with their brand and meta-narrative of visual as the new social on steroids.
- Nike FuelBand embodies the Nike brand mission, which is to help you be the best athlete you can be.
- Apple. Who doesn’t remember the 1984 ad? What about Think Different? The misfits, the rebels. The crazy ones. I don’t know if they still fit that brand narrative, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. If I had to guess, it’d be ‘the cool and glamorous ones’. We shall wait and see.
Know your meta-story and, as Tara Hunt recently wrote, embrace your only-ness, your uniqueness. We know about the power of stories in shaping beliefs. As communications and marketing professionals, we must make sure all the stories we craft and experiences we design every day don’t clash with the overarching brand story. That’s when we stop making sense. You don’t want to do that.
Most importantly, lets just have fun with it all.