by Randall Ringer & Michael Thibodeau Consilience and Narrative Branding®
“Still, I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language.” –Psychology Professor Steven Pinker, from The Stuff of Thought Consilience in Branding
psychology have taken a new, closer look at 1970? How would you feel knowing that he tion found in many disciplines. Applying drugs, the theories of how our bodies and consilience to branding requires opening brains work? No MRI, no laser eye surgery unifying principles in the sciences and arts and cross-fertilizing them with branding The practice of branding is much like that doctor who is stuck in 1970. For over 30 Many of the medical discoveries over the same positioning theory of branding. The intelligence. There we found a profoundly new understanding of how people learn and School observes, “While neuroscience and • We discovered the importance of meta- all senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and • We learned about the role of storytelling smell. It is a model for engaging people in defining our sense of self as well as narrative arc. In short, it is an approach • And we found that as much as 95 per- In the true spirit of consilience, we also now been used by dozens of multinational reached into theater and movies to discover companies including Marriott International, the underlying storytelling principles that tors, LexisNexis, and Coldwell Banker.
Combining these ideas results in a break- Deductive vs. Inductive
through branding method. We call it Narra- tive Branding®. It is a strategic process for The deductive method looks at the world as branding that systematically incorporates it exists and develops a theory from that.
Brand stories work because of the way our hypothesizes not only how things exist now but also how they might exist in the future.
ences. We interpret it through our cultural In essence, positioning is deductive. Mar- backgrounds. More than just words, a story ket research is used to find the attributes includes the full range of expression includ- people rate as most important. It measures ing visual imagery, design, sound, motion, the world as it currently exists in the minds and metaphorical language. That is why we of consumers. The key attributes selected can remember the tale of the tortoise and are further distilled down to a brief phrase, the hare and other Aesop’s Fables we heard a line, sometimes just a word -- the “posi- as small children. Yet we often forget facts In a peculiar twist, the positioning state- public. It is like a poltergeist, a ghost. Instead, creative teams need to re-interpret imagery. The stories were assessed in co- the positioning statement. From the kernel together creative expressions that represent the brand: a name, a logo, advertising, an brand story about Vibrant Media Technolo- gies, with its rich, saturated imagery and In its essence, Narrative Branding® is an provocative language. This engaging brand story ignited their imagination. From the native power to create a rich and robust new brand story that does not yet exist. It starts with the creative process, beginning Five Principles of Narrative Branding®
ery and language that can be used in the marketplace. Then validate the brand story reports “Even though the new insights into Verse Group recently developed a captivat- few techniques widely used today that take advantage of this knowledge to the benefit tor division of Philips Electronics. Before research, we created several brand stories, each with a clear metaphor, role for the Narrative Branding® is the first strategic process for creating brands that is founded distinctive persona. These brand stories in the new insights. Following are five prin- (Figure 1) The Positioning Model
Principle 1: Successful brands engage Principle 2: Successful brands have Great brand stories resonate with the asso- Theater was called the most powerful of the arts by Aristotle. So we have combined the core aspects of theater with the insights we have gained from our personal experience does not inject meaning into a person’s with over 100 branding projects. From that, mind. People bring their past, their cultural we have developed a brand story framework reference-points and their individual experi- with four elements: setting, cast, narrative ences when they engage with a brand story. Brand Story Framework
The brand as a character, including its role in the life of the audience, its relationships and responsibilities, and its history or creation myth.
Narrative Arc:
How the narrative logic unfolds over time, including actions, desired experiences, defining events, and the moment of epiphany. Language:
The authenticating voice, metaphors, symbols, themes and leitmotifs of the brand. Act I
Act II
lives of customers and the community.
Principle 3: Successful brand relationships everywhere, every time, over and over again. It is like seeing the exact same road sign at the beginning, middle and end of your trip. Branding® is that it does not try to ignore the past. Rather, this approach embraces The customer journey represents a true de- the past as prologue to the future, to para- parture from positioning’s road sign. Nar- rative Branding® looks at the way people ac- tually experience the brand in their lives, at Your company doesn’t stand still in today’s each step of the way. This makes it possible dynamic marketplace. Neither should your to unfold the brand’s story along the path that consumers actually follow, so that it is Principle 4: Successful brands engage at relevant along their journey. (Figure 5) It is like the difference between experiencing a Broadway musical vs. reading a road sign. Mapping the customer journey is the first In traditional positioning approaches, a sin- tool that looks across time, across different gle idea is driven through all of the places CUSTOMER
Principle 5: Successful brands engage all Narrative Branding® starts with the propo- SEE
sition that it must engage all senses. That means going beyond words to sight, sound, SMELL
Narrative Branding® drops one-way telling and becomes Living Theater. The “fourth TASTE
wall” between the brand and the audience unfolding narrative: they co-create it. The audiences are fully engaged with successful ence and psychology. Many of the insights brands – emotionally and intellectually. Narrative Branding® includes experiential elements from the start. In defining the brand’s experience, strategy and creative It is through stories with strong metaphors execution are inseparable. The brand experi- that people learn about brands, understand toothpaste (texture, taste, the amount of foam) to the sophisticated customer service Summary
So we leave you with a final thought, from Narrative Branding® is an example of how the American poet Robert Frost, “Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not



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