When stories are powerful enough

by Yaw Dwomoh. For retailers it is becoming more important to look at what is shaking up their shelves. The right brands will bring in the right feet through the door.

by Yaw Dwomoh. The lockdown has led to a disruption in the supply-chain and cash flow, with the sales channels of many industries blocked and the retail sector having to adapt to the new environment. Where does the messaging stand? Without a doubt, the most essential step is to acknowledge what has changed for the consumer.

Do consumers want to hear from brands? They do, but only when that communication is comforting and reassuring and provides information about what brands are doing to respond to the pandemic. Consumers are hungry for brands that allow them to develop real understanding and loyalty. But to do that, you as a brand must share enough to give customers an appreciation of your journey. Consumers often feel that their relationship with brands is a one-way street—where they share information about themselves and never receive that same type of sharing from brands. In times such as these – that just won’t cut it.

Even without the impact of the coronavirus, brands often hit a plateau after a great run with a particular approach. People start tuning out or ignoring an ad, or there is no room to carry on from a creative standpoint. This is not always just a matter of consumers getting bored or overly familiar with a brand’s message. Sometimes consumer tastes and needs simply change. For retailers it is becoming more important to look at what is shaking up their shelves. The right brands will bring in the right feet through the door.

Content and communication that is integrity-led, integrity-packed, and integrity-delivered, will work better than anything else. The key operative word is integrity. In good times, one can stray away from the path of core integrity, but not in bad times. Everything we are seeing in the messages at the moment is about thanking the essential workers… the long epic music, the monologues, the sincere visual storytelling, etc. But we know that this is a wave, and once we move through it, there will be humour and a change in how we address people.

Be brave as a brand

There is an opportunity to be brave without the repercussions. We as creatives can inspire a brand’s cultural shift. This is the opportunity to inspire change. We have already had to change our entire way of life. Everything is different; from how it used to be and what we are used to. Brands need to think whether they can use this opportunity to have a more cultural impact on their audience’s lives; and decide whether resonating with the crisis now will be effective long term. It’s not simply about liking your latest tweet or sharing a post on social media – it’s about really engaging. As in, taking an interest in the history of your company, knowing some of the people who work there, and having a deeper understanding of the how and why your company came to be. Customers want to hear those stories.

While some retailers lacked the social media and e-commerce infrastructure to maintain customer relationships during the pandemic; other retailers have adjusted their digital strategies to connect with consumers from afar – a shift that will be necessary to keep customers engaged after the panic from the outbreak subsides. Building a connection with new customers and maintaining your pre-existing ones will be now more difficult, than it has been in the recent past. With most organisations already dealing with a slowdown, if not a complete shutdown, marketing during this period will need a lot of creativity and tactful storytelling to ensure that the message of the brand is effectively communicated.

In a world where most of us are now working from home or self-isolating; brands might have resisted change, hanging on to what was working before. It can be a scary time, but it can also offer an opportunity to innovate and connect in more relevant ways. It doesn’t always mean a complete rebranding; however, it’s also not limited to creating a new campaign or platform. Look it as a brand reset, where you recognise core elements that will transform your decision-making across multiple campaigns. You have to consider that people have moved digital. Although traditional ad spends might have taken a hit, digital has kept conversations going. According to a recent KPMG report, the pandemic and the consequent disruption could have a serious impact on media and entertainment sectors, posing challenges for traditional media, but leading to a long-term upward shift in the integration of digital into everyday lives.

Tell real stories

Amidst changing consumption patterns, consumer behaviour, and a flurry of information on social media platforms; brand storytelling on digital has tweaked the interest for many brands. We have seen the value and the importance of effective digital storytelling during COVID-19, which has had the ability to transform brands that once relied on traditional marketing. Brand storytelling (using narrative to connect your brand to customers) is the stable infrastructure for building the bridge between company and consumer. It allows companies to tap into the basic human love of stories – especially real stories of people beating the odds – to build authentic connections. The most successful brands all have something in common – they are great storytellers. They have the power to delight, touch, inspire, challenge, and motivate. They help us to create a narrative picture in our minds that help us to see how an event took place, provoking a feeling and then, very often an action.

Stories are all around us. The movies and television we watch, news articles we read, and conversations we have – we expect them to form the bases of our relationships. According to a study by Jeremy Hsu, personal stories and gossip on average make up 65% of our conversations. They represent a human need to understand and connect emotionally with how and why things happen. According to an infographic published by OneSpot, 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story when consumed. When stories are powerful enough, they become a living, breathing part of your brand that can serve a rallying cry for employees, customers, and advocates. Consider how using brand storytelling can help your brand to better connect with your audience and give your company an interesting way to present itself to new prospective customers.


Born in Ghana, Yaw Dwomoh is the Managing Director of Idea Hive, a specialist brand storytelling company based in Johannesburg that enables medium-to-large brands to craft their brand stories. Dwomoh believes in telling African stories for Africans and champions Africa as a first choice for business and tourism. His agency’s continued work with brands like McDonalds (particularly the McCafe brand) and Shell, is testament to his work ethic and strong relationships he has built over 25 years in the industry, in both corporate and in his time as an entrepreneur.

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