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6 Essential Steps for Crafting a Compelling Brand Story

While our multitude of technologies and channels make it tempting to dial back your creative execution, your brand story matters more than ever in today’s omnichannel marketing environment. This is especially true for launching brands. During launch is when a majority of your initial thought leadership and impressions will be formed, so it’s critical to get your brand story well-formulated before heading to market! Whether you’re in consumer product goods, life sciences, automotive, or any other space, at the heart of all great brands is the brand story. The core purpose of “creative” or the “brand story” is to give your customers an opportunity to experience your brand for themselves

Creating a “brand experience” may sound like some type of marketing speak, but in practice an exceptional brand story is built by following classic and well-established marketing communication models. The most often cited is the “Hierarchy of Effects” (1961) advanced by Lavidge and Steiner.

Simply stated, its formula is Awareness-Knowledge-Liking-Preference-Conviction-Purchase. When operating in today’s socially driven digital space, we slightly modify this approach by collapsing “Liking” and “Preference” and adding Evangelism. Evangelism is the ultimate step because not only does it signal successful use, but it engenders a brand experience so good that the individual becomes a self-motivated brand advocate.

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So how do you get customers interested and help your brand resonate in their minds?

Unleash the Creativity
At the risk of stating the obvious, creativity needs to be at the heart of all brand stories. Make your creative as authentic and as memorable as possible in order to leave customers wanting to know more. The customer may have just one opportunity to connect with the brand — so the more creative and engaging the brand story, the more likely the customer will seek out a relationship with the brand.

Understanding the relevance and importance of the Hierarchy of Effects is the foundation for the creation of meaningful brand stories. The modified Hierarchy of Effects models suggests that there are six steps in which marketing communications has the opportunity to shape the customer’s connection to your brand. At each step, it is the brand story that drives the experience forward. Fueled by a well-crafted brand story, a powerful brand launch will lead customers on a journey that will forge a strong emotional experience with your brand.

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Steps in the Hierarchy of Effects are:

1). Awareness
First, customers need to know your brand exists! You need to create Awareness. If they don’t know what your brand is, what it’s for, or what it can offer them, they will not seek it out. A brand story is the vehicle necessary to capture the attention of customers and introduce them to your brand. The brand story creates a “Brand Moment” that will leave an impression as well as a lingering memory of if the brand aligns with your customer’s needs and values. This brand moment can take shape on a variety of online and offline platforms and formats, but all should ladder back to your overall brand story.

2). Knowledge
Once customers are aware and engaged, information must be exchanged. The information chosen is a critical element of the brand story and will help establish the positioning of the brand in the customer’s mind. This knowledge transfer should catalyze the customer to decide if the brand aligns with the values that are integral in their daily lives and decision making.

3). Preference
Building upon awareness and knowledge provides the foundation for establishing “Preference.” Once a customer has experienced one or more brand moments, he will be able to evaluate whether he likes or dislikes the product. In life sciences, working to ensure that the healthcare practitioner (HCP) understands the appropriate patient candidate will maximize the potential for a successful experience. This is sometimes referred to as an “easy win.”

Through careful and thorough initial research about the target demographic, the brand needs to craft a resonant brand story that ensures customers will engage and interact with the brand. A creative brand story can create and/or alter customer preference. A brand story that is in sync with the customer’s values and needs will have the best chance of triggering a customer to use the product both now and in the future.

4). Conviction
The desire to purchase the product is created in this stage. Products that allow customers to sample or test as part of the brand activation give customers peace of mind about the security and safety of the product. A test drive can also allow customers to use the product in their own way, possibly confirming their doubts about the product offering. Brand activation can demonstrate how the product can be used multiple ways to increase usage, which will in turn increase compliance and loyalty.

5). Purchase
The penultimate step in the model is “Purchase.” The brand story not only needs to be creative but also informative, including information related to the availability of the product and its cost. In life sciences, other critical information includes insurance coverage and co-pay costs. In general, these parts of the story are all about reducing/eliminating customer barriers.

6). Evangelism
This is the holy grail for crafting your brand story, but is not easily or often achieved. As a marketer, you are not looking for one-time use, but rather you want to own the particular space in the mind of your customer.

And believe it or not, every human has these spaces—the automobile space, the laundry detergent space, the yogurt space, etc. In life sciences, HCPs have discrete spaces for almost all therapeutic categories and all the patients they see. Ordinary or unoriginal brand stories won’t get you that critical mind space. You need authenticity, creativity, and even bravery if you want to carve out an intellectual/practical/emotional space in the gray matter of your target audience.

So why is this the holy grail? Because once evangelism is achieved, individuals become brand disciples, and your marketing engine is independently fueled.

Conclusion
Ideally, your brand story should encourage customers and potential customers to interact with the brand, sparking an emotional connection that will lead to repeat use and evangelism. For launching brands, crafting a compelling brand story is absolutely essential. If you’re looking to create a breakthrough launch in today’s crowded marketing environment, be sure to build your campaign around a great brand story, nurture it, feed it, and then watch it take off!

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Peter Villucci
Peter is the Executive Creative Director for Cadient, and has launched engaging and successful campaigns for a wide range of clients. He began his career on the research side of the business but quickly found his way to commercial marketing and branding. His scientific acumen combined with deep creative experience allows him to craft compelling brand stories in the life sciences arena.
Peter Villucci

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