CO - Markinnovation

Good Brands Sell Products; Great Brands Tell Stories

Good Brands Sell Products; Great Brands Tell Stories

If you need to survive in this dog-eat-dog business world, then you need to connect with customers in a way that none of your competitors ever will. You need to tug at their heartstrings, move them emotionally and get them to identify themselves with you.

What is the best way to do it?


With social media being democratic by giving a space for anyone to shine regardless of one’s marketing budget, storytelling is going to be the way for any brand to punch high.

People love stories. In fact, without effective storytelling, some of the world’s most powerful brands would cease to exist. You don’t become a billion-dollar company and survive for more than a century if you happen to tell your customers that you sell aerated sugary water? How else do you think Coca Cola has become one of the world’s most powerful brands? Storytelling. Coca Cola tells you through its advertising and other marketing materials that it spreads happiness.

As a consumer, you will find storytelling everywhere, not just among brands trying to disturb the homeostasis of your wallet. You see it in religions around the world. Jesus Christ was sent to the Earth to save our sins. The Hindus have their Bhagavad Gita. As a part of their storytelling, they wore dresses that made them stand out, and had a way of conveying things, usually through parables (or stories). Storytelling is seeped deep into our psyche.

There is a story everywhere, it is just that they are told in different styles.

Chota Bheem, Shin Chan, Doremon, Ninja Hattori- all of them are alive in our minds because of its storytelling. Thanos, who you see in the Avengers Infinity War movie wants to maintain the balance of the Universe- that’s his story. Mahatma Gandhi wanted freedom from the Britishers, and he achieved it through his story of ahimsa and satyagraha. There is a story everywhere, it is just that they are told in different styles.o tell the world.

You have a life story too. If you could look at your entire life from the outside, you will find that you have a unique story to tell the world. Lisa Cron, in her book ‘Wired for Story’, says- ”Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution.- more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; stories told us what to hang on to.”

How can brands use storytelling?

Storytelling is difficult, especially since you need to relate with your audience and get your voice heard amid the cacophony. But it is certainly doable, I have a simple formula it.

Story = Character + Plot

If you need to create a story, it is a must that you have meaningful characters stitched in a plot that would make sense to your audience.

Carl Jung, known for his theory of collective unconscious, suggested that there are 12 universal character archetypes that you can make in your brand’s storytelling. These archetypes are characters that are universally recognizable as it is all of us at different points in life.

You can integrate anyone of these character elements into your brand personality and create a unique identity. You can even choose the character archetype based on your existing brand values and the segment which you play.

#1 The Hero:

It is someone who will save the day for your problems. This person is competent but will suffer a loss in confidence when they are down, but they will rise to the occasion.

The Hero archetype is ideal for brands that solves a major social problem or is for an aspirational audience that wants a hero.

Hero Personalities : Nelson Mandela, Hercules, David (from David & Goliath), MS Dhoni

Hero Brands - Nike, Red Cross, PETA.

#2 The Caregiver:

In this archetype, selflessness is the defining attribute. They will do anything to protect their friend, husband, wife, sibling, etc. Their desire is to help others and they don’t mind being in the background while doing so.

Caregiver Personalities: Mary Poppins, Mother Teresa, The Salvation Army caregivers.

Caregiver brands- P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Huggies, Dove, etc.

#3 The Ruler:

It is an easily recognizable archetype. It represents leadership and responsibility for their own as well as the lives of others. Rulers are often kings, queens, leaders, bosses, politicians, role models, etc.

Ruler Personalities : Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton, Abraham Lincoln, Shah Rukh Khan.

Ruler brands- Rolex, Maybach, Rolls Royce, Taj Hotels

#4 The Creator:

In this, the character doesn’t like to be stifled of its freedom. They build something that makes the world a better place. This archetype is suited for your brand if they keep innovating, create new products at a feverish pace and are driven to create exceptional and enduring products.

Creator Personalities : Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, J K Rowling.

Creator brands- Apple, Lego, Burberry

#5 The Innocent:

This archetype is for brands that want to represent good, clean fun and just want to be happy. For brands that are in the health, cleanliness, and organic product field, this archetype would suit them the most.

Innocent Personalities : Sachin Tendulkar, Paul McCartney.

Innocent brands- Ford, Disney, Coca Cola.

#6 The Sage:

This is for brands that impart wisdom, knowledge and power. They thrive on knowledge and are happy imparting the knowledge to everyone else. In fact, even the brand voice of the company is expected to be sophisticated and rich in vocabulary. The brand should revolve around solving problems.

Sage Personalities : Philip Kotler, Harsha Bhogle, Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Abdul Kalam, Albert Einstein.

Sage Brands: CNN, Discovery Channel, TLC, Google,

#7 The Explorer:

Also referred to as Trailblazer, Pioneer or Adventurer, the brands in this archetype are always on the lookout for adventure and want to discover the world by themselves. They are ambitious, independent and can also be considered to be restless at the same time.

Explorer Personalities : Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss, Bear Grylls. Steve Irwin

Explorer Brands- GoPro, Virgin, Amazon, Land Rover.

#8 The Rebel:

This is someone who speaks out against discrimination, bigotry, oppression, and so on. Not all brands can be a part of this unless they could employ brilliant storytelling or is in the social sector where they really are doing some heavy lifting in fighting for the oppressed. These types of brands have strong values and are built on a great level of trust.

Rebel Personalities : Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks.

Rebel Brands- Harley Davidson, Jack Daniel’s, Smirnoff

#9 The Magician:

This archetype is associated with mystery, transformation and magic. Think of brands in this archetype as charismatic, a creator and visionary at the same time. They turn problems into opportunities, empower people, create flexible solutions and always come up with win-win solutions. In short, they make the impossible possible and turn dreams into reality.

Magician Personalities : Seth Godin, Steve Jobs.

Magician Brands - Tesla, Amazon, Disney.

#10 The Every man:

Every man archetypes are brands that are fair, understanding, respectful of human beings and values dignity of everyone. They have a lot of empathy and there is common sense in their strategy. They care about the experience of their customers unlike most other corporate brands.

Everyman Personalities: Emma Stone, Robert Downey Jr, Akshay Khanna, Rahul Dravid.

Everyman brands- IKEA, KFC, Volkswagen, GAP, Visa, Wendy’s, Walmart.

#11 The Jester:

These types of brands use humor and sarcasm to communicate with their customers. They are playful, spontaneous and are looking to have a good time.

Jester Personalities : Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Kanan Gill.

Jester brands - M&Ms, 7UP, Pepsi, Fanta, Snickers.

#12 The Lover:

Brands in this archetype want to have a close relationship with everyone. It is all about intimacy, feeling and making others special. The Lover archetype is not shy in expressing their feelings,

Lover Personalities : Akshay Kumar, Hugh Jackman.

Lover brands: Hallmark, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret.

All human beings take the shape of these 12 archetypes at different points in life. If you use any of these character archetypes in your brand strategy, you can easily connect with your audience, given that your story line is also good.

Create a unique Brand identity using Mascots:

The primary purpose of having a brand mascot is to strengthen brand identity. It helps with top of the mind brand awareness. A mascot can be based on people, personified objects, anthropomorphic animals, etc. Think of it as your brand’s fictional spokesperson.

Think of the Mascot as your brand’s fictional spokesperson.

It can go wrong if the mascot isn’t in alignment with your brand values. The Michelin Man, McDonald’s Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders, Amul Girl, Vodafone’s ZooZoo, and Pillsbury’s Doughboy are some of the most iconic mascots.

7 Universal Story Plot lines:

Once you have the right brand character in place, you may use anyone of these universal story plot lines to weave a great story. The source for these plot lines is from Christopher Booker’s 2004 book ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories.’

1. Overcoming the monster: In this, the hero should destroy the monster so that everyone will be safe.

2. Rags to Riches: In this, a person who has always had misfortune turns around his/her life by working hard.

3. The Quest: In this, the protagonists travel in search of a treasure where they must fight unruly goons to end up with the treasure.

4. Voyage and Return: The protagonists are thrown into unfamiliar territory from where they fight back to live a good life.

5. Comedy: Have fun and light characters where the story has a happy ending. Comedy is a tough subject, ensuring that all kinds of audiences understand the story.

6. Tragedy: This is for brands that help their customers get through a difficult time. It could be for a motivational speaker, a self-help book, or for medical counsellors.

7. Rebirth: This is all about redemption and rebirth where you venture into a peaceful world after going through a series of bad events.

You may these plots in your advertising and content marketing efforts to create a highly resonating brand story.

Why is storytelling important for your brand?

Without a strong story emotions, you are just a business that sells a commodity. For a customer, they buy products of a brand because it has emotions and they can identify with the brand because of its story.

When there is no emotional driver for your customer and if the buying decision is taken only based on product features, then you will fall into the commoditization game. It is a sad game to play because people choose you only based on the price.

Nike just sells shoes. All that KFC has are fried chickens. These are just commodities. But do you see them talking about how good their shoes are or how crispy their chickens are in their respective advertisements.

No, right?

That’s because they try to capture their audience’s attention with effective and inventive storytelling. Nike has marketed its shoes as a story of aspiration and achievement. When you wear Nike shoes, here is what the brand wants you to think? That you can score the winning goal. That you can run a full marathon. That you can make the basket. With a tagline like “Just Do It,” and a brilliant storytelling campaign, it just cannot go wrong for Nike.

There are several other brands that are betting big on storytelling because of the huge differentiation and relevance it brings to their brand strategy.

So, why wait? Identity your unique brand character and use a plot to tell a powerful brand story. Stay in the hearts of your customers, forever.

  • Rajesh Srinivasan
    Rajesh Srinivasan
    Marketing Strategist & Author.

    Rajesh Srinivasan is a Marketing Strategist and Business Growth Consultant who work with entrepreneurs as an “Outsourced CMO” (Chief Marketing Officer) to grow their revenues and build powerful brands. He is the Author of the Amazon’s best-selling book – Marketing Success Formula. The book has been featured in magazines like Business Today, The Week, India Today and Business Standard. The Economic Times has recently appointed Rajesh as a jury board member for their “Most Promising Tech Marketers Awards” and speaker for Marketing Leaders’ Summit – 2020 Rajesh has been frequently invited to deliver keynote sessions in various industry conferences and events like World Marketing Congress – 2019, Indian Institute of Management, Trichy’s Management Conclave, Madras Management Association and VKC Pride to name a few. Nicknamed as Marketing Evangelist by the business fraternity, Rajesh frequently shares his wisdom through his Youtube Channel and also has written more than 30 articles. He is also the guest lecturer for Top B-schools like Indian Institute of Management, National Institute of Fashion Technology. Rajesh Srinivasan is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow and was the Topper of the Batch. He has an extensive industry experience of over 20 years in the real estate, hospitality and advertising industry.

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