We’ve been discussing consumer trust and how brands can create and maintain it through consistently prioritizing the consumer experience. Trust is the foundation for long-lasting relationships with a brand’s core audience – but where does this journey begin? In a digital era marked by an abundance of available options, brands stand out by developing a compelling narrative that inspires consumers to choose them over the competition.
A strategic narrative sets a brand apart by connecting with consumers in a unique and indelible way. Stories, after all, have been part of the human experience since long before the development of written language – a way to understand the world, our place in it, our ties to the past, and our hopes for the future.
The EBK model of consumer decision-making is based on a problem or need-driven consumer mindset. A strategic narrative, on the other hand, is based in understanding or empathy for the consumer. A good strategic narrative helps brands communicate their purpose, their value, and their commitment to consumers. When a consumer “buys in” to that narrative, a relationship begins to take shape.
The Power of Storytelling
As Mark Bonchek explores in the Harvard Business Review, “A strategic narrative is a special kind of story. It says who you are as a company… It explains why you exist and what makes you unique.” Citing research showing that consumers think of brands as people, Bonchek emphasizes the power of storytelling to relay values, create community, and build relationships.
A strategic narrative is an expression of your brand DNA, the initial vision of how a brand connects with its target audience. It cuts through the noise of pop-up ads, commercials, and billboards with a simple message – “this is why we’re here.”
One prime example of a compelling strategic narrative is Nike’s “Just Do It.” As Boncheck explains, “In effect, Nike is saying ‘We’ll bring the shoes, the equipment and the clothing; you bring your drive, your discipline and your competitive spirit.’” It’s a narrative that resonates with Nike’s consumer base and extends the brand’s products into their lived experience. Through a concise, declarative statement, Nike positions themselves as co-creators of an active, competitive lifestyle with their consumers. This narrative is backed up by the brand’s ad campaigns, sponsorships, and other actions in the world, creating trust and inspiring loyalty.
Crafting a Strategic Narrative
Brand strategist Sara Gaviser Leslie has made a career advising brands on the creation of a strategic narrative. She notes that “It all comes down to how to structure a great story… (which) boils down to three things:
- Who is your audience?
- What do they believe?
- What do you want them to believe?”
In Nike’s case, their audience is composed of athletes and consumers who seek an active, energized lifestyle. They believe in pushing their limits to grow and achieve. Nike’s goal is to position itself as an ally in that journey, providing products that enable consumers to “Just Do It.”
As Nike’s success reveals, a compelling narrative doesn’t need to be long – in fact, the simpler and more universal the narrative, the better. But don’t let your story be diluted by trying to appeal to everyone. Instead, craft a narrative that will resonate with your unique audience and inspire their trust and loyalty.
Reveal Your Purpose
Strategic narratives are a powerful way to connect with consumers and build long-lasting relationships. They also should be a guiding force for your brand itself – a north star that you can return to for answers to questions like “what is our purpose,” “how do we want our customers to feel,” and “how can we maintain consistency?”. The best strategic narratives, like Nike’s, communicate value, purpose, and a roadmap for meaningful collaboration with consumers.
At Eidson & Partners, our strategic narrative is about helping our clients do something new. It’s in our DNA. If the concept of a strategic narrative is new to you, we encourage you to embrace the power of storytelling, reveal your value to consumers, and articulate your unique purpose.