While all good stories contain many of the same basic elements, brand stories are arranged much more loosely than the tight, chronological format of traditional stories. Rather, brand stories are what you get when every message, image, tweet, event or website is strung together into a meaningful narrative by its audience. By applying the three-act structure of storytelling to brands, we can ensure that these basic elements of good storytelling are included in every brand story.
Previously, I argued that Act I exists to anchor audiences within your brand’s world, and to establish the problems that your brand hopes to solve. The second part of your brand’s story, Act II, exists to explain how your brand is actually solving those problems. To demonstrate how your brand is carrying out its goals and adhering to its values.
Your Brand’s Story, Act II
This is perhaps the most common and intuitive part of the brand story to be told, as brands must consistently remind their audiences of what they have to offer. Advertisements for new products, press releases announcing a new CEO, and restaurants demonstrating samples of their food at the Taste of Chicago are all examples of Act II in the works.
In Act II of a good movie or book, audiences lean forward on the edge of their sofas, jaws dropped and passionately drawn into the unfolding narrative. Similarly, exceptional brands — such as Apple — are so good at Act II that they achieve the same effect with their audiences. Few brands enjoy the speculation that comes with the anticipated release of new products on a level that Apple does. Why? Because Apple always delivers an Act II that is novel, innovative, and predictably in line with who Apple is.
Walking the Talk
Act II can be about much more than simple product and news developments, and good brands know this very well. At its best, Act II is about transparency. Are you really who you said you were in Act I? Does your brand truly value social responsibility? Act II is where you prove that you can walk the talk.
In Act I of the Johnson & Johnson brand story, their website provides a rundown of their commitments and values:
Our values are rooted in the precepts of responsibility to customers, employees, management, community and stockholders, as expressed in Our Credo since 1943. It has remained our guide to how we conduct our business ever since. Through our products and services, our corporate initiatives and philanthropic programs, Johnson & Johnson touches more than a billion people every day throughout the world.
To back this up in Act II, the Responsibility section of their website is enormous, thoroughly explaining how they’re actually carrying out their stated commitments and values.
A favorite bakery of mine, Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston, Ill., provides another example of an exceptionally innovative Act II. When you walk in the store, you can see video footage of the bakers going about their work. This footage is even streamed live to the website, where you can view “The Bakery Cam” anywhere at any time.
Open houses are another Act II tactic that I’ve seen. Bennison’s Bakery has held these in the past, allowing you into the back to see how they create their goods. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory held an open house in May, where they let visitors see new technology and let them watch the new Mars rover being built. When I first visited the Italian restaurant Bucca di Beppo, they took me on a tour of the back kitchen, allowing me to see that who they are behind the scenes is the same as who they were when I sit down to be served. Events of this sort give people a tangible grasp of Act II, and provide a solid foundation from which your story can resonate more intensely.
As a final example, Whole Foods Market is extraordinary at both Act I and Act II. On their web site, their blog and in their store, they provide evidence of how they’re working to carry out their values (which they also communicate very well). By highly publicizing their Local Producer Loan Program, Whole Planet Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation and Green Mission, they let us know that they are doing more than just coming up with values and goals — they’re acting upon them.
Your Campaign & Product Story, Act II
As with Act I, campaigns and products also have an Act II. To continue an example from the previous article, UNICEF’s Tap Project allows you to stay informed through updates, see how the campaign is using your donated money, and find events that are being held.
However, with campaigns and products, Act II is often communicated by the existence of the campaign or product itself. Thus, it may not require much further attention than simply letting your audience know that it exists.
While Act II is the most commonly told part of the brand story, the best brands know how to approach it creatively, much like the twists and turns of an interesting movie or book. They leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting to know more about them and their products. By providing a full and robust Act II that’s consistent with Act I, you can let audiences know that you’re actually who you say you are. That you’re walking the talk.
In the final article of this series, I’ll be discussing Act III — the evidence of success.
Please debate, supplement and respond to this article by commenting below.
Linked in this Article
- Your Brand As Literature, Act I – Flames On Fifth Avenue – By Eric Wittke
- The Taste of Chicago
- Johnson & Johnson – Our Commitment
- Johnson & Johnson – Responsibility
- Bennison’s Bakery
- Live Bakery Cam – Bennison’s Bakery
- Open House – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Bucca di Beppo
- Our Core Values – WholeFoodsMarket.com
- Local Producer Loan Program – WholeFoodsMarket.com
- Whole Planet Foundation – WholeFoodsMarket.com
- Whole Kids Foundation – WholeFoodsMarket.com
- Green Mission – WholeFoodsMarket.com
- Stay informed – UNICEF Tap Project
- Where Your Money Goes – UNICEF Tap Project
- Events – UNICEF Tap Project