As we’ve seen in the last two articles, there’s much to learn about brand storytelling from the basic, three-act structure of classic plays, books and movies. In Act I of your brand’s story, background, identity, goals and values are established. Act II tells how your brand is going about achieving those goals, while staying true to its stated identity and values. Finally, Act III provides evidence of how your brand has succeeded in reaching the goals it laid out in Act I.
Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in Ali’s definitive Act III portrait.
Traditional playwrights used to categorize their plays in two dominant categories: comedies and tragedies. These categories existed as polar opposites of each other — the main characters of tragedies such as Hamlet often failed to reach their goals, while the main characters of comedies achieved them. The type of story was often contingent upon the events that occurred in Act III, as the resolution to the plot began to take shape. In Act III, you must let your audience know that your brand story is a comedy. They must know that you’ve met your goals with triumph, and that you’re the hero of your own story.
Your Brand’s Story, Act III
What Act III truly comes down to is proof. Proof that your brand is authentic. Proof that it’s capable of doing what it says it can. Proof that when it’s walking the talk, it’s actually leaving some conquered goals behind.
Much of your brand’s Act III will be told by your audience. If your brand exists as a manufacturer, Act III may be told through product reviews on websites such as Amazon.com, MusiciansFriend.com or BestBuy.com. If your brand is a service, then your Act III will partially be taking place on services such as Yelp, Angie’s List, RedBeacon or Google Places. For every brand, word-of-mouth will always play a huge part. This can be extended to social and traditional media mentions as well, involving editorial reviews and Facebook wall posts.
For the rest of Act III, however, you’re in control. Polished case studies provide strong evidence of triumph, showcasing your successes as well as your rationale behind every decision. If you’ve secured coverage in a publication, demonstrate that as much as possible. Do you have accreditation or certification? Show it, whether it’s with a badge, logo or an acronym next to your name (LLC, CPA, DVM, TM and so on).
A coffee shop I used to work at (and a fantastic one at that) exemplifies Act III in a unique and engaging way. By putting out a bulletin board with blank paper and pens next to it, they allow their community to express themselves freely and creatively, outside of the digital realm. Two things happen as a result:
- Customers become expressive advocates for the coffee shop’s best food and drinks
- The notes provide proof that a loyal and satisfied community exists around the coffee shop’s brand.
This provides a layer of proof that they’re actually acting upon the various goals and values that they have posted on the walls around the coffee shop (which is, in effect, excellent execution of Act I as well).
Similar to Act II, there is a lot of overlap between the brand story and the product and campaign stories. Often, they reinforce one-another, as brands cannot achieve their goals without their products. Campaigns can be treated accordingly, as a type of sub-brand with its own goals and triumphs.
Muhammad Ali once said, “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” What Ali was talking about here was Act III of his personal brand — proving that he was able to achieve the goals he’d set out to accomplish. It goes without saying that he didn’t need to speak a word in order to be known as the greatest, but he had the right idea. They didn’t have social media advocacy back then.
Having looked closely at many brand stories, it’s become apparent that Act I is the most neglected act. Too few brands make a point to open up and tell their audience who they are and what they stand for. In other words, it’s important for brands to prominently communicate their goals, purpose, and especially their values. Act I provides the context within which Act II and Act III take place — the thematic, narrative backbone of your brand. And in an era of social responsibility, audiences must be aware of how even acts of kindness fit into your goals and values, in order to maintain a sense of trust and genuine intent.
Never before have so many artifacts of communication been written across so many different channels. While this makes brand consistency and responsibility more difficult, it also provides many more opportunities to tell your brand’s story in unique and innovative ways. By applying the three-act structure to your brand’s story, you can ensure that the most fundamental elements of your brand story are making their way into these channels. You can ensure that when people string together your brand’s messages, they all fit nicely and consistently into one engaging, consistent and positive brand story.
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Linked in this Article
- Dramatic Structure: Comedy & Tragedy – Lecture excerpt by Ian Johnston
- Brands & The Aura of Authenticity – Flames On Fifth Avenue – By Eric Wittke
- 4 Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility Done Right -SocialBrite – By JD Lasica
- DIASPORA Social Network
- Ultimate Fonzie Scene
- Greyhouse Coffee
- Ali at 60 – BBC Sports – By Sanjeev Shetty
- Muhammad Ali’s Professional Boxing Record – Wikipedia
- Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Busines – Reason Magazine