The potential for companies to story tell.

In general there are two potential opportunities that companies should consider when creating a story: the first is based on the company’s mechanism while the second focuses on  the message goal. But what do these terms mean? The rest of this blog will attempt to explain the details.

Company Mechanism.

The mechanism aspect was studied by van Riel and Fombrun. They stated that companies should build reputational platforms using stories, which must be relevant, realistic and appealing. They had three themes:

  • Activity: here a company will focus on the key activity they are involved in. Fedex and their next day delivery network.
  • Benefit: a company may decide to emphasis the attractive outcomes or benefits. M&S with exceptional quality and customer service.
  • Emotional: this is the hardest to quantify but can enhance the value proposition of the company.  Disney makes you happy.

Strategic Planet would argue that van Riel and Fombrun should have limited the themes to just “activity” and “benefit”. The “emotional” aspect should be included in both and seen as the superior offering. As an example::

  • Activity: Pfizer develops a ground breaking treatment that saves lives.
  • Benefit: Innocent has only natural ingredients and is working to save the planet.

It is worth noting that by enlarge, individuals will choose a brand the same way that they choose their friends: it is based largely on how they make the individual feel about themselves (JWT). To be more succinct, it is based on the emotional bond.

Message Goals.

The second aspect relates to achieving the message goal. This does not necessarily impact directly on the corporate reputation, however as this blog will illustrate there are elements which relate to it.

This means that stories do not have to be external facing. In fact Piercy, advocates the use of stories for strategic purposes and has included any form of business planning. If we scrutinised a range of any typical marketing plans: we will see that they are often constituted by three key elements (MacDonald):

  • Terse fragmentary statements.
  • Bullet points.
  • Analytical tools.

Why don’t we present our marketing plans in the form of a story? Greenley & Bayus have already argued that we should. Just remember:

People do not think in bullet points, but in a mode that is largely narrative in nature (Sims).

Ardley suggests that many marketing academics have ignored the narrative form and if harnessed in the service of marketing planning an organisational could become more effective. Even the Advertising Research Foundation in the US recently concluded from a three-year study that the single most important factor necessary for a brand to connect with its audience is the presence of an engaging story (Cordiner). It is not just business planning that will benefit from storytelling: Skoldberg showed how a major change programme in the Swedish government was interpreted by those involved as a narrative drama. Some reorganisations were categorised and explained as adventures, symbolised by stories of staff as tight rope walkers.

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Dr Alan Shaw is a Senior Lecturer and Marketing consultant focusing on a range of sectors. His main interests are in strategy development, social marketing, digital marketing, advertising, consumer behaviour and marketing application.
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