Consider these scenarios:
- Your company has binged on acquisitions. While each was tasty in its own right, scarfing them all down at once has left you fumbling for the Pepto-Bismol—and customers seeing a disjointed jumble. You want to help your customers understand what your company stands for.
- You’re facing a classic catch-22. You have a spanking new product. While you have a beta test program, none of your customers are far enough along to show results. You’ll have to wait years for them to report on their outcomes. In the meantime, how do you sign up new customers without case studies of existing customers?
- You have a product that’s so innovative and revolutionary that your customers are having trouble wrapping their brains around the concept. You want them to help them understand you better.
How do you solve these marketing challenges?
Marketers are invoking brand storytelling as their savior to imbue their solutions with meaning for their customers.
Knitting Together Disparate Product Lines
After a string of acquisitions, if you’d stopped your average tech-savvy person on the street two years ago and asked, “What is does XYZ Software Company do?” (This company chose not to be named in this blog post.), you’d have likely gotten an answer like the proverbial blind men describing the elephant. Each person would describe the one technology the company sold with which he or she was most familiar.
He or she probably couldn’t have told you what the company as a whole stood for.
So the company embarked on a brand-storytelling project. They went through a major consensus-building exercise, interviewing stakeholders throughout the organization about what they thought the company stood for. They came up with a story that explained how all of the individual products contributed to allowing customers to work in a new way that they couldn’t before. It was this overall vision that delivered value to its customers. The company continues to evolve this story as the company itself changes and grows.
Selling a Product Vision
Another challenge arises when bringing a complex product to market. Today, most technology marketers use content marketing to introduce new products. But herein lies the rub. There are three pillars of content marketing, according to Sowmya Murthy, Global Portfolio Marketing Director for Unisys:
- The economic value proposition
- Referenceable customers
- A proven product
How can you do effective content marketing when all three of these elements are in their infancy?
Murthy faced this situation in marketing Unisys Software Defined Network Solution. Says Murthy, “You have to sell the vision.”
In other words, you spin a thought-leadership story. “Our buyers are on a voracious educational curve,” said Murthy. “The buying cycle is still educational. SDN isn’t a mature play yet. However, most of our clients are educating themselves and building a vision. That’s what gives us as a disruptive technology an entry into well entrenched markets.”
In this case, the teller of the story helps establish the requisite credibility. Unisys partners with Gartner and other industry leaders to develop signature research. Explained Murthy, “We speak through the voice of credible sources that are already talking about the topic and curate that content and highlight any beta customers that are willing to talk.”
Spawning a Revolution
Brand storytelling is arguably most important when your company is attempting to sell a revolutionary new concept. With Red Hat, the revolutionary concept was the idea of software built by communities outside the company that volunteer. This concept is different from the way virtually all other software is built and can be difficult to get across.
Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video uses brand storytelling to explain the company’s vision by placing open source software into the broader concept of scientific revolution. The video details how people initially don’t believe new scientific concepts and how these new ideals ultimately come to be accepted. The video seeks to overcome the many objections that any new concept will attract and fits these objections into nothing less than the story of hundreds of years of scientific advances.
While each of these examples highlight different issues, brand storytelling addresses them all. By spinning abstract concepts—like seemingly unrelated products, or a new products and concepts—into the concrete constructs of a narrative, your company can make new ideas more comprehensible, and ultimately more meaningful for potential customers.