Saturday, August 12, 2017


By Roger Pe
Business Mirror
July 31, 2017 issue
In the olden days, just after sunset, we would usually wait for our ‘Lola Basyang’ on the porch. We would gather around her and listen to her stories with bated breath. Some of them made us gasp with disbelief. Some made us cringe because they were spine chilling. Some made us roll with laughter on the floor. Some made us cry we even had to share handkerchiefs to wipe off our tears. 
Our Lola’s storytelling sessions were much awaited. None of us missed them, even if some of us had fever. She was like a magnet because we would all gravitate to her when she was around.
It was probably because of the way she told each story, far more different than my aunt did. Her stories were peppered with picturesque words, laced with varying tones of excitement, drama and suspense. They made our imagination ran wild, and we all felt them in our bones.
I would say that we didn’t just sat there on the porch. Lola, the Storyteller, transported us into another realm. We were woven into the tales she unraveled. Sequence by sequence, plot by plot, and like a river gently flowing into the sea, we lost ourselves and moved with them. We became the characters ourselves, not just lambently listening.
Movies become blockbusters because of the way they tell their stories. Books turn into bestsellers because of the way they make us engaged, connected and delighted. Speakers didn’t drive us to sleep because they had that thing that made us glued to our seats and listen. They knew how to pull the emotional trigger that can capture an audience.
Can brands also become great storytellers like my Lola?

Good stories can transport customers to new worlds. Audiences can be so absorbed in a story that they can be brought to a place they have never been to. Read a really great book. Lose yourself in its pages. A good story has the power to take you anywhere. They can activate your narrative engines and turn you into a footloose.
Well-known US market research company Gilliam and Flaherty mentions the bottomline: “When it comes to building sales relationships with new clients, storytelling is invaluable for three key purposes: Delivering information, persuading customers and creating a personal connection. Buyers are looking for ‘cues’ and ‘signals’ that the seller is ‘trustworthy’. Stories are a credible form of communication capable of delivering such cues.”
“Storytelling can squash the skeptic in your customer. Selling through storytelling becomes easier. When told a story, listeners engage in a special form of processing that result in fewer counter arguments, it also adds.” 
But to be able to tell a good story, everything must begin with a great consumer market research, a task that some of today’s businesses rarely undertake, Philippine market research expert Germaine Reyes, co-founder and Managing Director of Synergy Market Research and Strategic Consultancy, says.
“Good storytelling is the ability to move consumers into action in a seamless manner. The brand generates trust with the consumer through the story it tells which in turn inspires him/her to take action. The story the brand provides mirrors or should mirror the realities of a consumer to enable engagement.  Depending on how moving the storytelling was done, consumers get inspired to take action without them knowing that the story actually helped them do that,” Reyes says. 
We interview Reyes about storytelling and how it impacts brand marketing:

Why is Storytelling important to the brand selling?
Reyes: As Seth Godin, a marketing guru and writer said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you sell, but the stories you tell.”   These days, brands can’t just ‘push’ information to consumer by ‘telling them’ about their brand, what their brand benefits are.  Given the digital age, consumers gained access to information on their own and can therefore validate whether the brand is telling them the truth or not.  Brands are now compelled to show authenticity for consumers to trust them. It is said that through stories, the storyteller can actually generate trust with his/her audience. Thus, through effective (and seamless) storytelling, consumers become more trusting, more open to the brand messaging.  
Is there a formula in telling a good story?
Reyes: Like your typical story, there are basic elements that have to be present. This will be further explained in our event called, “HuGOT it Right: Consumer Insighting for Innovative Brand Storytelling.”  
But what I particularly want to point out is that there is an element in a story that creates the connection with consumers.  And, there is a need to have a flow of the narrative that will effectively deliver the message, something that’s riveting in the story. The resolution needs to be satisfying, and the flow needs to make this understandable in order to create a lasting effect on consumers. These are what marketing practitioners need to harness and innately develop.
Let me make an analogy instead of naming certain people.  Filmmakers and the theater arts have mastered the art of storytelling.  Great public speakers have mastered this art as well.  This is the reason why in movies, we just find ourselves, ‘pulled into’ the story – we cry with the protagonist or get angry with the antagonist.  
We get scared in a horror film and these images linger in our minds even after watching the movie.  We get moved or inspired into action by public speakers who are great storytellers.  Something magical happens between the storyteller and the audience.  A story told very well can affect one long after watching the movie or play or listening to a speech.
Name some best practices being used by marketers in storytelling.
Reyes: Marketers that stay close with their consumers – ie., those who listen to their customers to understand their plight, aspirations, dreams and hopes, what they wonder about are those that will get ahead in their storytelling.  Reason is that they are the ones with real or authentic material to start on their storytelling journey. The storytelling skill would be their next hurdle. 
Next I realized is that design thinking is a great approach in uncovering innovative storytelling avenues for marketers to take advantage of. This is not yet best practice as we believe we’re the first to introduce this linkage between design thinking and brand storytelling.  
I have attended some talks and a bootcamp and I strongly believe that the possibilities for brand storytelling avenues are limitless through this approach.  What also excited me is that design thinking is ‘human-centered’, ie., the creative process is anchored on real consumer insights.  
Is storytelling on digital platform any different from traditional marketing?
Reyes: Storytelling should be platform-agnostic.  There should be a creative solution on the length of your story.  At the end of the day, the narrative should be compelling enough, regardless of where it is placed. Key is to choose the optimum platform – ie., where your consumers are listening or watching to target them at the right time and moment.
What types of storytelling are usually most successful in connecting with consumers?
Reyes: There is no particular theme or plot that is better than the other, but we will provide some ideas which are effective - in our seminar workshop this August 30-31. Nonetheless, for as long as the basic story elements are present, tied together by a well-thought out flow that is consistent with the brand personality, these are good elements to start with. Design thinking will facilitate this journey of arriving at innovative storytelling that connects with consumers.

What are some of the things you should avoid in brand storytelling?
Reyes: Perhaps what I’ll say are more precautions that really avoidance. 
Brand storytelling that are just entertaining or have unique executions per se may get consumers’ attention and become viral. This may be good if the objective is to create awareness and consideration.  
A few good laughs may help develop positive feelings towards the brand, but should not steer their focus away from the purpose of the storytelling. Let’s not do a ‘pen-pineapple-pen’ campaign type if our objectives are different from what it can realistically attain.  If the storytelling is not aligned with your brand personality, this may create disconnect with consumersand may confuse them in the long-run. 
Aiming for storytelling that will become viral, per se, shouldn’t consume marketers.  This is stressful!  Instead, let’s learn from how Pixar or Disney does it. They create stories that are blockbuster hits!  

What are the things that you should prioritize telling?
Reyes: “Facts tell.  Stories sell.”  Tell authentic stories, not just facts.  And authenticity starts with and should be grounded in consumer truths. Marketers should do their homework and get to know their consumers, mirror this in the story they will create, marry this with their brand personality and develop that seamless storytelling, just like how Pixar and Disney do it. Otherwise, the story that they will tell may end up contrived and disengaging.
Join “HuGOT it Right.  Consumer Insighting for Innovative Brand Storytelling.” on August 30-31, at The Metropolitan Club, Makati City.  For inquiries, call +632-818-5890 (look for Jeanky) or email