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Brand storytelling: Too many organisations lack "clear opinion"

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22nd Jul 2014
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Apple was recently named the "best brand in the UK at storytelling". It's the second consecutive year they've won the prize.  

The 2014 Brand Storytelling Report, published by AESOP, looked to find out which brands best demonstrate “a sense of who they are, what they stand for, and what their ultimate purpose is”. The study identifies nine different elements of successful storytelling – including personality, entertainment value and memorability – five of which Apple was ranked top for by the 2,000 UK consumers who took part.

Cadbury also hung onto its previous second place ranking this year, and was followed by some new arrivals into the top five: McDonald's, Ikea and Walkers. In fact, of the ten highest ranking brands, six were newcomers to the top bracket, with Virgin Media, YouTube and Macmillan making their top-ten debut in sixth, eighth and ninth respectively.

Ed Woodcock, director of narrative at Aesop Agency commented on the reasons behind these shifts in the chart: “This last year seems to be the year that brand storytelling joined the mainstream. With significant attention paid to it at Cannes this year, marketers are waking up to storytelling’s unique ability to engage and make an emotional connection with audiences in an age when they are fully in control. It’s given us all the more reason to commission this year’s research, allowing us to keep track of which brands score well against storytelling criteria. There are some surprising stories to be told.”

In terms of sector, charities came out on top while utilities was the worst performing for the second year on the trot. Social media brands also failed to get the results everyone was expecting; although YouTube made it into the top ten and Facebook stayed close behind in 13th, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn only managed to reach underwhelming positions of 30th, 71st and 95th.

Having 'clear opinion' was an area where many brands fell down in this year's storytelling study. Woodcock explains the need for organisations to stick their necks out and stand up for their values and beliefs. “Brands on the whole are often scared of setting an agenda. That doesn’t necessarily mean having a campaigning attitude or a strident tone of voice, but rather being courageously clear about what you stand for. For an opinion to have an edge, brands need to take a real stand – take a stand against something (even if by implication) as well as stand for something. The truth is narratives need baddies as well as goodies. And it’s this contrast that brands often fail to spell out.” 

The recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil was awash with examples of brands trying their hand at storytelling. Nike was perhaps the most successful, with its 'The Last Game' animation helping to ambush its nearest rival Adidas's position as an official sponsor of the event:

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