Luxury Learning Storytelling

Storytelling for Emotional Connection: Lessons from Luxury Brands

As Stewart Wallis from the New Economics Foundation once stated: “History tells us that a value shift is triggered by creation of a new story about how we want to live.” Most companies in most industries are not good at storytelling. Their marketing or corporate communications departments are missing the opportunities and benefits the best practice of Storytelling can bring. In contrast, the Luxury industry is a good place to look for inspiration on how excellent stories are created, told and amplified successfully. So, what are the lessons we can derive from this very successful sector when it comes to Storytelling?

Prof. Jennifer Aaker from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business said: “Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories.” Humanity always needed stories because stories help make sense of the world around us. Your brand can respond to this deeper need of consumers to make sense of the world. It is instrumental for the process of turning a world in chaos into a world in order. A meaningful long-term story or a strategic narrative is capable of transmuting our non-linear worldview into a linear one. Once the story is understood, it’s now a novel world order. If you want to occupy an important place in the minds and hearts of your clients’, you need to address this deeper need.

When explaining the science of behavioural change, Simone Elviss wrote “we don’t need to get rid of the facts – but rather wrap those verifiable facts in a story that will resonate with the audience based on their needs, so that they are more receptive to the message.” And Dr. Jerome Bruner, among the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, said: “Facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.”

There may be endless ways of telling a story, but there are very few structures of how to create successful stories. In his 34 year-long analysis on the history of storytelling, Christopher Booker found seven basic ingredients: Overcoming the monster; Rags to riches; The quest; Voyage and return; Comedy; Tragedy; Rebirth.

Aristotle was amazed when he discovered that if you join the dots or build bridges between them you get a plot. My experience thus far convinced me that it is best to become, or at least finde, the doctor of your business and then act as the chief joiner of dots. Creating your successful brand story comes from linking the right dots together. In his book Donald Miller provides a framework called ‘BrandScript’ for crafting a brand story step by step. It’s an excellent method and using frameworks like these can help you organize your brand story without missing any key components.

 

What is Storytelling in the Context of Brand Building?

Stories are intrinsically linked with brands – representing what an entity, service or product that creates economic value stands for. Hence, it is not just nice, but economically sound to make sure your story works well. In this sense, critical components that need to expand your story-rationale and thinking gravitate around using creative narratives that can communicate your brand’s values, history, successes, promise, experience, concept, identity, visual associations and so on.

A good starting point is to find or choose your archetype or in the words of Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology: the contents of the collective unconscious, primordial images that reflect basic patterns or common to us all, and which have existed universally since the dawn of time. A list of most common archetypal characters can be found online.

When a brand communicates its archetype in a story, it becomes very clear for its customers whether they want to identify with it or not. The archetypal personality or character in your brand’s story makes it much easier for customers to express themselves by choosing your brand and, consequently, become a better version of themselves. It is about the person’s relation with the brand and, at the same time, with society. Brand storytelling shows the customer how he or she can elevate themselves by choosing your brand.

As Rumble Romagnoli, CEO of Relevance, put it: “Once luxury brands have chosen their archetype, they can craft a story around it and tailor it to their target luxury persona.” For example, Patek Philippe can clearly be associated with a Sage. Four Seasons is about the Caregiver/Healer archetype. Rolex celebrates the Hero archetype.

Your company doesn’t have to be in the luxury industry to tell its story based on an archetype. The media, finance or banking, academia, B2B firms, pharmaceutical, insurance or technology industries can all tell more effective stories using archetypes. A bank, for example, could choose the Sage or the Caregiver archetype. A tech firm can go with the Creator or the Magician archetype. A university can focus on the Explorer or the Ruler archetype.

 

Five Simple Steps to Writing Your Brand Story:

1. Choose or discover your brand’s archetype.
2. Show, don’t tell. Go for visual storytelling even if it is told verbally.
3. Reveal what’s on the inside of your brand.
4. Write your past, present, and future story (i.e., founder’s story).
5. Focus on the ‘deeper why’ - of why the brand exists (higher purpose).

Some of the well-known examples of emotionally engaging storytelling are that of Harley-Davidson, Ray-Ban or Apple. These brands are not in the luxury industry and yet they leverage brand storytelling very well. Harley-Davidson is clearly based on the Rebel archetype. Ray-Ban is about the Hero. Apple is the Creator. In fact, some people confuse these brands with luxury brands mainly because these brands successfully borrow and apply luxury principles.

Chanel No:5, the iconic perfume, has many stories revolving around it. One of them is about the iconic actress Marilyn Monroe. When she was once asked what she wears to bed, she famously and unexpectedly replied with an erotically suggestive answer: “Why? Chanel No: 5, of course”. A visual and simple story with sex appeal and an archetypal heroine, creating a lasting and extremely successful legacy to this day.

Chanel no. 5

Luxury brands go even beyond ordinary storytelling practices. They take it to the next level and actually apply long-term strategic narratives and myth-making. These brands don’t just sell bags and watches. They sell legends, dreams, fairy tales, worlds … Branding experts Kuehlwein and Schaefer, who analyzed more than 100 cases across all price tiers and product categories, reached the conclusion that strong brands “use the ‘guiding power’ of myths, projecting archetypes that inspire and which many can aspire to, no matter their realities.” Brands that implement and create their own mythology create great impact and exude. Patagonia, Cirque du Soleil or Leica are some of the many examples out there. Today brands can transcend reality, and even history, by entering the mythologized dimension.

 

Use the Power of Storytelling to Your Advantage

The art of storytelling is a powerful tool that transcends industries and holds the potential to transform the perception and resonance of any brand, regardless of its status. Crafting a compelling narrative is not merely about recounting facts, but about creating a profound emotional connection with the audience. By tapping into archetypal characters and weaving a narrative that resonates on a deeper level, brands can elevate themselves in the eyes of consumers.

So what can Storytelling do for you? It can make non-luxury businesses more memorable, it can make your brand more desirable, engage customers and build stronger emotional connections - and it can show clients how they can elevate their life by becoming part of your brand.

This process empowers individuals to not only choose a product or service, but to align themselves with a brand that mirrors their values and aspirations. From Harley-Davidson's rebellious spirit to Apple's visionary creativity, the power of storytelling is evident across industries. By adopting these principles, businesses can differentiate themselves, engage their audience, and leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of their customers.

In a world where perception often trumps reality, storytelling emerges as a gateway to not just selling products, but crafting enduring legends and, ultimately, shaping the future of brands. Remember, in the realm of storytelling, the possibilities are as boundless as the human imagination.

Sources

[1] “Science of Storytelling: Why and How to Use It in Your Marketing.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Aug. 2014, www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/aug/28/science-storytelling-digital-marketing.

[2] Jerome Bruner, psychology.fas.harvard.edu/people/jerome-bruner. Accessed 27 Oct. 2023. 

[3] Booker, Christopher. The Seven Basic Plots. Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019. 

[4] Miller, Donald. Building a Storybrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen. HarperCollins, 2017. 

[5] Romagnoli, Rumble. “Story Archetypes and Their Use in Digital Marketing Strategies.” The Drum, www.thedrum.com/opinion/2019/12/03/story-archetypes-and-their-use-digital-marketing-strategies. Accessed 27 Oct. 2023. 

[6] Kuehlwein, and Schaefer. “Myth-Making – the Holy Grail of Today’s Ueber-Brands.” Ueber, 5 May 2016, ueberbrands.com/2016/05/04/myth-making-the-holy-grail-of-todays-ueber-brands/.

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