Your Audience is Part of the Story: A Chat About Branding with riCardo Crespo



Storytelling and Branding with riCardo Crespo

“ It is our job as professionals in our craft to convert interest into an engaging experience. ” – riCardo Crespo

In our second edition of the "FUSE Calls" podcast seriesInforma Creative Director Dan Madinabeitia sat down with riCardo Crespo, Chief Creative Officer and Brand Design Lead with Th13teen and Jackknife Design, to talk about how storytelling is key to branding and why brands needs to include the audience as participants in their storytelling.

Dan: "When we invited you to speak with us today, I was intrigued by the notion you spoke of how storytelling related to being a key aspect in the branding paradigm. You expanded to share about how attributes of storytelling were great metaphors to inform best practices in design strategy and development. Can you elaborate on this idea?"

riCardo: "At the end of the day as human beings, everything that we do or everything that is premised about communication is about telling it through story. The five attributes of storytelling are: “Promise”, “Narrative”, “Moments”, “Resonating” and “Benefit”.

We make a promise in the brand as we communicate. We project its value proposition. That’s a promise to us.

Every story is founded – and the cadence of it – is founded on the narrative. What is the narrative of the story? What’s the opening shot in a movie? What’s the high point? When we went through school and we went through English, what’s the key moment? When does the hero become the villain? When does the villain become the hero? That pivotal point. Everything is founded on a narrative.

When you are going through (a) story, someone’s ability through the storytelling facet to create those moments that are memorable, to create those moments that you feel that you are part of it, that you jumped into that scene with them or that you were there “with them” quote/unquote. Those are great. We then take that and transfer that over to the branding practice where moments and experiences are those unique instances that are distinctive in how you are creating that promise or how you are delivering against that promise.

When we create think points, those moments where we go: “Wow, this really resonates with me as a brand story; an attribute.” Something about it connects with you.

When they are not connecting to your brand, all they are doing is passive. What they are doing is what I call “seagull activity”. They come into your brand and they fly out. But when you really connect with them, they come into your brand and then understand: 'What’s next for me? I love this. This was a great experience because I understood their story, they delivered on their promise and, Oh my God, these moments. I get it'. So, good strategic marketers, good strategic brand strategists and designers understand how promise, narrative, moments and resonating really culminate to a benefit that is unique to why I’m going to care about (your brand), why I want to be interested in your brand and, more importantly, why I want to stay interested in your brand."

Dan: "If you ask ‘who’ or ‘what’, you may be looking more for facts. But asking ‘why’ is different. That always struck me when I first met you. I don’t want to know who you are, I want to know why you are. So, asking why for both explanation of purpose and/or meaning. Does having a purpose necessitate the need for a story?

riCardo: "Absolutely because at the end of the day, a purpose is what informs why that story is going to be unique. An effective brand marketer, an effective brand lead inside the house or somebody advising on that brand understands through and through – unwavering understanding and application – that when there is a purpose to it, that is what informs why somebody will appeal and attract to your brand. It is then our jobs as professionals in our craft to convert that interest into an engaging experience. We are promising that and purpose is directly related to that. When you ask me specifically the difference between ‘why’ and then asking ‘who’ and ‘what’, when I’m communicating to you as somebody who owns and manages a brand or advising on a brand’s success, when I’m merely looking at it and communicating from this aspect of ‘who’ and ‘what’, I’m essentially looking at a research deck to the left of me that said: “This is who the audience is, this is how much they make, this is where they live.” Those are attributes called: “data points of research”. Those are just insights of who that person is. .. But if I approach that with the ‘why’ vs. just ‘who’ and ‘what’, why understands and informs me. It helps me to understand that I’m talking to you as a target, a partner, a consumer; as somebody who I want to come into my brand because I understand – again, that key word of ‘why’ – why it resonates with you because I understand what drives you. Why is this purposeful for you because it’s purposeful for us. And when you do it ‘who’ and ‘what’, it becomes purely --- it’s sort of formulaic, Dan, if I could. Understanding why – it’s unique."

Dan: "Today we have a say in our brands much more than we did decades ago when we were advertised to or marketed to. So, in your view, how do you think technology has changed the way we tell stories?"

riCardo: "Very dynamically, honestly. Very dynamically in the sense that it’s constantly changing, right? I think you know that, Dan, and I agree wholeheartedly. Back in the “day” – when I created TV spots, when I created a campaign – I was exactly what you alluded to. I was talking to somebody. I wasn’t communicating with somebody. It was me creating – hopefully – a very cool, compelling TV spot in 30 or 60 seconds to tell you about this amazing new car or this amazing new beverage. But the conversion of that back in the day was that I would create it, I would buy the media and I would blast that media and I would measure impressions and then hopefully the proof point was that I converted that to sales down the line. But there was a continuum that you couldn’t measure until it was down the line. Today, it’s very dynamic because technology – whether it’s through social or on-demand – the technology is enabling us and empowering us to choose to be part of the story…This dynamic aspect directly implies that your audience, your target, your intended participant is always part of your story. If you are not listening to them, if you are not including them and you are merely just broadcasting to them like the old ways. In social technology, it’s not like we’re inviting them. It’s pervasive. They are part of it whether we like it or not. The perfect example of that is how technology and social can make or break in how directly the community is involved with the health of your brand. For example, Angie’s List. The entire premise of that platform is real users endorsing or commenting on a vendor or supplier or a contractor to say: 'I trust this guy'. Back in the day, you’d create a commercial and hope for the best. ”

To listen to the full podcast, click here

To download the interview transcript, click here

FUSE Calls is a series of interviews where the FUSE team literally picks up the phone and calls disruptive design and brand strategy leaders across the globe - some of whom spoke at our FUSE 2016 Conference in Miami. Dan Madinabeitia will also be dialing in to speak with the very esteemed members of our FUSE community. Our goal is to share insight, promote design-thinking and hopefully inspire anyone interested in branding and design as it relates to strategic vision. 

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