Laura Petrolino

Which Brand Storytelling Persona are You?

By: Laura Petrolino | July 5, 2016 | 
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Which Brand Storytelling Personality Are You?By Laura Petrolino

Do you see the world through rose colored glasses? Or blue? Or green? Or…..

As communicators our role is to understand the “color” of the glasses our target consumers use.

Until we understand this, we can’t clearly develop an effective brand storytelling strategy or communications plan—one that produces a message that resonates with consumers directly, encourages them to pay attention to your brand and your content, and eventually compels a purchase decision.

Stories Shape Our World

These different colored lenses through which our consumers see the world around them are their frames.

For this reason, framing is a very important part of effective communications.

Our understanding of them must drive the brand storytelling strategy we create and the messaging we consistently push forward.

Frames are made up of a combination of experiences, environment, culture and beliefs, and current situations.

Not one person sees the world in the same way, but there are similarities among many different groups of consumers.

To craft an solid communications strategy, you must first understand the frame from which your target audience looks.

Several months ago, I discussed three approaches brands could take for effective brand storytelling—or in essence, to tell stories through the right frames.

Frames that motivate action among their target consumers.

We received a lot of questions after that post about the three different brand storytelling buckets I outlined:

  1. Reinforcer;
  2. Supporter; and
  3. Challenger.

Today I want to dig deeper into the first two—reinforcer and supporter.

Challenger brands are much more difficult to pull off well and will be covered in a follow-up post all to their own.

Brand Storytelling as a Reinforcer

Do you have that one friend who thinks just like you?

You all are super close because he or she just understands the way you think and you have similar perspectives on life.

They will back you up in any situation and help further reinforce the tendencies you have—both good and bad.

If this friend were a brand, he would be your reinforcer.

In brand storytelling, these brands tell stories which reinforce their audience’s world view.

This instantly develops a feeling of trust, and also helps the consumer feel closer to the brand.

This messaging strategy works well for highly niche-focused brands that very, very clearly understand their consumers needs, wants, and pain-points.

Pros of being a reinforcer brand:

  • Consumer trust
  • Stories resonate
  • Ease of community building
  • Consumer can be extremely well targeted
  • Strategy can be streamlined because most qualified leads will consume information in similar ways

Cons of being a reinforcer brand:

  • Conversion from community member to buyer is often difficult: Often consumers simply enjoy being part of your community but need to be presented with clear calls to action to convert. Reinforcer brands often make the mistake of not doing this.
  • You will alienate many consumers: Because a reinforcer brand is highly niche and targeted, you will turn away some consumers who might not be your exact target, but still could potentially be buyers.

Brand Storytelling as a Supporter

Supporter brands are your cheerleaders. They help reinforce change.

Brand storytelling for supporter brands push forward behavior change—whether that be as simple as product change or as detailed as lifestyle change. The supporter approach works well for new concepts and innovations, as well as anything which challenges and empowers consumers to improve or modify behaviors.

Pros of being a supporter brand:

  • Stories are empowering: Empowering and inspirational stories work well for these brands, and are wonderfully sticky and sharable.
  • New and shiny: Supporter brands present products or services which are new and shiny (even if they really aren’t, the messaging presents them this way). Which people like (especially those in your target audience) and naturally gravitate to.
  • The target market often defines themselves: Some people are ready for change, some aren’t. Supporter brand storytelling attracts the right people to you.

Cons of being a supporter brand:

  • Resistance to change: While the idea of change can be exciting, actually doing it can be overwhelming and human nature is resistant to change. Conversion to leads might be easy, but to sales extremely difficult. Buyers will also have a tendency to not follow through or continue. Supporter brands must have a very effective lead nurturing strategy, which continues after the sale to prevent both of these circumstances.
  • Difficulty with emotional messaging: Messaging must be challenging and persuasive, while comforting, supportive, and educational. This can often be a very fine line to walk and organizations must be very clear and consistent on brand voice and messaging with all team member and consumer touch points.

What Type of Brand Storytelling Works Best for You?

Your organization might fall clearly into one of these buckets or you might slightly overlap on some perspectives.

You wan to be clear on your goal and how the approach chosen affect your target consumer (and their perspective).

Brand storytelling is only effective when it motivates something inside the consumer that makes them want to take action of some sort.

As communicators, our goal is to figure out the approach which works best to motivate that action and encourage our consumers to join our story.

A version of this post originally appeared in Muck Rack

Image Credit: Pixabay

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • HMMM. There’s great food for thought in this one. Another area of our work where it’s easy to get stuck/comfortable taking the approach that feels best for US vs thinking about what our customers need. For me with Shot at Life advocacy (for kids worldwide to have access to immunizations), many of us advocates probably fall into “reinforcer” because we read from the same songbook. BUT it’s an issue that stirs up ALL KINDS of division. When I had to do an advocacy Toastmasters speech, I forced myself to do it as though I were a pregnant anti-vaxxer addressing a pro-vaccine group of pediatricians. It was hard but it made me realize how much the “opposite side” of any issue is doing it from a place of feeling it’s best for them (or their children with this issue).

    • Laura Petrolino

      YES! You must know your buyer personas and be religious about displacing yourself and thinking from their perspective. That can be really difficult, especially if it’s an issue you are passionate about (hence why this is REALLY difficult for most non-profits). But that’s definitely where the concept of “frames” is most useful. And, just as you do in the example above, allows you to look at the situation from your consumer’s worldview (vs. your own)

      • Laura Petrolino

        Also, Paula….look for the next segment of this on challenger brands….very much targeted on this topic

  • Corina Manea

    How about playing the reinforcer and the supporter at a time? Taking the best part of each and carefully winning over the cons?

    Crazy idea? Maybe. But with the pros and cons you outlined it’s much more easier to adopt the role that works best for your brand in a certain situation.

    • Laura Petrolino

      Oh yes, definitely. I never think of these as mutually exclusive, only a continuum.

  • Hi Laura:
    I was at an outdoor festival the other day. I prefer to stay inside, shades drawn, but I decided to give it a shot. There was a Harley-Davidson group there. I noticed that all of the bikers’ clothing was from Harley also. Wow, do they have the market on that group of bikers cornered.
    I was thinking about them as I read your post. Do you think they are reinforcers (not to be confused with the “gang’s” enforcer) or supporters…or as the ever-erudite Corina posits, a bit of both.

    I look forward to the challengers! That sounds lively!

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