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STORYTELLING:
Power your brand

Power your Travel and Tourism brand communications with emotional stories

By Ron Caughlin, SVP Digital & Brand Strategy
RadonicRodgers Strategy+

Edited and updated by Ross Rodgers, Managing Innovator,
RadonicRodgers Strategy+

Have you noticed how some people have the gift of the gab and tell a great story with ease?
Tired of listening to presentations that are full of charts, graphs and data that put you to sleep?

IT IS EASY for Travel and Tourism marketers to do what is comfortable and report the facts, figures and findings without truly getting the message across with emotional appeal. Nobody likes to hear Tourism “data garble” – it bores us to death and leaves us asking “so what?”

Unfortunately, this has become the norm for business professionals in Travel communications today and generally there is a lack of understanding on how to develop critical insights from the data that connects with the Travel & Tourism marketplace. This includes the ever important “so what’s?” that are gleaned from the information in a form that resonates.

Getting your point across is not only a quantitative exercise; it is more effective when the data is expressed as qualitative emotional insights using old-fashioned intuition that piques the attention of your audience. Creating emotional connections with an audience is the key to getting real engagement, through the relational technique of storytelling.

Storytelling is inherent in our DNA and fundamental to our lives, and to our ancestor’s lives. Generations gone-by told stories at family gatherings to spread family traditions and engage them in ways that passed on important lessons that were part the cultural aspect of the family. In addition the emotional appeal of the narrative created a captive audience with all eyes glued on the narrator or the brand communication.

Storytelling is easy for some and challenging for others. What is it that makes it so easy for those ‘master’ storytellers?  It is the ability to tap into the left of the brain and creatively come up with an engaging story that connects at an emotional level and tugs at the heartstrings.

Marc Gobé in the introduction of his book, Emotional Branding, enumerates the Top Ten commandments to move our thinking into the new paradigm of emotional branding and storytelling:

    1.
    From consumers to people
    2.
    From product to experience
    3.
    From honesty to trust
    4.
    From notoriety to aspiration
    5.
    From quality to preference
    6.
    From identity to personality
    7.
    From function to feel
    8.
    From ubiquity to presence
    9.
    From communication to dialogue
    10.
    From service to relationship

When it comes to a brand strategy, storytelling bridges the gap between the abstract brand values with the mainstream emotional perceptions of any particular audience for your brand communication.

The Danish communications firm SIGMA, authored the Foreward for the book Storytelling – Branding in Practice (written by Klaus Fog, Christian Budtz, Philip Munch and Stephen Blanchette) and in that, the firm states, “The stories that come out of storytelling are elements within the culture that create the support and enthusiasm to implement the strategy.”

In the same book, the authors state “When using storytelling as a tool, you can dig out the authentic stories that are buried deep within every company…” It is important to mine the depths of your culture and your hidden gems of story already present in your Travel and Tourism organization.

In essence, the unknown abstract truth, is made known in a way that are culturally-relevant with emotionally-connected tangibles for the audience. As suggested in that text, this is just as true both internally and externally for any organization’s aligned brand strategy.

There are many gifted storytellers. At TED Talk they have categorized the best including Joe Sabia who adds a twist by mastering storytelling using technology and the Ipad. TED Talk has even created a theme called the “Master Storyteller” with a grouping of all the best storytellers. Professor Brian Sturm presents storytelling as a way of organizing information, conveying emotions, and building community.

How do you extend this notion of storytelling to a Travel and Tourism brand?

A brand story can help explain the essence of a brand and how it should be expressed and activated. Brand storytelling also connects people at the deepest level to what is important to the organization and how it can be portrayed, delivered and communicated. The four basic elements of any story also apply to how to create an engaging story for a brand which includes:

1)  Message,
2)  Conflict,
3)  Plot,
4)  Character.

Every story needs to have a core underlying message, a conflict to create tension which creates interest and, of course, we need an engaging plot and interesting characters to get caught up and connected with the story. However, the most important part is the “Big Idea” or message that extends and drives the story.

Structure is also important to a good story. Christopher Brooker identified seven (7) different plot types that can be used and associated for developing an emotional brand story in his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. These plot types are as follows:

• Overcoming the Monster
• The Quest
• Voyage and Return
• Rebirth
• Rags to Riches
• Tragedy
• Comedy

Applying any one of these plot types will help you frame and position the brand story. These plot types make it easier to come up with the story line and ultimately they are tried and true plots that writers and storytellers alike have used for centuries.

Next time, when pressed to develop a communication initiative, give the emotional utility of storytelling a try and watch how your audience wakes up in a powerfully effective way to your underlying brand message.