Brand Publishing Is the New Content Marketing
Story-driven brands are now moving beyond mere content marketing and becoming publishers in their own right.
Whether you ate up every season of Game of Thrones or endured eight years of friends and co-workers talking about it, there’s no denying that it captured the attention of millions. As the final episode wrapped up the other night, fans were mixed on the storytelling choices during this last season —but they watched it.
At a seminal moment (don’t worry, no spoilers here), one of the main characters revealed why. In a soliloquy reminiscent of Shakespeare he said, “There's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it.”
Brands should take this lesson to heart. It wasn’t the fact that GOT’s authors salted a fantasy with dragons, kings and queens, and battles and blood that kept Game of Thrones fans rapt. That’s SOP for the genre. It was the virtuoso storytelling.
Journalists have known the value of stories since their forebears, minstrels, plied byways of medieval towns.
The historian Yuval Noah Harari argues in his bestselling book, Sapiens, that storytelling is the foundation of humankind’s success: “Any large-scale human cooperation is rooted in common myths that exist only in collective imagination.” Laws, religions, nations, money, corporations only exist because people believe the stories about them.
“If a judge were to mandate the dissolution of the company, its factories would remain standing and its [employees] would continue to live,” but the company itself “would immediately vanish,” Harari notes.
Today’s digitally savvy marketers are starting to understand Harari’s critically important thesis. They’re leveraging the revolution that’s made online media creation affordable, efficient, and available to anyone by becoming publishers themselves.
Is Red Bull an energy drink or a media company? Looking at their homepage, it’s clear they’re showcasing stories not soft drinks. As of this writing, an aerobatic helicopter flight over the Statue of Liberty is front and center. (Compare them to Coca Cola.)
Yeti, a company that makes high-end coolers for outdoor adventurers, has invested heavily in storytelling. Their site navigation includes sections for “Stories” and “Podcasts” which feature profiles of the type of rugged and rural enthusiasts they are courting. A stunning video called Bottom Feeders could be NatGeo with a country twang. It tells a tale of “noodlers” who use their hands to catch enormous catfish. (Who knew?)
Storytelling like Bottom Feeders has bottom-line significance. Yeti recently reported that its direct-to-consumer (DTC) channel was the main reason the company’s margins improved in the first quarter of 2019. DTC revenue alone jumped 28%. In fact, their DTC channel is expected to drive net sales growth for the entire year. (They apparently are so confident that their stories are speaking to exactly the audience they want that they’re willing to poke fun at a different one: urban hipsters. See their merciless April Fool’s Day spoof about a fictitious backcountry scooter under development.)
Companies which invest in stories may find that it even can act as a firewall against the competition. As Tyrion Lannister wisely observed before an audience of millions on that final GOT night, a story is more resilient than an army, gold or flag, because it is resides in peoples’ minds. “No enemy can defeat it.”