Brand Storytelling: A Necessary Shift from Plot to Promise

Brand storytelling

Brand Storytelling

Jim Signorelli is the author of StoryBranding. I love the way he makes the distinction between the classic marketing idea of “unique selling proposition” and the modern meaningful branding concept, “unique value proposition”.

We often refer to plot lines as brag lines, simply because that is what they do. They express the brand’s “how so?” more than its “what about it?” Plot lines are more a manifestation of the brand’s opinion of itself. As such, they lack the believability and relevance of theme lines. And by themselves, they rarely make an emotional connection. Their transparent purpose is to sell superiority.

Consider the following plot lines:

• You’re in good hands: All State Insurance

• Like a rock: Chevy Trucks

• It’s the real thing: Coke

• Easy as Dell: Dell

• Your world delivered: AT&T

• Where the rubber meets the road: Firestone

• Ford has a better idea: Ford

• We bring good things to life: GE

UVPs (a “theme line” in StoryBranding)

In writing the UVP, the objective is to powerfully communicate a shared belief in a way that is charged with emotion. It extolls a belief, not a benefit. As such, it explains why the brand does what it does beyond the profit motive. It describes the cause that gives the brand a reason for being.

Theme lines that have been or are currently being used by prominent brands:

• Never stop exploring: The North Face

• Be all that you can be: The U.S. Army

• Screw it! Let’s ride: Harley-Davidson

• You deserve a break today: McDonald’s

• Have it your way: Burger King

• Just do it: Nike

• Yes we can!: Barack Obama

• A mind is a terrible thing to waste: United Negro College Fund

• Obey your thirst: Sprite

• A diamond is forever: DeBeers

• Image is everything: Canon

• Make yourself heard: Ericsson

I am a proponent of what I call a brand’s “Promise”. In other words, an aspiration for the brand that goes beyond merely making profits and touches upon why the brand matters and its greater purpose.

However, I do not believe such propositions need to be “ad-ready” as quick taglines. Rather, I think a Brand Promise should be able to be multi-level, and therefore beyond a sound bite. It should be memorable, but at the same time have depth. If there is a need for an advertising deadline (and I would always question that), I suggest a new line should be developed that encapsulates the spirit and intent of the Promise.

Dive deeper to understand the value of a Brand Promise.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.

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