The Storytellers: Ed Woodcock, Aesop Agency

Why storytelling is such a powerful technique in brand communication depends on your perspective. Read on for "The Specialist's" take on how best to use narrative to engage.

Ed Woodcock, Aesop Agency
Ed Woodcock, Aesop Agency

Sage advice drilled into any novice storyteller is "Show, don't tell." Don't tell readers that a character is angry. Show them red-faced, fuming and spitting expletives.

Brand storytelling is no different. Many assume it is all in the telling. This isn't wrong: good story craft is critical, but it's only the surface. Brand storytelling is all in the showing, when a brand demonstrates in what it says and does that it's playing out a deeper narrative.

Narrative is associated with books, films and plays. But when it comes to brands, think of the term as it's used in politics, as a "story" that resonates with the electorate, dictates policy and defines parties against their opposition. The narrative sticks only when politicians "walk the talk" - show us a different path and play out their story. Good brands do the same.

In a recent survey we conducted, Apple came out as the top storytelling brand. Yet most of its advertising isn't obviously story-like. Often, it's stark and product-focused. Even so, it scores highly against many story criteria, including "vision", "personality" and "brands that create their own world". And, like all good heroic brands, it knows what it stands against: ugliness, boredom and conformity. It has a nearly evangelical sense of mission that turns some consumers into zealots.

And all this without much obvious "storytelling". Because, as all consummate storytellers know, it's all in the showing.

Ed Woodcock is strategy director at Aesop Agency