How can writers better engage their audiences with real brand narratives?

Writing for commercial brands might seem like the polar opposite of writing a piece of creative fiction, but they share an important component: each process involves making a connection with the reader.

This connection can be simple and mundane, or it can be profound and philosophical — no matter what your style is, the power of storytelling in writing is deeply essential to effectively advertising a brand.

Successful Storytelling

Consider Apple’s “1984” spot, the ad that introduced their original Macintosh personal computer. The commercial uses black-and-white imagery to depict a version of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Set in dystopian Britain, 1984 imagines a society where individuality has been sacrificed for conformity, and the day-to-day lives of its citizens go on under the ever-watchful eye of Big Brother.

Apple borrowed this famous narrative to position their brand as a force of radical change in a corporate world of dull, uncreative products. In the ad, a faceless crowd sits transfixed in front of a large screen, on which a Big Brother-like leader delivers a speech about “computer purification” and declares, “We are one people, with one whim, one resolve.”

From out of the bland-looking crowd runs a woman in a colorful tank top emblazoned with Macintosh’s famous bitten-apple logo, carrying a hammer that she hurls at the screen to shatter it in a brilliant glow of white.

A voiceover narrates the words that appear on the screen as the camera pans past the stunned faces of the audience: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

What made this ad so effective is that it communicated the ethos of a corporate brand through an engaging story. Apple wanted their personal computer to be seen as an embodiment of access and empowerment, so their ad focused on an individual combating conformity with her own brand of originality.

This attitude has continued to define the company’s image, with slogans like “Think different” courting individual and even rebellious consumers. This is a prime example of how effective storytelling can be used to solidify a brand’s identity.

So How Should You Write About Brands?

In Forbes magazine, Susan Gunelius offers a quick list of “5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success.” She describes how using just a few basics from fiction writing, along with a useful understanding of brands, marketing, and advertising, can help you create clear stories that effectively communicate any brand’s core goals and values.

Gunelius’ list suggests some writing basics like, “[tweetable alt=”All #brand #copy, just like fiction, should have a beginning, middle, and end, says @susangunelius.” hashtag=””]Include a beginning, middle, and end,[/tweetable]” and “Don’t give it all away.”

A particularly important aspect of the process is creating a storyline that is compelling, clear, and easy to follow, complete with an introduction and a summarizing conclusion. If thinking about this as a fictional story is still a challenge, remember your old analytical writing skills: each paragraph should have a clear topic sentence, a presentation of your subject matter, your own analysis, and finally, a summarizing conclusion.

Giving your brand stories a good “flow” will make it easy for readers to follow along as you create a narrative about a unique company with distinct qualities.

What Gunelius gets at, and I agree wholeheartedly with, is that you have to “[tweetable alt=”#Brand #copy should speak truthfully and create characters your audience will root for, says @susangunelius.” hashtag=””]speak truthfully…infuse personalities into stories…[and] create characters your audience will root for.[/tweetable]” This is where the work gets a bit trickier.

My advice would be to imagine yourself writing for a specific reader: how will X-reader react to this brand’s story? Will he or she connect and engage with it? Ask yourself if you’re communicating with the reader truthfully about what the brand means and, most importantly, what it could mean to the reader.

Writing for brands can seem impersonal, especially in comparison with a piece of creative fiction or poetry. But by getting to know your client as best as you can, and by creating personalities, characters, and narratives that can speak to your readers emotionally, your writing can play an important role in expanding and defining a brand’s message.

And if that all still seems a bit daunting, the journalists, editors, and SEO experts in L&T’s brand newsroom can help you engage your target audience and win the day’s news cycle — one good story at a time.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer B2C content marketing services to help your business reach the audiences that matter with smart, useful content that delivers the right message at the right time. Learn more about B2C content marketing here.

(Main image credit: Marcin Wichary/flickr)