Dear Brands, The Story is No Longer Yours to Tell

When brands stop telling stories, a world of opportunity unfolds.

by Staff Written

October 21, 2014 at 10:29 am

At the heart of any brand is an incredible story. Whether it’s McDonald’s “All-Americana” roots or Coca-Cola’s bringing together of friends, the concept of storytelling is the heart of marketing. From stories told about an unexpected friendship bubbling out of a shared love of a carbonated beverage, to the finding of French love using a specific search engine, brands have perfected the art of storytelling. That is… until the mass adoption of social media occurred.

A paradigm shift is happening and brands like Under Armour, Burberry, Denny’s and even Charmin are taking notice.

Where brands, agencies and marketing departments once retained precise control over the brand experience through carefully selected imagery and perfectly crafted messaging, has now been replaced not only by the ability for the consumer to be an active part of the brand experience, but a passionate desire to do so.

Social media, which allows anyone with an Internet connection to become the master of his or her own universe, means consumers are no longer willing to wait patiently for brands to tell them a snippet of carefully planned, well-crafted and seemingly important piece of information. Instead, they have the control and they’re making their demands pretty clear.

What are brands doing to meet the ever-increasing demands of changing consumer landscape? As the wise economist W. Edwards Deming once said, “change is not necessary. Survival is optional.” Brands are adapting, because they have no choice if they want to be around for much longer.

Let’s take a look at some of the brands that truly embrace this revolution and the results (which are astonishing) of this sea change: 

Burberry’s MyBurberry Fragrance

This fall, Burberry launched what many are saying is a game-changer for brands. MyBurberry fragrance customers can have their initials inscribed on the fragrance bottle, giving the product a personalized touch. While the customization forges a personalized connection, MyBurberry takes it one – err, many – steps forward and does something truly unique.


Say you’re thinking about purchasing the MyBurberry fragrance. Using your smartphone, you can actually access outdoor digital billboards in New York and London, which will project a preview of a bottle with your monogrammed initials. Burberry marries the interactive advertising elements with live mapping that directs you to the nearest store to purchase.

This campaign allows brand enthusiasts to be in the driver’s seat and directly interact with billboards in a way that has never been done before. Additionally, Burberry’s approach pays close attention to the path from discovery to purchase, using multiple touch points to reinforce excitement around the product. Something only a brand that truly understands its market, product and consumer can accomplish.

Charmin’s #TweetsFromTheSeat Campaign

Charmin, yes the toilet paper company, is arguably one of the most active brands on social media today. Using a playful – and certainly, a bit edgy – brand voice and the hashtag, #TweetsFromTheSeat, Charmin shares and curates Twitter content that not only promotes the brand, but also speaks to it’s larger “Enjoy the Go” campaign messaging. While some are sure to be offended by the content attached to #TweetsFromTheSeat, most get a laugh out of the good ol’ fashioned toilet humor.


Where social media might have been a tough sell for a toilet paper company, Charmin has embraced the opportunities and adopted an unapologetic style, pooh-poohing anything safe. And the approach has paid off big time, earning the @Charmin handle more than 53,000 followers. But, the real win is that the efforts are converting people, who probably never thought twice about their toilet paper preference, into brand loyalists who actively participate alongside these relatable, light-hearted, potty mouthed antics.

Denny’s Social Media Strategy

One brand hitting a grand slam for its audience engagement is Denny’s. Rather than addressing its fans with the predictable diner script, Denny’s speaks to current events and trending pop culture topics with clever puns and humorous reactions— but they do it for a reason. In an interview with Adweek, Denny’s VP of Marketing, John Dillon, said this strategy was created to provide its guests with whatever they want, whether it’s breakfast at 10 p.m. or humorous content to share across social media platforms.

Denny's Social Media

Providing a scramble of witty comedy, parody song lyrics and consumer-provided photos, the restaurant chain engages with a voice that relates to its consumers. Fans have reacted positively, serving up a winning communication strategy for the chain. According to Adweek, engagement across all social media platforms has increased 200 percent with its fan base growing to 800,000 on Facebook, 110,000 on Twitter and 1,100 on Instagram.

While the executions differ drastically, they all share one, common theme: a platform by which the audience can build upon. Brands loosening the reigns, and fully embracing the potential that lies within this approach, are reaping all the benefits of an engaged, excited community just itching for the chance to shape the brand story.

In marketing terms: this is gold. This is where new frontiers are being forged and brands are connecting with the consumer like never before. It’s time we rethink what it means to tell a brand story and instead, let our customers do the talking. We just have to listen.

If your favorite brand gave you the power to tell its story, how would you tell it?

October 21, 2014 at 10:29 am

Staff Written