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Telling stories. It’s not just for the Cowbirds.

Posted by: Paola Norambuena on October 16, 2012

I’m sure you’ve noticed the myriad of recent books, articles and advisors all suddenly extolling the virtues of storytelling – especially when it comes to branding.

But brands telling stories is not a trend. It’s not something we’ve stumbled on in the last few years. Put aside the fact that stories are as old as human existence itself, and that branding, as a practice, is a neophyte in comparison. It’s simply that brands are human, and humans live and tell stories, and always have. The difference is good stories versus bad ones.

The recent Interbrand 2012 Best Global Brands put a human spin on a valuation list, in Jez Frampton’s The Future Is Human:

“Today's best brands are in touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others. After all, brands evoke emotion. They are personal. They fulfill and delight us. They are reliable, familiar, exciting, surprising, and ever in the backdrop of our lives. They are woven into our memories, fantasies, and dreams. They have the power to touch and change us precisely because they are human creations, invented in response to both our deepest and most practical needs and desires.”

That’s how stories were created, as a response to our deepest needs and desires. It’s why we craft them, pass them on, evolve them, read and reread them, even create clubs around them. And it’s not just for writers; stories are democratic.

Just take a look at Cowbird, a phenomenal sharing platform for any and all storytellers. Its mission is to build a public library of human experience (not another social network), a place for meaningful stories that stand on their own and will resonate for time to come. Cowbird founder Jonathan Harris’ video speaks of humanizing the web. The number of members it’s gained, the number of stories that have been loved, clearly shows that how we access and share is changing – but it’s not changing our deep, deep need for storytelling.

Jonathan Harris: Cowbird And Humanizing The Web from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.

What’s changed is how and where we tell them. Brands no longer speak from a platform, now customers decide where they want to hear from us, and for how long. In the din of the market, our stories need to stand out. They only do that when they are authentic, relevant, wrapped into the experience – and written very, very well.

Then, you take that beautiful story, and turn it into action. A recent TED session by Tim Leberecht lays out three rules that brands can use to change how consumers feel about them and, in turn, what consumers say about them. Few are just about words.

Paola Norambuena is Executive Director of Verbal Identity, North America, and cannot live without stories.

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