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The nuances of brand narration

Nov 08, 2019
Increasingly, marketing isn’t just about what you sell, but the stories you tell. 55% percent of consumers are willing to make a purchase if they love a brand’s story (Headstream) – so the challenge comes in helping them to fall in love. This relies on the strategy of not just how it’s told, but who tells it, which is all down to the narrator. Their storytelling style and the qualities of their voice both have a real impact on the consumer – and it’s vital to make the right narrative choice for your audience.

Narrators are typically most associated with literature, when omnipresent figures guide us through the story. While this isn’t the way brands usually deploy their narration, many do borrow literary techniques to great effect – poetry in particular. Back in 2016, renowned agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty created a recruitment video that featured an original piece by poet Harry Baker, which powerfully conveyed how they were looking for ‘black sheep’ to join the team. And this January, Ford collaborated with spoken word artist Prince Ea on ‘Explore Our America’. The star takes centre stage reading his own piece compelling viewers to use their vacation days, get out there and make memories with their families. The end result was a powerful ad that perfectly reflected the values of their Explorer vehicle, and gave audiences an inspiring narrative to connect with.

These two adverts don’t just show how literary techniques can be applied to advertising – they also illustrate how important the voice is in delivering a story in the right way. Both have the writer in question deliver their own piece, guaranteeing a performance that’s heartfelt, believable and where every syllable is instilled with the nuance and meaning intended. Without the right human voice behind these words, the poem would lose much of its power – which is why the narrator themselves is such an important consideration in the conveyance of a brand story.

It certainly was for Apple, who created their most recent Apple Watch ad with two difference voice artists to ensure they spoke to varying audiences. In the US, Michael Cera’s Canadian stylings tells viewers of the series 5’s amazing potential – while in the UK, Andrew Scott’s subtle Irish rasp takes centre stage. Both deliver equally inspiring performances, and would’ve been understood in both countries. Yet the brains behind this campaign opted for multiple versions to ensure maximum appeal in each unique market. And while Apple made their vocal choice based on the audience, tech rival Google selected the speaker because of the product. There was only one voice who could showcase the night sight astrophotography feature on the Pixel 4 – that of the late, great Stephen Hawking. His unrivalled expertise added real gravitas to the ad, and helped his incredible legacy live on.

In all the ads we’ve explored, the visuals play arguably a supporting role – it’s the sound that really sells the story. And in the same way, every business can use audio branding to harness the twin powers of narration and narrative – whereby compelling copy crafted to be heard, combines with a speaker whose vocal qualities capture and project the unique personality of a company (bright, youthful and energizing, or mature, trustworthy and authentic?). Add an exclusively composed music track into this mix, and the narrative becomes all the stronger – injecting the much-needed emotion to help listeners really fall in love with the brand.

There’s no more strategic method of storytelling than that which communicates on three distinct levels – which is why audio makes the best narrator of all.