Part of the power of brand narratives is that they tell a story over time. Rather than be a usual snapshot in time, the story of a brand will build. It informs our knowledge and perception of the brand and its values. Importantly, it appreciates the capacity for change – for better or worse. The episodic nature of the narrative presents the brand to us as a living organism, the time dimension clarifying and defining the actions. To at any major brand today, without appreciating the story, gives a very one-dimensional picture. All brands are social constructs, and as such are culturally and historically situated – the key word being ‘historically’.
Consider the most recent narrative of Facebook. This was sufficiently interesting a story to warrant a prominent movie. But even the film itself was just an episode in a narrative that is still unfolding. Try to remember how you first viewed the brand when it was just a new and fascinating social media tool to make use of. Then how did you perceptions change as the story of Zuckerberg et al. unfolded, followed by the legal wrangles and high-profile disagreements? We then learned more about how the business operated and its ambitions. As the story now moves towards the IPO, I’m sure that new revelations are modifying your brand perceptions – and will further.
The story of Facebook is still in its early chapters and the undoubted twists and turns of the plot will paint a very rich scenario over coming years, and I’m sure our brand perceptions will move with it. Looking at some of the longer running narratives in the same sector we can see how the stories develop along with our brand views. Take the story of Microsoft for example – the story of a brand that moved from hero to villain and then commenced on a path of redemption. Apple, began too as a hero who turned victim, lost its way only to be found again. Rebuilt into a powerful empire with a loyal following, but also generating resentment. Our perception of both these brands has changed over the years, with the passing chapters. But, as always the narratives are not complete,but just the stories so far.
Brand personalities are tied up in these stories, just as the personality of the hero or heroine of a novel unfolds as we watch their behaviour and motivation develop throughout the book. For brand owners however, the narrative is not a fait accompli; they are complicit in their own story. If they are aware of the narrative they can influence events, unlike the characters in a book.
I must confess that I sometimes wonder if the management of Facebook ever take time out to listen to its own story.