• Transform magazine
  • December 12, 2018


Storytelling benefits brand awareness, relevance, survey says

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The run up to the holiday season is, in the UK and beyond, an opportunity for brands to tell stories. Adverts proliferate from consumer brands hoping to spark holiday cheer while driving sales. Stories can be the lifeblood of effective communications, particularly in the third or public sector.

In brand storytelling agency Aesop’s fifth annual Brand Storytelling Survey, major corporates dominate the top 10, but key appearances from Help for Heroes (2nd), the BBC (3rd) and the National Trust (4th) prove the success of storytelling for non-consumer brands.

The top 10 is rounded out by the usual suspects of Apple – taking first for the fifth consecutive year – Amazon, Facebook. Google, Dyson, BMW and Sky. But swiftly following that, at 11th is the Labour Party, in the rankings for the first time off the back of a successful general election campaign. The top 100 is filled out by charities, consumer brands and favourite apps like Snapchat, Uber and YouTube.

“It’s fascinating to watch the rise and fall of brands over the years,” Ed Woodcock, director of narrative at Aesop Agency, says. “Those that do well have either found a clear, authentic narrative and tell that story in a compelling way, or are platforms for other people’s stories, and naturally score well against storytelling criteria. Good performers are, in essence, the brands we believe in, because ‘make believe’ has the power to make people believe. Strong narratives are both memorable and emotive, and the survey rewards brands that consistently display story-like qualities.”

Marks & Spencer, which takes the supermarket chain mantle back from Lidl this year, as 20% of UK consumers say they have an emotional response to the brand. Iceland, though, which has focused on storytelling this year to elevate the brand from a cheap, but cheerful retailer to a vital part of British daily lives, has jumped 38 places to 58th this year.

In the land of digital, social brands are consistently successful. But all of the major sites, bar Snapchat, have lost steam this year. The brand has not only increased in popularity, but its ‘stories’ feature and push for ad sales may have bolstered its storytelling credibility.

But its not good news for everyone. Heritage brands have faltered in the face of competition from digital contenders and disrupters. However, the likes of Cadburys, Kellogg's and Heinz, which have all dropped over 40 places since the first survey, have decades of history on which to draw to better engage consumers with their stories. Dove, on the other hand, has improved this year, probably due to its concerted focus on diversity, female empowerment and positive body image. Jack Daniels, similarly, has made a strong push with its story-based communications that have built the personality of the brand’s founder and subsequently given Jack the alcohol brand title in the rankings, coming in at 32nd.

“Nowadays, we’re overloaded with information and it is harder to buy people’s attention,” Woodcock says. “Narrative is a pattern that cuts through the noise. It seems that a few once-mighty FMCG brands have not invested enough, or struggled to find a storyline that keeps them culturally relevant. This seems to have been the fate of Kellogg’s. What does it stand for, or against? Year on year, results suggest people have less and less of an idea of what its story is.”

The research was the result of 2,000 survey respondents judging brands against 10 best practice storytelling characteristics.

1. Apple

2. Help for Heroes

3. BBC

4. National Trust

5. Amazon

6. Facebook

7. BMW

8. Sky

9. Google

10. Dyson

11. Labour Party

12. Macmillan Cancer Support

13. Snapchat

14. Audi

15. Samsung

16. Conservatives

17. Netflix

18. Playstation

19. YouTube

20. M&S

21. Walkers

22. Microsoft

23. Xbox

24. Green & Black's

25. Instagram

26. Aldi

27. eBay

28. Nike

29. Ikea

30. British Heart Foundation

31. Virgin Media

32. Jack Daniels

33. Cancer Research UK

34. Oxfam


35. Oxfam

36. VW

37. Sony Mobile Communications

38. McDonald's

39. Coca-Cola

40. Uber

41. Adidas

42. Guinness

43. ITV

44. Tesco

45. John Lewis

46. Dove

47. Brewdog

48. Lidl

49. KFC

50. Cadbury

51. Ryanair

52. Ecover

53. Bosch

54. Nationwide

55. British Airways

56. Fairy

57. Channel 4

58. Iceland

59. Waitrose

60. Three

61. Vodafone

62. Marmite

63. Durex

64. Virgin Atlantic Airways

65. Innocent

66. Visa

67. Thomson

68. Stella Artois

69. Bupa

70. Fosters

71. BT

72. easyJet

73. Barclays

74. Boots

75. Heinz

76. Direct Line Group

77. Tetley

78. Co-operative

79. British Gas

80. Hovis

81. Asda

82. Sainsbury's

83. Halifax

84. E&J Gallo

85. Pepsi

86. Santander

87. Galaxy

88. O2

89. Weetabix

90. Dulux

91. TSB

92. Fever Tree

93. Nivea

94. Ben & Jerry's

95. Haribo

96. Airbnb

97. Burger King

98. ee

99. Kellogg's

100. Trivago