An inside look at brand storytelling
We sat down with Stuart Watson, founder of Nomad, one of the top London-based brand studios. Their impressive client list includes the likes of Nike, Premier League, Sky, The FA, Uppingham School… we could go on.
We wanted to know the secret behind the success: why and how branding agencies, like Nomad, use the essential and often misunderstood concept of storytelling to create, enhance, and ultimately make a brand culturally significant.
Before you dive in, read this resource first if you want to know what storytelling is.
Men’s Premier League
We spoke to Stu about the rebrand of the Premier League. One part of the brief was “to make football more appealing to everyone, not just the fans”, like mums, “because, without Mum, there isn’t the next generation of players”. Hence the need for the rebrand across every touchpoint of the Premier League’s influence.
But to do this, they needed a story to tell. They wanted the Premier League to be seen as a great role model. Intrinsic to the good of society, rather than conjuring up the images of angry men shouting obscenities at players.
The brand ended up looking ‘lifestyle-y, pop-y, friendly and approachable” and they took the Premier League off its pedestal and brought it right down “so that the people could interact with it everyday”. That meant making sure the brand was in supermarkets, taking it into schools and making it recogniable as a positive, exciting, fresh brand.
No Room For Racism
In order to fight racism in Premier League stadiums, Nomad created the No Room for Racism concept, with storytelling at the heart of the campaign. Stu admits there’s still a long way to go with this one and it will keep evolving.
The main drive is a call to action. To report racist behavior, and create meaningful change with absolutely “no room for racism” in the game. Simple.
Still, no one likes to be told off. So, to ensure people responded well to the campaign, they created a positive narrative about how fantastic Premier League football is. The message was that “there’s room for excitement, passion and so on. But there’s just no room for this one thing and collectively we have to fight it.”
When the narrative was set, Stu says it was easy to get the clients on board with the story, because they were on the journey with them. People in general, Stu explains, “understand the mechanism of storytelling”. It’s “a simple way for people to understand and digest complex brand strategy.” And if you crack that, you’re going to score.
The team found a simple way to transcribe this narrative onto the brand. The Premier League is known for its bold colours, so they stripped them away; making people stop and take notice. The font used had no spaces or gaps. A literal representation of ‘no room’ for racism. Clever right? Plus, they teamed up with Kick it Out, a charity where you can anonymously text in to report racism anywhere, any time.
Storytelling & Selling
Selling the story to consumers is only half the battle in this game we call branding. You also have to sell the story to the stakeholders. One of Stu’s top tips to getting work signed off is to make sure the leader is active in the creative journey.
He says to NEVER show a CEO finished work and expect them to get it. In fact, they’ll “actively disengage because they’ve not been part of the journey, it’s all too alien”. Hence why you should make the big boss part of the storytelling. Make them engage. Otherwise the client could take umbrage with a colour or style because they don’t get its relevance to the brand story.
Stu admits that is essentially what his job is. He “takes a senior client on a journey. Makes them feel like they created it and then sells the shit out of it”. Branding in its purest form.
Branding should not be a vanity project. If the brand story needs that font you hate, use it. Don’t let it be a beauty parade. You want, whatever you do, “to punch them in the face.” (Stu’s words, not ours).
There you have it! A few examples of storytelling in branding. And why, without storytelling, all you’ve got are some pretty pictures.
With a positive, hard hitting story that reaches people, you can affect change. Be part of something bigger. Build something lasting.
Find out what storytelling in design is, and how to use it to enhance your work.
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