Beyond Brand: Is Narrative the New-New Thing?

Businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations have long used storytelling to connect with their audiences. But now, with the rate of change and complexity accelerating so rapidly in our society, stories are no longer enough.

That’s the contention of Ann Badillo, Tim Donovan, and Tobin Trevarthen, Silicon Valley thought leaders who believe that — in order to be heard and to authentically connect to their audiences — organizations need to understand and embrace narrative.

In their new book, Narrative Generation: Why narrative will become your most valuable asset in the next 5 years, the three authors describe narrative as a framework that “organizes stories, adds order, provides context, helps to inform our belief systems, and motivates us to respond.” And they declare that, far more than brand, narrative can help organizations “cut through the noise and reach the people they most want to align with, influence, and activate.”

The book explores the modern narratives of companies ranging from Red Bull to Patagonia to Fox News as well as people like Oprah Winfrey, phenomena like climate change, and movements like Black Lives Matter. And in a recent webinar hosted by Crawford Group, Ann Badillo discussed the significance of narrative to a company’s prospects.

“If you look at what’s going on with Uber, it’s not that great these days,” she said. “They were once the high-flying boys, and now it’s a collection of stories about misogyny, about unfair practices toward their drivers, about a video of their CEO telling off his driver.” She said these events have created a mosaic or an ecology of stories surrounding the Uber brand that have influenced people’s views and buying practices.

“Narrative acts like a compass to guide people’s purchases and decisions about the organizations they want to align with,” Badillo said. So even though narrative can’t necessarily be controlled, the organizations that learn to shape their narratives by being authentic and “walking their talk” will be best able to connect with their audiences and create lasting relationships.

To learn more about how narrative is supplanting brand, visit the Narrative Generation website. Looking for content strategists to help build and shape your organization’s narrative? Contact Crawford Group today.

Brand, Communications, Content Marketing

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