Bedtime Stories and Brands – What insights can we get from content?

The easiest way to understand what a brand is to picture the brand as person – how she talks, reacts, has an attitude, has different emotions. It’s a form of an identity. For example, what picture do you get in your mind when you think of Coca Cola? For me, its bubbly, excited, sporty, an upbeat friend, who is always up for something fun and interesting, and into celebrations. How does this personality form? Obviously, there is the logo, the setting/backdrop/context of the promotional materials, the theme song and the jingle, and the person working as the brand ambassador. But on top of all these, it’s the story that drives this identity. The story of a promotion is like having a conversation with the brand, and we human beings in the form the strongest impression of a personality through the interaction we have had with a person, regardless of appearance. This establishes the importance of having a good story. But have you ever wondered that this story telling is not a one-way process, but is indeed something that gives us a lot of insight about our customers?

Imagine telling a bedtime story to your kid. Its one of the most common and yet interesting feedback look there is in our daily lives. You are telling a horror story, you can see his eyes get wider, holding a pillow tight, at any moment the Boogey Man is going to jump out of that closet! The story behind a promotion campaign is not distinctly different than this example. Just instead of the child in bed, we have the customer, listening to our story wide-eyed, in front of a laptop screen, in cellphones and tablets, and in front of TV screens (frankly the latter group is on the road to extinction now). But how can we know how wide their eyes were when they were listening to our stories? At this age of internet, we can get a lot of information. Very easily, we can know the location of the customer (through the IP address of the view session), whether it’s a cell phone, tablet or laptop, whether they are listening to our story in YouTube or Facebook, from which web addresses did they come from to view to listen to our story, how much of it did they watch, what reactions did the give (Like/Dislike, or for Facebook – the six emotions), how many people did they tag, did they share with, and what are their comments. But these are obvious sources of insight. Often, we tend ignore one very interesting source of insight. See, the bedtime story teller often quickly adjusts his stories while saying it, based on the how wide the child’s eyes are. The exam same is the case of content of the stories that we are trying to tell for brand. The viewing data that comes is just half of the what get. The other half of the information comes from our content. But how much can we just get from text? The answer is – a hell lot! Based on the wording of the story, we can identify frequent terms and frequent term pairs, words and word pairs that appear often in our story telling. These can be connected to the reaction from the audience we are getting to identify customer reaction patters. Similarly, the content can be analyzed to identify the flow of emotions and sentiments across the whole story, and this can be paired with how long customers are listening to our stories. Even more, the content can be divided into combination of topics with which the content was designed. And then these combinations can be varied, and audiences’ reactions could be observed, giving us a very clear idea of what content widens the eye of our bedtime story listener.

Story telling is an ancient art, and trivial as it sounds like, it is one of the key arts that make our lives as it is. Just imagine how your life would be, if there were no stories to tell or hear! And stories establish the personality of the brand identity. And after this small blog post, I hope you will agree with me that stories can tell us a lot about our target markets.

The writer is a current PhD in Strategy student in National University of Singapore. He is also a community manager for Google Business Group, analytics adviser for Intelligent Machines and a trainer in strategy and analytics.