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Brand “Story” vs. “Narrative”: Why the Difference Matters

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In today’s hyper-connected world, brands are no longer rooted in feature-based USP’s or Positioning Statements.  It’s all about how a brand connects with consumers in a meaningful and motivational way by way of their story.

A lot of folks look at the words “story” and “narrative” as synonymous, but they are most decidedly not.  Both have their uses, but it is important to understand the difference.  The story is simply the sequence of events, with a beginning, middle and end.  A narrative tells those events in a way that creates a dramatic effect and response.  Further, great narratives are usually open ended and invite the reader to become engaged, participate, and personalize an idea.

So let’s look at an example of how I turned my story into a narrative.

Here is my story:  I spent the first decade of my career in PR and advertising.  I began to acquire an interest in wines and took a couple of courses at the local university.  My job included a fair amount of travel, and I discovered another passion – to learn about other places, cultures and people.   During the most recent years of my career I have been in marketing spirits and wines, with an emphasis on helping brands enter and succeed in the US market.  With my consulting company, Bevology Inc., I am able to combine my passions for wine and travel with my expertise and experiences in marketing and act as a guide to help wine and spirit producers who want to break into the US market.

Here is my narrative:  My wife and I were vacationing in Italy and went to a small restaurant recommended by the clerk in a wine store.  The décor was faded pictures tacked on the walls, mismatched chairs and cheap flat forks, but the food smelled great.  We were seated right next to two older Italian gentlemen.  I, of course, used my best Spanish (yes, Spanish…it’s closer to Italian and it was either that or just speak English louder) to order a nice bottle of red.  The wine was fantastic; after all, we were in Italy, on the vacation of our dreams, how could it be anything else?   The two gentlemen were clearly not impressed by us or our wine selection.  We were Americans intruding in their neighborhood restaurant, spoke lousy Spanish in Italy, and couldn’t even order a decent bottle of wine.

They insisted we try theirs, which they had brought with them in a brown paper bag.  Wow, turned out our wine was not so great after all.  By the end of dinner we had learned that they were old friends who dine together every Thursday evening and have done so for decades.  They left a few coins for the waiter, and the bottle of wine for us.  That was 12 years ago, and I think of that dinner, those two old men, and their fabulous red wine every time I embark on a new journey with a new winery hoping to make it in America.

So marketers, your challenge is to figure out how to articulate a brand’s narrative in a way that’s so meaningful and motivational that it makes people, smile, laugh and maybe even cry.

Be Successful in America

Bevology is a marketing agency with decades of experience helping new-to-the-world and new-to-the-U.S. wine and spirit brands enter and grow in the U.S. market.
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