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Stories in a cluttered world


For the past number of years, the marketing community has been obsessed with storytelling - conferences, campaigns and even agency models themselves pivoting to focus on how brands tell great stories.

Unfortunately, in Ireland, very few brand stories are making people excited.


Brand Stories are more than just campaigns

Across these 3 years, 30 brand stories were tested including the rebranding of Eircom to Eir, the Ryanair cancellation crisis, AIB’s The Toughest and Vodafone becoming the sponsor of Irish rugby.

The best brands are built on great stories.
— Ian Rowden, Chief Marketing Officer of Virgin Group

The awareness of stories about brands was lower than any other news category. In a way, this can be explained because not all brands target and reach all adults. However what is more concerning is how those who are aware of these brand stories find them irrelevant. Brand stories are only more relevant than pop culture stories, but less important than any other category including sports, Irish politics, and the environment.

This may make sense – why should people care about stories from brands? Brands are just identities of companies, but to drive distinction, often in cluttered markets, brands need to be more than logo, they need to resonate with people.

The successful companies and brands worldwide are standing for something. These brands are connecting with customers on a level which truly understands their needs. They empathies, nurture or delight people.


In our cluttered news feeds, people are attributing the least importance to stories about brands - even when brands are investing to reach them. Companies have a problem. While many stories are reaching their audience (high awareness score), the messaging is not landing or connecting with people.

People will not recall or relate to brands when there are more important stories grabbing their attention.


Stories ( Awareness x Importance )

This visual outlines some of stories related to brands analysed in the past three years.

Those stories higher up had a greater awareness amongst all adults,
while those further right were viewed as being more important in their world.


Bad News will Get Attention

It is important to state that there are stories which do resonate with people. The brand stories which people did engage tend to be negative! As news editors broadcast bad news, more people are made aware of the story and score it high importance, even when the story doesn't explictly affect them.

While positive brand stories such as Nokia bringing back their 3310 or McGregor appearing in a Budweiser campaign get limited attention, it is negative brand stories which do have high awareness. Most recently, Ryanair’s flight cancellations created the highest brand score, with 94% of adults aware of this story. Other brands since 2015 which got our attention included Volkswagen’s emission issues, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone explosions, and another airline, United dragging a customer off the plane.

Time for positive, meaningful brand stories

There is a great opportunity for a brand in Ireland to create a positive story which resonates with people. This needs to be something bigger than the launch of a new product, a sponsorship or a CSR programme to truly get cut through.

However, if all else fails, understanding the other four themes will inform customer insight.