The Power of Storytelling: Building Customer Trust, Reaching Brand Goals

The power of storytelling stock photo

By Francois-Xavier Reodo, CMO for North America, Capgemini Invent

Today CMOs are the C-suite’s true growth partner. More than half of CMOs now have direct responsibility over business strategy, and more than a quarter are directly responsible for business growth, data and technology, and customer experience (CX). Filling those roles requires marketing departments to build up new suits of capabilities, including data and analytics. It also requires a rethinking of the customer journey and product lifecycle as deeply intertwined rather than separate but sometimes intersecting processes.

Successful CMOs have met these new expectations through the power of brand storytelling. As data enables closer, real-time connections between brands and their audiences, it’s critical to get the brand messaging just right to connect authentically with customers in the short term and to reach the brand’s longer-term goals.

CMOs need to play across four pillars to tell a consistent, authentic brand story and drive sustainable growth.

Strategic advising for brand story development

The business strategy shapes the story the brand will share with audiences. The CMO’s role is to promote the campaigns, narrative elements, and thought-leadership messaging that will transform perception, convince customers, and build trust over two (sometimes conflicting) time horizons. In the short term, the CMO must stimulate demand and brand awareness within budget and target market parameters. In the long term, the CMO must position the brand to stand the test of time.

Brand storytelling is analogous to a well-written novel where plotting drives the action that keeps the reader turning the page. Brands often focus on core “bread and butter” storytelling, particularly during challenging economic times, to maintain their customer base, while leaving the long-term story for later. In a digital age, as organizations upgrade their business model to adapt to new constraints and look for opportunities to lead their sector disruptions, it is time for CMOs to dynamically transform and renew the way the brands they lead express themselves, to evolve audience perception and experiences of those brands.

As they focus on transforming the way people think and how they feel about brands to allow the adoption of new business models, CMOs must ruthlessly reprioritize on a few elements that connect with the most important customer personas and set the stage for a long-term narrative.

Innovating product and service development

Product innovation is the second pillar. A story is only as good as the emotion it creates for its audience. Building products and experiences that touch hearts and move markets requires a deep understanding of how that product or service builds into the narratives of the end users.

63% of CMOs are now “directly responsible for defining and conceptualizing new products and services,” and 59% are responsible for product and service building and launch. Products and services – how they are designed, produced, used, and disposed of – are ultimately the most important part of any brand messaging. With increasing concerns over companies triple bottom lines, the customers are expecting brands to adhere to this full picture. Accordingly, the CMO is tasked with spotlighting the customer’s voice by inviting them to participate in the design and conception phases of the products and services lifecycle.

For example, in 2016 a popular outdoor apparel brand started inviting customers to co-design new styles of its iconic boots and now encourages customers to design its products in the metaverse with a maker space in Fortnite. The brand is also addressing customers’ sustainability concerns with a plan to make its products fully recyclable by 2030. Note that these product innovations tell both a short-term story (customers can design products in the metaverse) and a longer-term one (the brand is planning a yearslong effort to give customers fully sustainable choices).

Doing more with data

Data science and real time marketing are perhaps the most discussed trends in modern marketing, because of the importance of personalization in customer experience and the true brand building opportunity laying within consistent and pleasant brand experience. This third pillar — the ability to leverage data to creatively surprise the customer with tailored interactions across physical and digital touchpoints — has pushed the boundaries of the possible in brand storytelling.

Customer data from touchpoints across the journey can help CMOs understand the customer better and creatively build trust with customers by more closely aligning with their expectations. For example, marketers can use data to make interactions more personalized, which can generate authentic emotional responses to brand interactions and build trust between the brand and its audience. Customer data can also inform and redefine the product development process, as with the apparel brand.

For example, one streaming music platform recently drew on its listener data and social engagement capabilities to launch a new experience that creates shared playlists for users and their friends based on each person’s listening habits and favorite artists. This creates a shared emotional experience and builds the long-term narrative of the platform as a place to connect with friends as well as with music.

Brand led business transformation

A compelling brand story aligns corporate culture and values with external projections. As businesses define their mission and purpose to work toward common goals, offer the right experience to their people and consider the impact their business activity may have on the world, CMOs become increasingly responsible for crafting this internal brand story. Crafting this internal narrative is therefore a key to successful business transformation. Business leaders have understood the power of consistency from employer brand and culture to market perception in a world of influence in which people talk to people, way before brands talk to people.

The trust builder

At the end of the day, the CMO is accountable for the trust linking a brand to its audience. Whether long-term or short-term, the narrative must be relevant and engaging to create compelling experiences that strengthen the emotion and engagement of customers over time. By leading across strategy, product innovation, smart use of data and creative transformation CMOs must craft the brand stories that build this critical trust.

About the Author

As Capgemini Invent CMO for North America, Francois-Xavier Reodo is responsible for the growth, brand, external communications, employee engagement, client intimacy and field marketing for Capgemini’s innovation and transformation arm Focusing around three playing field; customer first, intelligent industry and enterprise transformation, Capgemini Invent offers a rich brand ecosystem in North America. Through his past Marketing leadership experiences, FX has a track record of conceiving, planning, leading and reporting on – multi channels global brand building and demand generation in a fast growth environment.