Storytelling in Post Truth Era - Guiding Expectations

From the mind of Jade Kendall — Founder of Ideation Architecture

If we don’t tell our story the way we want it to be heard, it may be heard the way we didn’t tell it.

Our brains have an innate ability to fill in the gaps of incomplete or ambiguous stories. This tendency is especially useful to create mystery, evoke curiosity, and capture emotions, but without purpose these gaps can unintentionally blur our personal and brand stories.

In her book, Rising Strong, the brilliant Brene Brown states, “In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we are wired.”

In the same context, Brown quotes Robert Burton, a neurologist and novelist, who continues this idea, stating, “Because we are compelled to make stories, we are often compelled to take incomplete stories and run with them.”

The major implication, relative to brand narratives, is whether or not our story purposely guides the expectations of our clients or is our lack of intention compelling our customers and critics to fill in the gaps. Even if we intend some ambiguity to emerge from our story, like most oscar winning films, we want to be ahead of the discussion, not trailing behind.

A few years back I took a friend of mine to a sour beer brewery, although I neglected to tell him that only sour beer is brewed at the brewery. He proceeded to order a flight of beer to taste a variety of flavors. (It’s important to note here that my friend is a flavorist professional, so he is highly attuned to flavors and tastes).

He took a sip of the first beer. His face crunched. He took a sip of another. Same face, more intense. A third beer. Now he looked worried. Fourth beer. Dismay.

He looked up at me and said, “They’re all spoiled.”

I said, “Really? All of them?”

He nodded.

I said, “Oh, did you know this is a sour beer brewery?”

His face lit up.

He said, “No. In that case, they’re very good!”

The problem wasn’t the quality of beer nor the highly trained ability of my flavorist friend. The issue was, in light of his lack of information, his brain filled in the gaps, resulting in a false conclusion and an almost unsatisfactory experience.

Our brand story is more than just a marketing device. It is the foundation of our marketing campaign, our sales collateral, our operations plan, and ultimately our company culture. If it holds that much weight, I think it’s worth the time to ensure we are guiding the expectations of the client experience.

If we don’t purposely take care with our brand story, our fabulous tasting beer, that we spent so much time, money, and effort crafting, might just leave a sour taste in the mouths of our clients.