Effective Storytelling is at the Centre of Brandbuilding

Islandbridge feature in Sunday Business Post article By Catherine O’Mahony.

David and Goliath, Mary Poppins and Cinderella may not appear to have much to do with brand building, but according to one branding consultancy, it’s all about stories.

Islandbridge, a new branding consultancy focused mostly on the SME sector, places storytelling at the centre of its approach to brand building.

This is an established approach internationally but still something of a specialism on this market, which is why Islandbridge founder Gerard Tannam introduced the subject at a suitably theatrical event at the Denzille Private Cinema in Denzille Lane, Dublin, last week.

Tannam focused on the Mary Poppins story, which was central to his development of an identity for go!kids! – a family holiday scheme at two hotels in the west of Ireland.

The brand building exercise included a link with theatre company Barabbas, who trained staff. A design and production spend of €45,000 yielded an immediate 5:1 return on investment in 2003.

“Summer business grew by 12 per cent, followed by a further 10 per cent increase in year-long business in 2004,” Tannam says.

“There are no new stories,” he says.

“People always make sense of their lives through the stories they tell – and in all those anecdotes and case histories and newspaper articles are echoes of old stories.

What we set out to do is to ask ‘What’s the bigger story?”

The best brands have worked this out for themselves, Tannam says. Ryanair is always railing against injustice – the David and Goliath story.

George Bush used the language of Sodom and Gomorrah to stave off John Kerry in the US Presidential election.

AIB has switched its marketing strategy from telling people what it does to setting up stories about imagined customers.

Bulmers cider is using a birds and bees / boy meets girl theme for its advertising.

“Small business can be just as effective at telling a story,” Tannam says.

A small firm may not have the budget for expensive advertising, but it can convey a story to its staff and ensure this gets passed on to customers.

Tannam has worked with Liberty Limousines, whose central branding theme is now that of JFK and Jackie-O – the ordinary family who became royals.

It’s often about things like word-of-mouth marketing and PR, says Tannam.