The cat on the three legged stool – telling your story in an ad-blocked world.

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How the cat on the three legged stool beats the advert

Humans are hard-wired to respond to stories. We respond emotionally and, given the chance, we’ll respond physically too – with applause, gasps, questions or maybe a reciprocal story of our own.  If we find it compelling, we’ll take the story and replay it to others, adding our own experience and spin to its telling.

That’s why we need to think like editors not advertisers when it comes to marketing promotion. We need to put the story and our audience at the heart of our marketing communications.

Think about your marketing communications as a cat standing on a three legged stool.

The cat is your beautiful, complex brand and all it stands for.

The cat’s four legs are the four stories you’re going to tell – this season, or this year, or for the foreseeable future.

The three legs of the stool represent your integrated content, digital strategy and physical marketing.  More on those to come.

Clearly it all starts with the cat. It needs to be well defined and, like all good cats, know it is beautifully formed. If your cat is, like the Cheshire cat, only vaguely outlined, we can help you bring it into focus.

The story legs you choose for your cat must integrate with the body of the brand. They must make sense and suit your cat. Each leg has to carry its own share of the storytelling weight.

When we worked with Angel Food to develop their current marketing communications plan, we agreed the four legs of the Angel Food cat as: Truly Plant-Based Alternatives, Dairy-Free, Vegan and Ethical.  The brand is summarised as ‘plant-based and divine’.  Angel Food is a very handsome and confidant cat.  The four legs of the story help bring its characteristics to life.

The three stool legs are connected and work together to communicate the four story ‘legs’ out into the world.

Content adds substance to all four stories.  The content leg of the stool represents new content you create about your four stories. It might be an article you write or get written about something your brand knows or cares about, a video of a delighted client, an infographic to educate your market, a photograph with text that resonates for your customers or a piece of research you commission. Content can move, content can inspire and content might, if it’s good, be shared.

Physical marketing includes PR, stakeholder relations/networking and events – elements with a real world presence, offline. PR gives you credibility you can’t get on your own.  The opportunities have never been greater and the demand for interesting stories is strong. Not only are journalists and editors at traditional media outlets hungry for quality content but so are all the businesses and bloggers publishing their own content with followers to entertain, educate and inspire.  Having a third party share your content gives it kudos and gets it before audiences who might not otherwise discover you.

The third leg is digital strategy – including email and social media.  Social – as you might expect from the name – involves you and a crowd. It’s a two way medium where the response is often more important than what you put out. Think of social media as stand-up comedy. You get instant adulation or condemnation or, more likely, ignored while everyone you want to notice you talks to their neighbour instead. Social media is fast and fluid and the perfect way to listen, learn about reactions and adapt your content to suit.  You’re not limited to your own content – tell your friend’s stories, appropriately shared and linked, and they might do the same for you.

These three legs of storytelling – content, digital and physical communications, are the essence of marketing communications success these days. Great content shared in the physical world and digitally should underpin any brand.  The traditional path of building a brand through paid advertising has been in decline for decades.  Advertising can still make your brand famous fast, or, if done well, generate a lot of leads in a hurry. It can also be an expensive way to get your cat ignored or worse – make it seen as a rude and yowling thing.

Advertising essentially interrupts the stories people want to see or hear.  It’s as bad online as it is on TV or in the newspaper – we simply change channel or turn the page or scroll on by.  Almost a quarter (24%) of people use ad-blocker software in Aotearoa NZ and that number isn’t going down.

The key lesson is, if you want people to notice and like your cat, make sure it has four legs and a three legged stool.

We have excellent cat whisperers and stool-leg turners right here, ready to help you plan, to coach you through it or manage on your behalf.  Contact us today


Kath Dewar, MD of GoodSense.

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