7 story-driven campaigns that show the power of story in action

We’re always looking for storytelling inspiration. So the New Kind team put our heads together and compiled a list of some of our favorite story-driven brands and campaigns that show the power of storytelling. They’re the stories that pull our heartstrings. That build trust. That speak to the broader vision of a company or organization. These are stories that intrigued us and made us want to form a relationship with the brand telling them.

“Common Thread” by Apolis – Jonathan Opp

Apolis is a lifestyle and clothing brand started by two brothers who believed in the power of business to drive social change. They set out to build a business model that would provide sustainable sourcing and manufacturing around the world, and locally in Los Angeles. They call it “advocacy through industry.”

And that’s where the adventure begins. Apolis means Global Citizen. And to show how we are all global citizens living in a connected world—woven from one common thread —they share stories of traveling to the places where products are made and meeting the people who make them. All while reporting on the results of their impact. From the people of Bangladesh who are employed to manufacture tote bags to help lift their families out of poverty, to glass-makers in Mexico who are working to build a future for their community. So where many companies might show multiple photos of their product, Apolis also often shows the factory and the people who are creating it. Helping customers play a part in their story, woven from one common thread.

“The Other Side” by Honda – Craig Carter

It’s pretty rare these days that I watch commercials at all. So, it was pretty special when one came along that I had to watch multiple times. For those of you who might not be familiar with it, “The Other Side” by Honda depicts two stories happening simultaneously. The interactive experience gave you the power of a director able to switch between the two stories by holding down the “R” key on a keyboard.

Similar to a compelling movie trailer, I was immediately engrossed in the two stories. The fact that both stories were told without any dialogue forced me to pay attention to all of the subtle details. I was so impressed. The only thing bad about this campaign is that the car isn’t available in the US. Well, hopefully it will be soon.

“Worn Wear” by Patagonia – Elise Dorsett

Patagonia made a splash in 2011 when they ran an advertisement that said, “Don’t buy this jacket,” on Black Friday of that year. Through their Common Threads initiative, they encouraged their community to take the pledge to reduce consumption by repairing and reusing the gear they already had instead of buying something new.

Since then, they’ve continued to build their brand by leading the conversation around sustainability and consumerism. Patagonia is a consistent and powerful voice for a cultural movement (a great example of cultural branding, which Douglas Holt wrote about in the March 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review). What I love about their approach is that they don’t facilitate the conversation from behind a screen—they activate their community by taking their message, and their mission, to the streets.

Last year they launched their Worn Wear mobile tour—a group of brand ambassadors and repair techs traveled the country, stopping at eco-festivals, surf shops, and other gatherings. People brought their used garments to be mended, and to celebrate the stories behind them.

They’re on the road again in 2016 to repair more clothes, collect more stories, and shift more mindsets.

“The Scarecrow” by Chipotle – Claire Strickland

I’m passionate about building and supporting sustainable food systems, so “The Scarecrow” by Chipotle is one of my favorite story-driven campaigns. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the animated film depicts a scarecrow who works at “Crow Foods Incorporated,” a metaphor for today’s factory farm system. The Scarecrow watches as chickens are pumped with mysterious green fluids and tubes eject “100% Beef-ish.” A melancholy Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” plays in the background. But the film ends on a happy note as the Scarecrow returns to his little farm and opens a burrito stand, with fresh ingredients from his farm. Chipotle’s message is to “Cultivate a Better World.”

While Chipotle does use sustainable ingredients, it’s important to remember that Chipotle is still a corporation, and they are definitely not a perfect antithesis to fast food and factory farms. However, the film calls attention to an important issue and has sparked a national conversation about our food system. And hopefully, as people decide between a McDonalds hamburger or a responsibly raised, grass-fed beef burrito from Chipotle, they’ll choose the latter.

Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer – Chris Grams

I continue to be amazed every time I get the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (what they call their advertising circular) in the mail. I’m amazed because every time we get frozen pizzas, or ice cream, or coffee from Trader Joe’s, the products are not actually any better than the brands you can get at any other grocery store. They just do a better job using the power of story to sell them.

The physical mailer isn’t even in full color, like the one’s you get from other grocery stores. But that adds to its charm, has an ol-timey-ness about it, that makes it seem almost like your weird uncle is telling you a story about these products while you are perched on his knee.

Here is an example:

Corn & Wheat Tortillas de mi Abuela

The simple fact that we’ve named these tortillas “de mi Abuela,” which translates to “from my Grandmother,” should indicate to you that we’re not messing around here. After all, this is Grandma we’re talking about. She’s special. And we would only use her name for really special tortillas. (To be clear, Grandma is not making these tortillas for us; she’s too busy taking hip-hop classes and learning to make sushi at the rec center.)

Trader Joe's Corn & Wheat Tortillas

“Flybabies” by JetBlue – Pascale Georges

When my son was around 3 months old, I became one of those people who fly with a baby. At the airport, I juggled my son, a diaper bag, a car seat, a stroller, luggage, and anxiety. I was anxious to see how he would react during the flight, and how passengers would perceive us. Luckily, he slept for most of the flight. Once we landed, a woman who sat near us commended me on how quiet he was. Her positive reaction could’ve been replaced with dirty looks had he cried during the flight.

We’ve flown since that first flight, and each time the stress mounts. Even though, it’s understandable for babies to cry and children to fuss on flights, empathy from passengers is usually lacking.

JetBlue’s Flightbabies campaign captures the stress that parents experience when flying with a baby. JetBlue turned crying babies into an incentive by rewarding passengers with a 25% discount off future flights each time a baby cried. The ad is simple, relatable, and emotional.

“Puppyhood” by Purina – Matthew Muñoz

This campaign is seriously cute. A series of videos show the daily life of man and puppy. You get to know their personalities through a series of everyday events—playing together in the park, going to the grocery store, prepping for a presentation, meeting a girl. Man and puppy quickly become fast friends. The videos ends with them eating on the floor, side by side. The campaign doesn’t focus on Purina products much at all; instead Purina taps into the relationships we form with our pets. And Purina becomes the guide for “getting their first year right.”

Have you seen a campaign lately that strikes your fancy? Share it with us on Twitter at @newkind.

 

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