A brand narrative and N’Golo Kante have more in common than you’d think
If there’s one thing that gets us going at Brands2Life, it’s a good story. One of my favourites from the past year or so is that of N’Golo Kante, the French footballer who rose from relative obscurity at Caen in France’s Ligue 2 to become an integral member of championship winning teams at Leicester and Chelsea. Kante is famous for his tireless work ethic and no flair approach. He covers a lot of miles on the pitch and focuses his game on breaking up opposition possession and making interceptions. This work ethic has also turned him into an internet sensation.
We spend a lot of time telling stories for brands every day. One of the most fulfilling elements of that is helping to create and refine a brand’s overarching narrative. As our co-founder Giles Fraser wrote recently, a narrative is one of the most important elements of corporate story telling. It helps define the whole brand and what it stands for. While N’Golo is not (yet) known as a communications and branding expert, there are things we can learn from his story and apply to create a good brand narrative.
Connect on an emotional level
Kante was rejected by five professional clubs in France before being picked up Caen and eventually scouted and signed by Leicester City. That season, Leicester won the premier league title, defying bookmakers’ odds of 5,000 to one. Kante’s story is a classic example of an underdog. He achieved great success against all the odds and many of us can connect with this story on an emotional level.
Too many organisations use their brand narrative to tell stories about products and services. Instead it needs to start with the organisation’s core purpose, its reason for being. It also needs to be rooted in a strong audience insight. This allows a brand to tell a story about how it addresses its audiences’ problems or pain points, which helps to create a more emotional connection. Take Uber as an example. Uber’s brand narrative is not about being the biggest taxi company in the world, powered by the best technology platform. Rather, it centers on making transport easier. It’s core purpose is to evolve the way the world moves, and seamlessly connect riders to drivers, to make cities more accessible.
Kante is renowned for being a humble and down-to earth guy. There’s a great anecdote from Kante’s former Leicester City teammates that sums up his tireless work ethic and humility. When he first joined the club, its reported that he said he didn’t need a car because he would run home after sessions, a distance of several miles.. When he was eventually convinced he shouldn’t run to training, he made headlines by turning up to training in a modest, second-hand Mini Cooper, while most of his teammates sported much more ostentatious vehicles.
Kante’s behaviour is true to his core beliefs. And in a similar way, organisations’ behaviour towards different audiences must be rooted in the brand narrative. The narrative should form the core of all storytelling, whether for marketing, sales, customer service or operations teams. And it should give audiences a reason to feel positive about their association with the company. For Airbnb, championing inclusion is an excellent example of a story that’s rooted in the brand narrative. It’s honest, real and fits with the company’s mission to “make people around the world feel like they could belong anywhere.”
Enable your employees
Kante has been the key to both Leicester and Chelsea’s recent success due to his unrelenting focus on breaking down opposition play, rather than trying to dominate individually. This has given his teams a competitive edge and brings his teammates into the game. He enables them to play to the best of their abilities, because they know they can rely on him to look after defence.
A brand narrative can play a similar role. Employees want to feel good about the work they do and to feel connected to the company and the brand narrative is key. Getting this right can turn employees into an army of brand advocates. Digital security firm Gemalto has been very successful at this. By clearly communicating the organisation’s brand narrative and vision, and providing the right tools, staff are motivated to post the brand’s content on their personal social media channels – helping to create a measurable increase in social media engagement and website traffic for the brand.
There is no hard and fast formula for a good brand narrative. It requires a combination of hard work, determination and creative flair. It should lend itself to storytelling amongst different audiences from consumers to business partners. Research conducted by Brands2Life and PR Week found that 68 percent of Communications Directors said they need to work harder on telling their brand narrative. And those organisations that go to the effort of defining an authentic brand narrative and genuinely making it work hard as the core of all communications activity, will experience the most positive business impact.
Written by Mitchell Fox, Account Director, Corporate & Business.