Free Agent Sophie Reeves on Brand Storytelling

Brand storytelling keeps gaining momentum, and with very good reason. As social media and content marketing platforms continue to grow in number and value, there’s never been more opportunity for making it a key part of strategic initiatives. 

In the current environment, organizations can no longer afford to be a faceless entity. They need to connect with their audiences, engage them and keep winning their attention. Brand storytelling can be that cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions of your brand. It’s no longer a nice to have, it’s a need to have.

At the Free Agents™ network, we’ve got a large number of talented freelance consultants specialised in brand storytelling – they help businesses sell effectively and stand out with unique brand stories and marketing messaging which emotionally connects with their ideal clients.

One of these is Sophie Reeves. Sophie Reeves is a UK profile situated in Copenhagen, and she helps companies tell stories and their brands become champion storytellers. She’s previously worked with large companies such as Néstle, Deloitte, Maersk, Ikea, Volvo and L’oreal to optimize their brand storytelling and efforts in Digital Marketing.
We had a chat with Sophie about brand strategies and storytelling, how marketers create compelling brand stories, the use of short-form content and more.

Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in improving your brand’s storytelling successfully.

  1. How would you describe a well-defined brand strategy?

A well-defined Brand Strategy sits at the heart of a business. It doesn’t live in isolation. It’s not just about the fonts and choice of logo. It covers two core aspects of why this brand exists, who it’s here to serve and how it’s different from its competitors. It’s a long-term plan that affects all aspects of the business, and when done successfully helps to guide the business in how it conducts itself. 


  1. Why is branding crucial for a company?

Branding is a signal to the world. It represents the values that your brand stands for. It also helps to differentiate you from your competitors. The best branding is rooted in a strong strategy. One that has developed a clear narrative, a way to emotionally engage with its customers. This narrative shapes the branding and the branding carries the narrative through various touchpoints. The stronger your branding the stronger your brand recognition. This not only helps attract new customers but also new employees. 


  1. What metrics are important to you as a brand strategist?

This is a tricky one because you can argue that Brand cannot be measured. We have access to a tremendous amount of data, especially within digital marketing, but there’s a big difference between Brand Marketing, which is a long-term relationship-building activity, and Direct Marketing, where the desired actions can be analysed more immediately. From a brand perspective, you of course want to know how people are resonating with your story. Looking at deeper metrics such as sentiment and engagement can be useful. With any metrics, the most important thing is to understand why you need them. What goals are they helping you to measure? Just because you can measure something, doesn’t always mean that you should. I read something funny recently that said Marketing is going on a date with someone. Brand is the reason why you said yes. 


  1. What tools do you believe are important when communicating to your target audience?

First, you have to know who your target audience is, what they value, and where they spend the most time. Just like in real life one of the best ways to communicate is to first listen. Gather feedback, talk to your customers, find out their pain points. If we think of the classic 4 p’s of the Marketing Mix, they are still so relevant today. Price, product, place, promotion are all of the levers that a brand needs to pull on in order to connect with their audience. Knowing which one to pull, and what message to deliver when you do is the key to success. 


  1. How do you judge the effectiveness of your brand activities?

That really depends on your goals. The impact of brand activity is often felt over a much longer period of time. Looking at loyalty, market share, cost per acquisition can be good indicators of success, but that all depends on how you define success! Conducting market research and using tools such a social listening can help brands to check in on their progress. Are people talking about you? 


  1. How does a company create a compelling brand story?

Compelling stories are rooted in emotion. That’s how we connect as people and it’s no different with brands. Brands need to make customers feel something. There are many techniques in telling a compelling story; presenting a big challenge that needs to be overcome, an enemy to be defeated, humor, love. For a brand to tell a genuinely interesting story it has to contain more than just a focus on their products or services, it’s about thinking, how does what we do create change, and what emotions does that change evoke. 


  1. Marketers often use very short-form content on e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Does storytelling fit into those channels?

Absolutely, if you’re creative about how you do it! With the rise of Social Media, our attention spans have fallen, as we have become accustomed to shorter formats. So, there’s a race to capture attention. Again, it’s about differentiating between brand storytelling and marketing. Marketing campaigns can be extremely effective on Social Media given the right budgets, targeting and messaging. Brand Storytelling can also work if done in a way that’s genuinely interesting for the audience, and creatively executed in line with how the platform is supposed to be used. This is also about understanding the psychology of the user when they come to the platform. People come to Instagram to be inspired visually. Perhaps they use Facebook to keep in contact with family and friends. The mistake is to try and copy and paste your story from one platform to another. Brands must find ways to resonate with their customers by molding the execution of their story to how the platform is intended to be used. 


  1. Are there any pitfalls in brand management and storytelling?

Definitely! The biggest one that I see is that brands try to position themselves as the hero of their story. Joseph Campbell famously wrote about the Hero’s Journey, a storytelling arc that many major films and books use. Brands need to have a clear understanding of who their ‘cast of characters’ is and where they fit into the customer's journey. The brand should take the role of the guide. The guide helps the hero navigate their challenges, eventually overcoming them. The hero is your customer. Brands that forget that tend to focus too much on talking about themselves, and not enough on the benefits they create by helping customers solve their problems.