Mystery Branding vs Mysterious Branding

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Brands

When a popular gadget brand withholds, like a mysterious secret, the soon-to-be features of its next version, its loyal customers, and even the rest of the market, become anxiously wishing to get hold of the future gadget especially when the company repeatedly narrates suspenseful stories about the upcoming launch of its future version.

This has been proven true with Apple’s iPhone. This mystery branding is not only useful with gadgets but with all sorts of products like books and films. The promoter of the sequels of the famous Harry Potter book devised this branding strategy, up to the point of contracting a secrecy agreement with the author and production staff for non-disclosure of any details of a sequel.

But the iPhone and Harry Potter didn’t get to where they are now – able to craftily hack a mystery branding strategy – without going through the rigors of unlocking the mysteries of their brands first. 

To visualize, the iPhone and Harry Potter brands had to go through the mind-engaging and wit-persevering exercises of a game called “Mystery Escape Room”. This very popular game, now adopted by many industries as a way to spur creativity, teamwork, and productivity, is laden with a series of witty and mysterious puzzles that participants must solve to escape the room.

To unlock the mysteries of their brands in the beginning, the iPhone and Harry Potter had to persevere with only one thing – storytelling, which, without any form or structure, could have just become very incoherent narratives that could have just aggravated the mysteriousness of their brands. 

We see and feel these in thousands of brands, which are just logos, colors, prices, and stereotypical enumerations of features and services.

The Makings of a Good Brand Story

A good brand story is not just about taglines, sales pitches, or about “you” as the owner. It’s got to be more than those. Your brand story is the heart and soul of your brand that sets you apart from the rest and emerge you from the deafening stereotypical narratives of the majority that the market opts not to listen to anymore no matter how repetitive.

Good storytelling is relational. This means that the brand story must be able to forge a connection and establish a relationship with the audience. When this happens, the audience will always want to be connected with the brand.

Related: The Role of Storytelling in PR

Telling and sharing stories are the foundations of societal development, which were built from ancient oral literature to the earliest forms of written literature. Stories are passed on from generation to generation that have formed, and continue to form up to today, human traditions, laws, and ways of life. In sum, storytelling is in every gene of humans – it’s our DNA!

Storytelling is in every gene of humans – it’s our DNA!

Relational storytelling has laid down the fundamentals of societies that, absent this phenomenon, the world would have been indifferent, cold, uncaring, cruel, and barbaric. And where relationships build bonds and trust, the contrary builds animosities and distrust.

A plethora of research has shown the strength of descriptive, relational stories and how the human brain responds to them. Scientists refer to them as synchronizing or neural coupling where a simultaneous and spontaneous brain function occurs in two people – the narrator and the audience – and leads to a mirroring effect that results in enhanced comprehension and acknowledgement.

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak’s studies stated that human brains excrete the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which makes us focus on the story, and then the resolution of that tension releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that promotes connection and empathy. 

One of the pillars of good, relational storytelling is when the narrator is able to build a momentary tension and immediately create a feel-good moment. The storyteller can create a captivating story that is able to build a connection and build bonds with the audience.

And to put into context or to graphically realize how brand ambiguities and mysteries have been drowned and silenced by stereotypical litanies of sales pitches versus the power of relational brand storytelling, let’s get to know the story of Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, who led the company to a major pivot from manufacturing to services.

Burns’ chief currency of her leadership was stories. That’s right. She did a lot of storytelling. 

“One of the things I learned,” she told the 2021 California Conference for Women, “was that stories matter, communications matter.” Burns spent immeasurable hours meeting with her stakeholders and clientele from around the world and making it clear that massive change was the only way forward and that there will be a better Xerox ahead. “Telling people the reality of what’s going on and giving them hope by providing them with the vision…for what it’s going to look like when we get through this is fundamental,” she told the attendees. “It’s foundational to having people follow you,” she added.

There is no other narrative that can beat the story of a brand that comes from the core of its being.

Start to create relationships and let your true and valuable story be known.

This piece was written by good friend and colleague to NGP, Rene Pineda Jr., to illustrate the importance of storytelling in brands – a relevant and effective strategy, concept, and approach that has withstood the test of time. 

Not sure how to craft your brand’s story? We can help. We’ve been doing it for well over 25 years. Work with NGP-IMC today.

Rene D. Pineda, Jr.
Rene D. Pineda, Jr. is an evangelist, environmentalist, and PR practitioner specializing in Issues and Reputation Management, Policy Development, and Shared Value Initiatives.