It can be daunting for a marketer to plan out a piece of brand storytelling – and yet it looks so easy when it is done right.

The three companies below are of course global megastars but the lessons in there apply to all brands; there is so much to be gained from examining exactly why the campaigns worked.

Adidas – #mygirls

adidas #mygirls
A print ad for #mygirls

The tag line for this project was ‘All in for #mygirls’ and the goal was to celebrate girls and young women who are into sport. At first glance it doesn’t seem like anything particularly ground-breaking – supporting women is a positive cause but not a new one – and yet the more you delve into it, the better it works and the more Adidas comes out smelling of roses.

After kicking off the campaign on International Women’s Day, it rolled out a heap of content across multiple channels to tell everyone about #mygirls and share the stories of female sportswomen across the globe, then launched a #mygirls online magazine (with seriously high production values and big names). Not only does this tap into a serious health issue – inactivity among young people – it also pushes young women to feel proud of the things that they and their peers achieve, which relates to another major problem: low self esteem among modern teenagers.

So Adidas, in one fell swoop, is doing something to remedy two serious issues, but doing it in a fun way, with energy-filled photoshoots and interesting stories of female teams or individuals across the world. Did you know about Jordan’s (the country, not the celebrity) National Female Boxing team? Or London’s bike polo players? Of course, the girls are all wearing Adidas gear in the beautifully lit photoshoots and videos, so they are perfectly capable of catching the eye of the male of the species, but the message still comes through: Adidas is proud to seek out the stories of people and sports (let’s be honest, female sports do not get the same coverage as male ones) away from the blockbuster arenas, i.e. stories like yours.

Dove – Real Beauty Sketches

Image from Dove.com
Image from Dove.com

Sticking with female empowerment, we have this genuinely touching campaign from Dove, which deserves all the praise it got when launched last year. It saw a group of women drawn by a forensic artist according to descriptions given by the ladies themselves, then a stranger described those same women and the artist created a portrait from this description. Naturally, the results were hugely different and highlighted how much more attractive women are than they presume.

Again, it is not a groundbreaking idea to make women feel beautiful, but this feels like the ultimate in ‘show, don’t tell’ communication. Dove was not just telling women that they are beautiful no matter what anxieties they have about their appearance, the brand was saying ‘look, here is proof that women are much attractive than they think’. This would I’m sure strike a chord with plenty of people of all ages and ties in brilliantly with Dove’s Real Beauty theme.

Without straying from that theme, the marketing campaign had found a new way to celebrate everyday beauty; it was not models or actresses being drawn, it was regular people. Message: Dove thinks you regular ladies are lovely, and the brand has created a very socially shareable concept to spread that message far and wide.

Guinness – Friendship

Guinness for strengthAnd so to the fellas. This advert from Guinness is another exercise in concise brand storytelling with a big heart – the concept sees (spoiler alert) a group of guys playing wheelchair basketball, but as it turns out only one is permanently wheelchair-bound, the others are just his mates joining in with a sport that they can all play. It doesn’t indulge in any disability stereotypes and wheelchair basketball is shown in that sweaty, manly way normally reserved for sports like rugby, American football and 100m sprints of this world.

So what on Earth does this have to do with alcohol or Guinness? You could argue that the appearance of someone disabled in the advert alludes to the ‘otherness’ that the drink prides itself on – everyone else drinks lager, you are one of the few who want that distinctive Irish stout. It is when the voiceover kicks in that the storytelling really ramps up though: “Dedication, loyalty, friendship – the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character,” mutters a gravelly voiced chap. The choice the men in the ad make to play wheelchair basketball is testament to their character, and so is the choice they make when they are at the beer taps.

Guinness, with its deeper flavour and often higher price, has always been a more luxurious alternative to standard lager for pub-goers, but the advert implies that a vote for Guinness is almost deserving of respect. It almost tells viewers to be the best person they can be, and drink the best quality drink they can get their hands on. You simply cannot argue with that as a memorable and evocative piece of brand storytelling – and the image of the group walking (and wheeling) away from the court will stick with you long after you forget the voiceover.