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When You're Telling a Brand Story, Every Touchpoint Matters

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Branding is storytelling, and storytelling is a creative work.

- Steve Jobs

The outfit. The restaurant. The conversation. The goodnight kiss. The journey from acquaintances to something more is filled with moments that connect one to another, and while more romantic, it's not much different than the relationship between customers and brands.

While we do love some brands, we ignore most - or at least tune them out. Misguided ads and unoriginal marketing concepts have desensitized us to most brand communications. But those brands that are loved are the ones that were heard. These brands connected with their audience in ways that guided them not just to a sale but also to a relationship. Online or off, the way in which your brand engages its customer along their journey can mean the difference between browsing and brand evangelism.

From Physical to Digital and Everything In Between

Consider the customer experience from arrival (at a store), departure, and everything in between and you can imagine a literal, physical journey. As a customer arrives, she's first greeted by a window display. She enters the store and is exposed to signs and color blocking that helps her navigate to the type of products she's looking for. Hangtags and smaller displays might feature more detailed product benefits. Finally settling on a product she'll head to the register, where she interacts with a customer service representative before paying and leaving.

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There is an entire digital overlay to consider as well. She could have seen a Facebook post from the brand about a secret 10 percent off coupon, watched a YouTube video about how to wear a summer dress (that the store happens to sell) ten different ways - or might have seen someone pin a related image on a Pinterest page.

Customer journeys today are fragmented and impossible to accurately map. But when it comes to brand storytelling, success doesn't hinge on whether or not a brand can guess which journey a customer is taking. Instead, it hinges upon how well the brand tells its story across all the potential customer touchpoints.

No Second Chances for a First Impression

Social channels, email, paid media, custom content, out-of-home, window displays-they're all forms of marketing intended to make an impression, but not the same impression. The customer may welcome your branded messages (and even share them if you're lucky), but they expect each message to serve different needs. If your brand sells a complicated product, it's worthless to list all the technical specifics on a billboard, a window display or even a Facebook ad. Instead, those touchpoints should intrigue a potential customer enough to lead them to the next touchpoint where a new chapter is told.

One great example of this literally challenged the consumer to unearth a chapter of the story. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago created scratch-off advertising on bus shelters to promote a new exhibition. Instead of just using the ad space to give all the pertinent information, they challenged those at the bus stop to scratch off the topcoat to reveal artwork and a QR code that provided two-for-one tickets to the exhibit. The idea of scratching to unearth what's beneath fit perfectly with the exhibit's archaeological theme and enticed potential visitors to learn more.

We've seen this historically too. Apple has created some of the most technically advanced products. A few of them completely changed the industry. But Apple didn't try to explain all the product features and benefits at every touchpoint. You might not even address the product nuances until you're in the process of purchasing them. Apple could have listed the first generation iPod's capacity on their billboards, but instead they hooked us with, " 1,000 songs in your pocket"-a brilliant first chapter.

A true story unfolds over a number of different chapters, and brand storytelling is no different. Tying marketing efforts together with a narrative thread requires careful thought about the role each touchpoint plays in the journey. A marketer must clearly define how they want or expect a customer to react when they interact with a piece of content. So how are you telling your brand's story?

Jon Thomas is a senior digital Strategist at TracyLocke and frequent contributor to Say Daily . Follow him on Twitter @Story_Jon .

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