Modern Marketing Brand Purpose Storytelling

Apple, Help for Heroes and the BBC top new Brand Storytelling Survey from Aesop


By Michael Feeley | Founder and chief exec

November 21, 2017 | 4 min read

Apple has cemented its position as the UK’s top storytelling brand by topping the annual Brand Storytelling Survey for an unprecedented fifth time.

Conducted by creative agency Aesop, the poll reveals an eclectic top 10 with war veteran charity Help for Heroes climbing seven places to claim the second spot with BBC, National Trust and Amazon occupying third, fourth and fifth respectively. Facebook is the only remaining social media brand in the top 10 at sixth with BMW climbing up the rankings to claim seventh place. Sky (eighth), Google (ninth) and Dyson (tenth) complete the top tier.

Ed Woodcock, director of narrative, Aesop Agency, said of the results: “Those that do well have either found a clear, authentic narrative and tell that story in a compelling way, or are platforms for other people’s stories, and naturally score well against storytelling criteria. Good performers are, in essence, the brands we believe in, because ‘make-believe’ has the power to make people believe. Strong narratives are both memorable and emotive, and the survey rewards brands that consistently display story-like qualities.”

M&S, recently voted Which? Supermarket of the Year 2017, has climbed fourteen places, and back into the top 20, to take back the top storytelling supermarket mantel from Lidl who triumphed last year. The popular grocer that has signed up Paddington Bear to front its Christmas campaign has been identified as a brand that 20% of UK consumer’s have an emotional response to – more than Cancer Research (17%) and Oxfam (16%).

Woodcock said: “M&S’s improved ranking reflects increased investment in the brand with its ‘Spend It Well’ campaign. The work has a clear, emotional narrative about grabbing life with both hands and rejecting the rules that might hold us back that consumers seem to have responded well to.”

Iceland, one of the UK’s smallest supermarket chains (2.3% share), is one of the year’s biggest success stories. Climbing 38 places to a position of 58th the retailer outranks Waitrose (57th), Co-op (78th), Asda (81st) and Sainsbury’s (82nd). Having broadened its offer, Iceland is experiencing a mini revival (8.3% growth) topped off nicely by being voted the UK’s best online supermarket.

Lidl however is one of the year’s biggest fallers – dropping 24 places and hanging on to a top 50 place at 48th. While UK consumers increasingly turn to the discounters, the survey has revealed that Aldi is telling a more articulate brand story than Lidl polling more votes across all criteria including ‘brands with character and personality’ – 21% versus 16% – and brands considered to have ‘vision’ – 28% versus 22%.

Interestingly, Instagram, Twitter all YouTube all drop down the rankings, with Instagram a surprise, dropping eleven places to 25th and polling just over one-fifth of the votes (22%). Twitter, down 12 places to 36th and YouTube, down thirteen places to 19th have followed suit with only Snapchat (a new entry) bucking the trend.

The ‘Grey Pound’ accounts for an estimated annual spend of £320bn in the UK and in this year’s brand storytelling survey, consumers aged 65+ have voted, arguably, the most interesting (and certainly most eclectic) top 10. Uber in fourth rubs shoulders with Dyson in third and National Trust in fifth while Help for Heroes takes the top spot taking almost half of the votes (49%). The BBC, Jack Daniels, BMW, Macmillan, Labour and the British Heart Foundation complete the lineup.

At the opposite end of the age demographic, UK millennials have voted for a more predictable top 10 dominated by media brands. Snapchat with 35% of the votes takes the top spot with Facebook in second and Google third. Adidas is the only sports brand represented (seventh) with Nike conspicuously absent from the top 10.

Hovis has been identified as the UK’s most authentic brand polling just under 50% of the votes (47%). In 1973 the ‘Boy on the bike’ ad directed by Ridley Scott became a much-loved campaign and the brand has remained a trusted, UK favourite. Pushing Hovis to the top spot was Tetley (second) – another heritage brand and the largest tea company in the UK.

Woodcock said: “In the era of fake news and at a time when consumer’s marketing radar is ever more sensitive, authenticity is an increasingly valuable commodity. Heritage brands have longstanding storylines that suggest authenticity to such an extent that they are often quoted and referenced years later.”

The study by Aesop Agency polled 2,000 consumers in September 2017 asking them to cite brands against ten best-practice storytelling attributes.

Modern Marketing Brand Purpose Storytelling

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