Any brand worth its salt nowadays needs a purpose that goes beyond profit. And this is especially true for businesses that rely on millennials; the generation that’s grown up in age where brands’ practices – both good and bad – have been left exposed through social media.

In fact, you could say that purpose has become the Holy Grail of effective marketing to millennials. But with an audience that’s so incredibly and notoriously discerning, how can a brand’s story around its purpose be told in a way that feels credible?

As recent research shows, the key to credible purpose storytelling is social media. Why? Because social allows you to modulate your storytelling. In other words, you have flexibility over how you tell your story; who you tell it to; through whom you tell it and how many times.

Tell your brand purpose story just once and it risks being missed by the people who aren’t tuned in either mentally or physically. And if it’s told as just one standardised generic tale, you miss a golden opportunity to resonate with different groups in a way that inspires action. With social, neither needs to happen. With social, you can inexpensively ‘broadcast’ 24/7, whilst strategically reaching out to different types of people by telling the same story from slightly different perspectives (a strategy that we know is more effective).

Tell it in chapters

But it’s not just strategy and targeting that benefits from modulated social storytelling. This approach also helps with logistics. By encouraging marketers to think in terms of chapters – which parts of the story should be delivered and in what order? – this tactic can help focus the mind when it comes to planning and budgeting.

A strong recent example of using social media to tell a brand purpose story in a modulated way comes from the ‘Buy a Lady a Drink’ partnership between Stella Artois and They are united by the grand ambition of ending the global water crisis once and for all. And that’s quite some purpose!

Not only does this partnership offer us a solid template for how brand purpose can be used for the greater good, it also shines a light on how brands can make the most of modulated social storytelling.

The campaign is delivered as variously seeded pieces of content through a variety of social video channels. In one video, Matt Damon delivers an impassioned plea to the audience to be remembered for something. In another, Stella Artois has experimented with Facebook’s new 360-degree video platform. And the results are impressive. By telling the story of one family in Honduras in an immersive, 360-degree way, the viewer feels more embedded into the scene to create a greater sense of empathy. In this emotional state, viewers are more likely to absorb the video’s key messages; which is, after all, the ultimate aim.

As brands increasingly wake up to the need for putting purpose centre stage, we can expect more to be invested – both in terms of finances and resources – into this incredibly rich and effective form of modulated storytelling. Of course, this also means that the already crowded millennial social newsfeeds might become even more crowded. Fortunately, though, if your social storytelling has been carefully planned, your brand’s purpose has a decent chance of shining through… and perhaps even changing the world.


By Olly Honess, partner at Cubaka, asocial content agency for brands including Toyota, Haven Holidays and Whole Earth.

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