The 3 Things This Esurance Ad Will Teach You About Brand Storytelling

An online ad for Esurance caught my attention and got me thinking about brand storytelling.

This commercial perfectly balances good storytelling structure, a simple brand promise, and the perspective of Esurance’s ideal buyer:

Here’s how to apply these 3 elements of brand storytelling to your content:

1) Your content should have an arc and relatable characters, like good fiction

In brand storytelling, your reader relates to and often actually is the character. Of course, the most compelling character in this ad is a thinly-veiled reference to this infamously inarticulate Miss Teen USA contestant.

Miss Teen USA South Carolina

But the compelling character (“sorta Marge”) is not who Esurance wants you to relate to. Rather, this ad implies that you are the protagonist – you’re “real Marge.”

The story arc in this ad is simple: a foreman on a construction site searches for Marge and finds another, less competent version of Marge operating heavy machinery. This is a great outline for brand storytellers: a character’s routine is disrupted by a high-stakes problem the solution to which is your company’s product or service.

A story arc should be easily repeatable structure for future content.  No doubt, we’ll see more Esurance ads in which incompetent imposters make a mess of various high-stakes workplaces.

2) Your content should fulfill your brand promise

As mentioned, this ad’s story arc presents a high-stakes problem that disrupts the protagonist’s routine. It does not present a universal problem, such as “not having insurance” but focuses on one that a select demographic faces. The solution to your specific problem constitutes your brand promise. Esurance solves the “one-sized-fits-all insurance” problem with the promise that their product is customizable.

Coming up with a brand promise is easier when you know your customer. Which leads me to the last element of your brand’s story:

3) Your content should speak to your brand’s buyer persona(s)

You can easily create a brand promise and a story that fulfills it, by drawing up a detailed buyer persona.

Esurance created a brand promise that seems to appeal to first-time insurance buyers with unique employment or finance needs. The irreverent, referential tone of the ad screams millenial, so I’d guess that the persona this ad targets is a young person looking for one-on-one insurance guidance. 

This ad resonated with me and many other viewers because it solved a common problem for viewers like me in an entertaining way.

What kinds of branded content sticks with you? Tell me in the comments!

Owned Media: If You Build It They Will Come

Owned Media: If You Build It They Will Come

As a digital marketer, there are three types of media at your disposal: Earned, Owned, and Paid media. Each type has its own advantages, so let’s start by exploring what makes owned media so special:

Owned Media boosts visibility and SEO with content that users will find useful or interesting. It’s not the only way to gain visibility online, but not having any content of your own reduces the effectiveness of any paid or earned media that your brand has acquired. It’s easy to lose someone who has landed on a rather skimpy or uninspired blog, after clicking an ad or inbound link.

Basically, if you build it, they will come. Owned media is the content that your brand creates for itself, to attract, entertain, or educate online visitors. This can range from blog posts, to videos, to ebooks or white papers: as long as its relevant or useful to your ideal customer or persona, it’s fit to publish!

The downside to owned media is that it is time-intensive and results are not always immediate. The upshot is that failures can be leveraged: metrics from every piece of content generated can be used to better target your key demographics.

Owned Media is forever. What’s great about owned media is that it’s your brand’s property forever and ever. Unlike paid media (which is limited to your ad sales budget) or earned media (which can be negative or fleeting), owned media exists on your company’s website for as long as you keep it (and I’d suggest keeping it, to avoid dead links that affect your site’s SEO).

Owned Media is your best bet for brand reputation maintenance. You can’t control what others say about your brand online, which makes earned media a bit of a crap shoot. Owned media, on the other hand, allows you to guide the conversation around your brand, and the industry in which your brand operates.

In fact, you can do as one Bay Area restaurant owner did and turn bad earned media into an opportunity to create your own positive brand story.

Speaking of brand story: try not to make your content all about you! A good rule of thumb for creating effective owned media is to avoid the hard sell, and focus on telling your brand’s story. This means avoiding shallow, fragmented, or irrelevant self-promotion and focusing on what matters to your audience. It also means acknowledging where in the buying cycle a particular user may be.

The restaurant owner in the above example probably figured that those who visited his website from Yelp were in the “research” or “consideration” phase of the buying cycle, and used humor and a creative call to action (discounts for a bad review) to get them interested in making a reservation.

Next week, I’ll talk a bit more about how Yelp and other online forums and publications play into the “Earned Media” aspect of the “Owned, Earned, Paid” triad.

Has owned media helped your company or employer reach its goals? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments section!