Say you are a large industrial machine manufacturer: trends like automation and trade policy are likely to affect your business. But the main difference between context and a standard macroeconomic analysis is that brands can, to an extent, choose their context. They can set the stage, so to speak, so that the forces they choose to highlight are ones they can use later in the story. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every business on earth, but if you are an artisan shoemaker or baker, then the health crisis has little to do with your brand story – although it will certainly affect parts of your business strategy.
“The political state of your home country may affect your ability to manage your organisation, but unless you are actively and publicly engaged in political activism or lobbying, it is not something that deserves to stay on your list.”
Keep in mind that…
When choosing which elements will feature into your context, it is important to start with a broad view, before gradually whittling down your list to its essentials. The first way to do that is to focus on the forces that your organisation can react to in some way. The political state of your home country may affect your ability to manage your organisation, but unless you are actively and publicly engaged in political activism or lobbying, it is not something that deserves to stay on your list.
Similarly, not all forces are of equal strength, and strength can vary from one organisation to another. The threat of global warming might be a key brand context element for a brand like Tesla, but it is less so for Ferrari or Cadillac – two brands that have chosen not to react to that particular force, from a storytelling standpoint at least.
Brand Storytelling Handbook
When laying the backdrop for your story, it is better to avoid referencing specific events or short-lived trends unless these have long- lasting consequences. As time passes and both your brand and its story become more rich and complex, some of your contextual references might become dated and will need to be updated to maintain coherence and relevance.
It’s also important to try and go beyond the obvious contextual elements of your industry, especially if your competitors already reference them in their own story. When that happens, you should either find other references, or change the angle to stand out more.
Questions to ask yourself
- What are all the external forces affecting your organisation? Which forces can you react to?
- Is your context similar to your competitors’? What are the main differentiating factors?
- How relevant will your context be in the future, 5 or 10 years from now? Can you update your context without jeopardising the logical progression of your story?