The Theory of Relativity and Brand Storytelling

January 26, 2016

In 1905, a rather unknown German physicist named Albert Einstein published three papers about the theory of relativity. Eleven years later, Einstein came up with the general theory of relativity which has become the accepted description of gravitation in modern physics.

Einsteins Theory of Relativity

In a nutshell, Einstein’s formula shows how gravitation force can be calculated like this…

  1. Take the difference in mass between two objects (m1 and m2)
  2. Dividing that number by the distance between the two objects, r,
  3. Multiply that number by a number by GN, which is Newton’s Gravitational Constant (and a bit complicated for the purpose of our discussion…)
  4. The resulting number, F, is the relative force behind an object when it moves

Applying physics to brand storytelling

When I talk to people about brand storytelling and what it takes to make it successful, they want ONE thing that they can do, that’s not too hard, that will made a big difference in the campaign they’re launching this week that will show up in revenue in three months.

That’s not how brand storytelling works, I tell them.

If you’re looking for a quick, short-term fix that makes them stand out from the crowd, sound amazing, attract and audience like flies and convert them to paying customers like a high-dollar lottery.

But it doesn’t work that way.

For brand storytelling to work, we have to understand where we’re starting, where it is we aspire to be, how much time we’re willing to invest and how committed we are to executing this consistently. That’s when we’ll see the relative force behind a brand story jump dramatically.

Let’s take Einstein’s formula and convert it into brand storytelling:

Force = the force of your brand story and what you’re able to accomplish by committing to it over a specific period of time.

GN = The consistency with which you tell your brand story. Note that this follows closely on the heels of an organization’s willingness to change how the approach marketing and how they connect with audiences. Are you trying to accomplish great things but refuse to step away from your brand-centered tactics? Or are you willing to become customer-centric and shift your efforts in their direction? If you’re organization tends to be more brand centered, insert a 1 here. If you’re heavily customer centric, use 5. Most brands are somewhere in between, which means you may be a 2, 3 or 4.

m1 = Moment 1, or where you are right now with your level of sophistication in brand storytelling. Because math is math and we need a formula that actually works, the lowest number you can insert is 1. That’s just in case you missed math class on the day the teacher talked about multiplying by 0, 0 times any number is always 0, which means that everything in this formula collapses. Let’s stick with the 1 to 5 scale here.

m2 = Moment 2, or where you aspire to be with your brand story, again on a scale of 1 to 5.

r2 = the length of time over which you tell this story. Use a scale of 1 to 4 here, with 4 being 6 months, 3 being 12 months, 2 being 18 months and 1 being 24 months. Yes, a brand story should live longer than 24 months but when it comes to the realities of content planning, 24 months out is long term.

Let’s walk through an example for Jenny’s Industrial Manufacturing (JIM) company:

Jenny and her marketing team make the following estimations…

GN = While they haven’t been particular consistent with telling a brand story, they do have one. Now that they realize the potential that can come from changing how they connect with audiences and convert audiences to customers, they’re more willing to commit to change and consistency. They give themselves a 4.

m1 = 2. JIM has invested the time to develop a brand story but haven’t done much with it. They give themselves a 2 for their moment 1, where they’re beginning today.

m2 = 5. The JIM team has his aspirations for where they believe they can be with their brand storytelling.

r2 = 1. Jenny has made it clear that brand storytelling isn’t just for the marketing team, it’s for the entire company. They’re in it for the long haul and know that they are looking for results over the long term, not quick hits. By giving themselves a 1, they’re looking at how forceful they can expect their brand story to perform at the end of 24 months.

F = 3 (GN2(m1) 5 (m2)
                              1

2 x 5 = 10 ÷ 1 = 10 x 3 = 30

Now, if Jenny and her team weren’t as committed and wanted to see change over a shorter period of time, the equation may look like this…

F = 1 (GN2(m1) 3 (m2)
                              4

2 x 3 = 10 ÷ 4 = 1.5 x 1 = 1.5

If you’re wanting to stand out in the market, have different conversations with audiences and convert them to customers, which size of force would you like to have behind your brand story – and all of marketing – 1.5 or a 30?

Is this formula rough and debatable? Without a doubt.

Can it give you some insights into what it really takes to create a force for your company by using brand storytelling. I believe that it can…if we’re willing to be honest and look carefully at all of the parts and pieces and decide how committed we are to creating relevant, meaningful connections with audiences and helping them become heroes in their own world.

Brand storytelling isn’t fluff. But it is a different approach to marketing and one that research is showing over and over works in our interruption-based, attention-deficit environment today. But only when we commit to telling a story that our audiences find interesting and then execute it consistently and over a long period of time.

May the force be with you.

Photo credit: Flickr user Slices of Light

About Carla Johnson

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Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.