Why successful brand strategy is like Star Wars

"Every brand knows they need a good story. And the best stories are the ones that also create shared experiences." That's according to Gaston Legorburu, executive creative director and worldwide chief creative officer at global digital agency SapientNitro.

Dubbed a 'game-changer' by Adweek 50, Legorburu is a driving force in the evolution of interactive marketing, and responsible for much of SapientNitro's strategic and creative vision.

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He kicked off Kyoorius Digiyatra 2014 – the first day of India's biggest design conference, Kyoorius Designyatra – with an insightful look into how the agency is "redefining storytelling" for an always-on world, through a concept he termed "storyscaping".

So what makes a successful brand story? Which kinds of stories best connect people with different brands? Computer Arts deputy editor Julia Sagar caught up with Legorburu after his presentation here at Designyatra to find out more. Here's what he had to say…

Gaston Legorburu on stage at Kyoorius Digiyatra, part of the three-day Designyatra conference

Gaston Legorburu on stage at Kyoorius Digiyatra, part of the three-day Designyatra conference

"In brand planning, story plays a big role," Legorburu begins. "There are some story types that work better in connecting people to companies than others. The whole idea of the hero's journey is something I really believe in - it's great for branding."

"The hero's journey is… Star Wars is the hero's journey. It starts with a seemingly helpless individual who has some ideals and sees an injustice in the world, but feels powerless to do anything about it. Then they meet someone, a mentor, who makes them believe that there's a way, and then gives them a gift. They then go through a journey of discovery, with ups and downs. They get to a point where they fight the evil, overcome the evil and now they're the hero. That's Star Wars; that's the hero's journey.

Brands need to stop playing hero

"Think about that in the context of a brand," he continues, citing Toms Shoes as a working example of the 'consumer as hero/brand as mentor' philosophy. Every time the Santa Monica-based company sells a pair of shoes, a pair is given to an impoverished child.

"It's the perfect example," he says. "So the hero is you. And you want to do better in the world, but what can you really do? You admire some people who do more than you do, you try to do some things yourself, but how much can you really do?"

Making connections

"But now you can wear these ugly shoes, and you feel really great because you know – and you're also showing to the world – that you're doing something. So you've just been given a gift that helps you deal with something; that's part of your ethics, right?

"The hero in that story is you. The mentor is Toms Shoes. That's a phenomenal model today! And that's what I think makes for real successful brand stories."

"Take most beloved brands – Harley Davidson, say. How does the product transform you? You sit on these things and you're a different person. Maybe it's a Vera Wang dress, whatever; you're a different person."

"What does it do for you? What does it say about you?" Legorburu concludes. "That's what it's really about."

You can read more of the interview inside an exclusive ‘branding secrets’ feature in Computer Arts issue 234, on sale 13th November.

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.