How to convey a brand message using a quest storyline

For a brand to sustain its leadership position, it has to explore new growth opportunities and keep its target audience up to date about its relevance

How to convey a brand message using a quest storyline
Market leadership is difficult to achieve and remarkably difficult to sustain.

By Harsh Pamnani

Every year, millions of people aspire to start a company. Perhaps, 1% of them begin. Out of the ones who begin, maybe 1% achieve product-market fit. Out of those who achieve product-market fit, a few create well-known brands. Out of the few well-known brands, one becomes the market leader. Any brand that reaches this milestone should be proud of its phenomenal journey. However, during my interaction with CEOs of many leading brands, I have observed that although they feel proud of their success, they worry about its sustainability. 

Market leadership is difficult to achieve and remarkably difficult to sustain. Kodak, Yahoo, and Nokia are not ordinary brand names. Once they were the market leaders of their respective categories, but they couldn’t maintain their leadership positions and lost their relevance. On the other hand, Google has sustained its leadership position for long. To sustain its leadership position, a brand has to explore new growth opportunities and keeps its target audience up to date about its relevance. You might think Google dominates search, and no competitor is anywhere close to it, so why would it need to communicate its significance to its audience. But remember one thing, competition is not always direct, it can also be indirect. 

Google has been a preferred search engine on laptops and desktops, but over time, the penetration of smartphones has exceeded that of desktops and laptops. On smartphones, people don’t just use Google, they also use numerous apps to satisfy their information needs. Here, Google is not competing with just a few search engines, it is also competing with numerous specialized apps. It’s Google’s loss if people use specialized apps instead of Google’s search. Perhaps, to make people realize Google’s power and its relevance in their life, in 2013, Google came up with a fascinating advertisement, Reunion. It immediately went viral. Within 2 days of its release on YouTube, it was viewed more than 1.6 million times. 

Perhaps, the brand message in this ad is Google search is making the world a better place and making a tangible difference in lives by making people find whatever they look for. The storyline behind this famous ad is the quest. A quest is an adventurous journey towards a precious goal. Now, I will explain how to deliver a brand message using the quest storyline by breaking down the ‘Reunion’ commercial.

Beginning: In the quest storyline, a hero gets to know about some goal that makes him restless. This goal could be something hopeful, like collecting a treasure or something fearful like defusing a time bomb. In this ad, an elderly Hindu man in Delhi, Baldev, shows a black and white photograph of himself and his childhood friend Yusuf to his granddaughter, Suman. He tells Suman that he and Yusuf were separated as children during the Partition of India, and he misses Yusuf a lot. Here, Suman gets a goal to find about Yusuf, who is now in Lahore.

An adventurous journey: To achieve his goal hero gets onto a journey filled with obstacles. However, the hero receives guidance from a friend or mentor to overcome these obstacles. In the ad, Suman doesn’t know where Yusuf would be in Lahore and how she would be able to contact him. Interestingly, she uses Google Search to find out places and activities mentioned by her grandfather. Eventually, she is able to locate Yusuf’s sweet shop at Lahore’s Mochi Gate. She finds the shop number and gets connected to a young man (Yusuf’s grandson) through a phone call. That young man gives the phone to Yusuf, who gets surprised by Suman’s call. After the call, he looks at the young man with a desire.

Frustration: Hero has made progress and reached closer to his goal, but he still has certain obstacles to overcome. In the ad, Suman has been able to connect with Yusuf. However, to visit India, Yusuf needs a visa.

Overcoming a new set of challenges: Hero can overcome new obstacles with the guidance of a friend or a mentor. In the ad, the young man is shown using Google Search (on mobile) to arrange India visa and checking the weather using Google Search (on mobile). When Suman is going to receive Yusuf at the airport, she checks the flight timings using Google Search (on mobile). 

Achievement of goal: The hero has to achieve the goal within a specific time limit. This part of the story usually highlights the time factor followed by the glorious achievement and how the world would look after achievement. In the ad, Yusuf meets Baldev on his birthday. This scene highlights that Suman wanted to materialize this meeting on Baldev’s birthday, so she had limited time. The ad ends with both Baldev and Yusuf enjoying the rain.

Lovable and respectable brands know how to resonate with the hearts and minds of the audience. The film is emotional and entertaining. The millions of views on YouTube show that it would have been watched by viewers repeatedly and would have been shared numerous times. The product’s utility is beautifully showcased in the ad, and its powerful features have been brought alive.

Richard Branson said, “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit.” Interestingly, the quest storyline can showcase a brand’s purpose well. Brands can use the quest storyline in multiple ways. One way could be a customer’s quest. A customer (the story’s hero) wants to achieve a goal, and the brand plays the role of guide, the way Google has played the role of guide in this ad. Another way could be employees of a brand trying to create a new category, a new product, or a new market, which can be a quest, and the brand’s leadership facilitates all the resources for them. Here, employees can be showcased as hero and leadership as a guide. And, of course, there can be more use cases. 

The writer is the author of the book Booming Brands. Views expressed are personal and don’t necessarily represent any company’s opinions.

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