By Norty Cohen

Founder and CEO, Moosylvania

Author, The Participation Game and Join The Brand (coming October, 2018)


It happened somewhere around 2007. Facebook started gaining momentum and the whole idea of personal branding was taking root.

Before too long, we had people taking photos of every meal and documenting their every move with a selfie stick. Remember “oversharing?”

Fast forward to today, we have consumers spending up to two hours a day creating content.  Friends and family influence brand preference 2.5x more than TV, YouTube and Facebook advertising combined.

Since everyone can create marketing, it’s no wonder that it’s become formulaic. But the real issue is that there is a very dull zone of discernment. What makes a good idea? How do brand marketers stop painting by numbers and following the dots with repetitious tactics?

Social platforms, boosted ads and over-saturation of today’s official eye candy made into a gif are pretty much like high school. That was then. This is now.

With all of the clutter – there is one point of clarity that rings true: a good brand story, well told.  Just like a formulaic movie or TV show, consumers want to connect with originality.

It’s the classic Hero’s Journey: interesting plot, challenge, resolution – and characters that are likable.

In our new book, Join The Brand, we identified brands that resonate with consumers and studied the stories they tell. We pulled apart the original stories of Tito’s, Organic Valley, Vans and GoPro, looking for the hook.

We found their fan connections resonated for two reasons:

1) They had unique and clearly differentiated stories

2) Consumers could understand them and share them with friends

With a clear story at the heart:

  • The job (be it client or agency side) is to articulate it with originality. This allows for real consumer connection that opens the door for two-way conversations.
  • Once that connection is made, consumers can tell their friends and participate in co-creation and collaboration.

The net effect is more awareness and long-term believability.


None of this chart works without clarity at the heart of the story. The challenge is that storytelling is counter-intuitive in a project based, rapid messaging environment.

The London based Institute of Practitioners of Advertising recently issued a study that said the “always on mentality” is challenging thoughtfulness and true consumer understanding. They quote one agency executive saying, “We just need to figure out what question the client should be asking.”

Take a look at where your brand is in this continuum before injecting tactics. Does the consumer know and trust you? Does your story ring true? Will it hold up to a Google search?

Real awareness is what people are saying. It’s your job to tell them a good story.



Excerpt from Join The Brand, by Norty Cohen, Jillian Flores and Meggie Petersen. Available October 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hudson News and select independent book sellers.

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