Brand storytelling is only for the courageous.

Written  by: Vibin K Venugopal
Designation: Co-founder & Director

Fortune favours the brave. This proverb has been repeated numerous times throughout our lives. Does this, however, extend to the world of #brands and brand storytelling? More than ever, indeed!

Personally, I do not think bravery in the world of brand storytelling equates to making provocative or controversial communication. Rather, I regard it as a conviction from the founders and marketers. In these times of fickle consumer minds and limited attention spans, it takes conviction in your brand and a steadfast approach to communicating your brand message.A creative agency might come up with ideas galore, but at the end of the day, the team at the helm of the brand is the one that needs to have the courage to take the leap of faith with them.

Courage can manifest itself in different ways. Whether it is through your brand’s products, processes, policies, or people. Additionally, all of this permeates your company culture and has a profound impact on that one crucial element—your brand storytelling.

There are many examples of brands who have perfectly understood this correlation, but not many have successfully translated it into a holistic and consistent brand story.


Much has already been written about Apple and Steve Jobs’ influence on the technology industry and the world at large. It is intriguing to see how this has endured, if not grown tremendously, over the years. Apple’s continued dedication to simplicity, functionality, and its design philosophy has ensured its relevance over time.

Steve Jobs was a master storyteller, and much of the credit for the brand’s bold storytelling direction belongs to him. This is an excellent illustration of how crafting a narrative around one’s core principles and constantly adapting it over time has developed into excellent brand storytelling.

Apple is recognised for breaking new ground in the fields of design and branding and charging ahead with innovative product concepts. Whether it is introducing cutting-edge new items (remember how awesome the iPods were when they were first introduced?) or understanding that a product has outlived its usefulness and switching to a version that current users want (cue iTunes and Apple Music). It takes a lot of skill to keep an eye on consumer demands, anticipate changes in those needs, and still be both aspirational and inspirational.

Avis: Everyone’s favourite underdog

Courage also comes in the form of humility. In this world of constant chest thumping and the battle to be numero uno, how does one take a brand’s not-so-great performance and turn that into an ace in storytelling?

Well, there is no better example than the work by the ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach on Avis. If you are a marketing or advertising professional, it is very likely that at some point or another, you have come across this campaign.

To set the context, in the 1960s in the US, Hertz was the leading car rental company, with other competitors trailing far behind. But Avis used this as a marketing masterstroke and came up with the “We try harder®” campaign. It brilliantly turned this into a campaign that brought forth the brand’s humility, its determination to succeed, and its urge to try harder, mentioning how not being a market leader only urged it to work more on customer service. What better way to sum it up than with the lines, “When only no.2, you try harder. Or else.”

Would this campaign have been possible without the brand and the agency having the courage to take a leap of faith and use their disadvantages to their eventual advantage? Perhaps not. The campaign became the story of the brand, captivating everyone’s attention and their support for it. It was humility, marketing acumen, courage, and glorious copywriting, all in one package.

Ben & Jerry’s: Serving up Activism

Taking a stance also requires courage. But how often do you find brands making their brand mission part of their core philosophy? And what if it comes not from some socially driven enterprise but from an ice cream brand? Well, you will be even more surprised!

American ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is known not just for their ice creams but also for weaving social and political activism into their culture.

Their brand mission and values state: “We love making ice cream – but using our business to make the world a better place gives our work its meaning. In other words:  we use ice cream to change the world.” From supporting varied issues like Racial Justice (their support for Black Lives Matter has been notable), Rights and Dignity of Refugees and Climate Justice, the list is varied and extensive.

Linking global warming to ice cream might seem like a stretch, but they sum it up brilliantly with the line, “If it’s melted, it’s ruined.” Take their approach to climate change and work towards reducing their carbon footprint. Whether it is integrating practices into their own business procedures (through sustainable packaging, using renewable energy, etc.) or working with groups like the Climate Reality Project, their commitment is steadfast.

Ben and Jerry’s are a perfect example of courage, starting right at the top of the pyramid with the founders taking a stand and their values being imbibed by the entire organization.

Black Baza Coffee: Change starts at the grassroots level

Bravery also comes from recognising issues that face your industry and tackling them head-on. One of the best examples is the Indian specialty coffee brand, Black Baza. Founded by Dr. Arshiya Bose, the brand is fiercely working to preserve biodiversity in coffee plantations and empower small-scale coffee growers, producers, and their communities.

When a business is started and built around the principle of empowerment, it has a unique brand story from the onset. And with Black Baza working at the grassroots level, it is truly striving to bring about a change right from the first step of the business itself. Again, such action requires foresight and fortitude from the founders and the courage to embark on a seemingly difficult brand journey.


All these brands are great examples of courage in brand storytelling manifesting through various forms. We live in a society where anything can be quickly deemed offensive or objectionable to anyone, and brands are constantly walking a tightrope. To diligently work on your brand’s storytelling with conviction, refine it, and adapt it to changing times certainly requires a dose of courage from the founders and the marketers.

Let me know your views on the brands above or which other names deserve to be on this list. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Note: No copyright infringement is intended. The taglines, campaigns, and properties mentioned belong to the respective brands.