How 12 Years a Slave Can Help Tell Your Brand’s Story

12 Years A Slave

What’s your brand’s story? The story of Solomon Northup in the Golden Globe winning film 12 Years a Slave proves that great storytelling is the key to engaging conversations with your customers.

We are one week into 2014. Yes! We have survived the “Best of 2013,” “Trends to Watch in 2014” and other redundant year-end lists. But wait. Pretty soon, there will be a barrage of award shows celebrating and praising the “Best of 2013” with as much pomp and circumstance as a funeral put on by Phaedra Parks and Willie Watkins’ funeral home services.

One film expected to be heavily awarded during this year’s award shows is the Golden Globe wining 12 Years a Slave. I watched this movie all by my lonesome last year. (Yes, I’m conscious about attending the movies alone.) No one seemed to be interested (or could stomach) watching another movie about the atrocities of slavery with me. I could have easily came to the same conclusion. However, a great story is simply a great story no matter the setting or time period. This made me consider whether or not anyone would find my life interesting enough to write a story about it.

What’s your story?

This is a question every brand should ask at the end of each year. In order to stand out among others with similar plots, figuring out your story whether personally or professionally is important. This is the foundation of great branding.

What’s your plot?

Being in denial of ones’ circumstance and new environment can be very dangerous. Solomon Northup, the main character in 12 Years a Slave, was a free man who was captured and sold back into slavery. He had to learn how to manage his reputation and intellect as a newly captured slave. Solomon quickly discovered that he could not explicitly express his smarts or opinion. He would have to approach gaining his goal of freedom from a different perspective considering his new environment.

Many brands ignore their current plot or circumstance due to unexpected changes. This is why so many brands fail. They suffer from marketing myopiaPolaroid anyone? Being able to identify where you currently stand with your customers and the competition will help you develop a story worth continuous attention.

Is your story worth being told?

Once you have identified your plot, it’ll be easier to determine what makes your story unique. There are a plethora of stories about slavery. It’s a sensitive and painful part of the Americas’ history. Yet, every time the story is told, it sparks interest and controversy. Solomon’s story brings on a different perspective—a free man sold from Saratoga, New York into slavery in the Deep South, Louisiana. Solomon’s story adds more context to the complexity of slavery from a different perspective.

As a brand, it is important to add more context or value to your plot. Are you solving a problem? Or are you great at explaining a universal narrative? Are you providing support? Or are you providing instruction? Determining these answers helps define your story’s value.

How many times can your story be told?

Is your story up for different interpretations? Can someone tell your story better than you? The story of Solomon Northup was actually published in 1853 entitled Twelve Years a Slave like the movie. In fact, there have been several interpretations of his story, both literal and musical, and there will probably be more. This stresses the importance of making sure your story is worthy of attention. Even though it’s possible that your story will be copied by both competitors and peers, knowing that it’s worth being copied proves your story has value. (How to address competitors is another blog for another day.)

Will your story spark conversation or debate?

After watching the completion of 12 Years a Slave, the atmosphere in the movie theater was full of emotion. Several members of the audience set in their chair crying as the credits rolled. However, there were some who immediately questioned the movie’s authenticity. This wide range of emotions established the impact of Solomon’s story.

This brings me to another point. Not everyone will get your story. And that’s perfectly okay. Your services, products or talents will not excite everyone, but the fact that it’s up for discussion solidifies your brand awareness.

Developing your story is important. By following the advice above, your brand’s story will be on the lips of customers, peers and competitors. Learn more about how can help develop your brand’s story here.