Opinions Updates

The future of brand storytelling

Effective communication must be relatable, says Freeman Singapore’s executive creative director, Sunny Lai.

Communication, as an industry, is evolving. The lines between agencies are now blurred. In-house branding departments, media agencies and consultancies are all integrating, as are event and marketing agencies. Advertisers seem to want a piece of the action — or activation — too.

Storytelling is very important. When we tell a story, various factors should be considered: how can I spark conversation, and how can I make my story viral? The answer lies in giving the target audience a strong emotional connection to the story, captivated by the narrative. This emotional connection is the future of creative brand storytelling, the ‘superglue’. 

The audience has to be taken on a journey of emotional highs and lows. The ‘superglue’ serves to hold the story together, and pepper it with flavours be it tension or celebration — that are stimulating and provide a cultural point-of-view. Most of all, it must be relatable. This is especially important as we are no longer relying on just print or film. Instead, communication possibilities are limitless, with no physical boundaries. 

You can tell a story in any space. It may be a room where consumers experience the brand, but it can also be just a small pop-up. It can even be simply a QR code that lets their mobile phones tell the story. 

As a result, brand experience agencies like Freeman are integrating strategic and creative ideas across all channels, ensuring that clients are served in more than just event management. This is a key part of my portfolio as executive creative director — I look at transforming the unglamorous into something ‘sexy’, and making the unfathomable easily understood by the audience. 

Taking advantage of ongoing trends and culture helps in understanding what your target audience is looking for, and guides you in how to tell your story in the best way.

Evolving creative strategy across Asia

More than ever, Asia is becoming a melting pot between the East and the West. We are seeing Western culture increasingly integrated into brand storytelling across Asia.

This marriage of traditional Asian values with Western freedom of expression makes it an extremely exciting time for creative strategic thinking and brand storytelling, allowing creative directors more liberty to come up with brand experiences and activations for clients, many of which are global brands from Western countries trying to strengthen their footing in Asia. 

At the same time, with the influx of Western influences, it is also important to continue to understand and delve deeper into the insights of traditions and cultures in Asia, achieving a good blend from both sides.

Having a diverse team to support projects is therefore important. In a creative team, such diversity allows us to think out of the box. 

At Freeman Singapore, we often joke that we are the ‘United Nations’ of the company, as there are more than 10 different nationalities among our staff. Pooling creative talents hailing from different backgrounds enables agencies to provide a variety of perspectives and produce unique creative work.

A creative team with diversity in identities, age, gender, sexuality, race and even personalities would value every individual, and leverage their expertise and background. Each individual is integral and essential to the team’s success. In our industry, celebrating diversity should be a priority.

Sunny Lai is executive creative director at Freeman Singapore. He previously served as executive creative director at Leo Burnett Shanghai.