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The Luxury Value of Storytelling

Wayne McMaster

13 February 2014

A good story has the power to say more than what's on the surface.  Here are three examples of brand leaders in the art of storytelling:

  1. Apple
  2. Chanel
  3. Burberry


Apple told their first story through the archetype of Outlaw.

Apple is a legendary marketer, and the company exhibited a genius for storytelling early on. Thirty years ago, in 1984, Apple launched an iconic – almost cinematic – Super Bowl ad that blew customers and industry watchers away. Using fascination and mystique, the ad literally launched Apple into the big leagues.

At the time IBM was the dominant player in the computer world. Apple, by comparison, was a small player – little more than a startup. But it was going after IBM.

The company did this with a dark, science-fiction style ad directed by now legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott.  It was an artistic allegory that didn’t even show a glimpse of the company’s latest product, the Macintosh. Instead, the ad just said:

“On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ’1984.’”

The ad was an in-your-face assault against conformity it played on George Orwell's dystopian novel and reassured viewers that Apple's new technology would be used for freedom, not control. It aired just once, and was incredibly expensive, costing nearly a million dollars at the time. Yet it made an impact.

The message was clear to the world: Apple intended to take on IBM – the “Big Brother” that controlled the computer industry.  The Mac was to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledghammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, "Big Brother"?


Chanel tells their story through the lens of the archetype Lover and Explorer.

We know Coco Chanel is not just another luxury fashion brand, its a philosophy, a state of mind. They’re not selling a product, they’re selling a lifestyle too, they’re selling status and most importantly, they’re selling heritage.

After all they’re not selling a product, they’re selling a lifestyle, they’re selling status and most importantly,  they’re selling heritage. - See more at:
After all they’re not selling a product, they’re selling a lifestyle, they’re selling status and most importantly,  they’re selling heritage. - See more at:

But Chanel's background was troubled and complex, and it was something that seeped into her trademark fragrance. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was a fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand, to appreciate the story of this young orphan who reinvented herself and became Coco Chanel, we need to go on the journey with Coco from her humble beginnings in 1883…

Inside Chanel – is the site dedicated to her legacy – retracing her rise to the top in a series of fascinating capsule videos. Watch the 5th chapter and see all ten along with a beautiful time on the mircosite.


Burberry comands respect as a heritage brand expressing itself through the Ruler archetype.

Last year, the Financial Times dubbed it ‘the most connected brand in luxury’. Alongside the online store, the brand runs a successful music hub, Burberry Acoustic, (where it lives streams bands and in-store gigs). 

Burberry took new ground by initiating crowdsourced stories for a digital project called ‘Art of the Trench’.  ‘Trench’ was originally launch in 2009, essentially a living document constructed for, and by, Burberry customers right across its digital domains. It featured striking photo walls, notes and comments from real people enjoying moments inspired by their trench coats. And now, in a very small way, their stories are part of the Burberry narrative. Such a versatile integral campaign as this is woven into the launch activity around all new stores.

The surge in its own digital storytelling was largely down to chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, along side the then CEO Angela Ahrendts, who became driving the change in conversational style.  Bailey talked about deliberately opening up the dialogue. “We want to let people into that experience, which is really entertainment: beautiful girls, handsome guys, nice clothes and good music.”

Angela Ahrendts allows us to takeaway 5 key tennents from storytelling:    

  1. Know thyself. What’s your core, your passion, your reason for being? Young or old, all great brands and individuals stand for something – it’s the starting point for every story.
  2. Dream. Stories are where dreams can become realities. Be brave, audacious, take risks.
  3. Be authentic. Share a consistent, pure vision – write your next (or your first) chapter, not a new book every time.
  4. Trust – your instincts, each other. Trust engenders belief, the basis on which all stories live or die.
  5. Engage, entertain, excite. Emotion is at the heart of every story, in every age, in every context – round a campfire, on the printed page, in a movie theatre, online. Today, digital is opening up a whole new era of opportunity, putting the power to create emotive content and share it widely in everyone’s hands. Use it smartly, and wisely.



Chanel is not just another luxury fashion brand. It’s a philosophy, a state of mind - See more at:
Chanel is not just another luxury fashion brand. It’s a philosophy, a state of mind - See more at:
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