EVERYONE Loves An Origin Story

By Stew Redwine, Creative Director of Oxford Road

Look at the box office hauls for Black Panther and Captain Marvel or why Ancestry.com or 23andMe are so popular. Because we all want to know where we came from, just like we want to know where superheroes come from.  That’s why Oxford Road has partnered with the founders of companies to tell their origin story, brands like Blinds, Boll & Branch, LendingTree, Mack Weldon, and NetSuite. Oxford Road’s work with these companies has been able to drive best in market performance at a maximum viable scale by telling their Founders’ stories. In the case of Blinds, LendingTree, and NetSuite – all three brands had never used their founder before. In the case of Blinds and LendingTree, in particular, Oxford Road was given performance goals and the Audiolytics™ powered Founder as Spokesperson spots we created surpassed every goal and expectation set upon them.

In a certain sense, Founders are the real-life superheroes of the 21st Century. We no longer vanquish our enemies and lay claim to riches, land, and glory. Instead, our modern-day mythology celebrates those who start companies in garages and around card tables. They still end up laying claim to riches, but that is about all they share with the Achilles, Ghengis Khans, and Alexander the Greats of a much more savage age. It is in telling this modern-day story, of how companies selling everything from bed sheets to cloud-based business systems, were founded and who founded them that audiences LOVE to hear.

But why?

It has been two thousand three hundred years since Aristotle announced the fundamental building blocks of persuasion in his treatise Rhetoric: “Ethos,” “Pathos,” and “Logos.” In other words, Credibility, Emotion, and Reason. Together, these three concepts provide a fool-proof foundation to achieve something remarkable – persuading another human being to do something. Consider this anecdote: what parent wouldn’t run into a burning building to save their child crying for help? The source is credible (Ethos), the emotion is deep (Pathos), and the reasons (Logos) are abundant. “Persuaded” almost isn’t the right word, really the parent is compelled to run into the flames and save their child. But saving one’s child from a burning building is a rare occasion. But our brains love psychological shortcuts – or “associations”, quick relays between input and meaning – and, when crafted skillfully, these building blocks of persuasion can compel people to act as strongly as if they were saving their child from a burning building.

Even though plenty has been said about “Pathos/Emotion” and “Logos/Reason”, not nearly enough attention has been given “Ethos/Credibility”. It’s one of the three legs upon which persuasion rests and deserves much more attention because it’s just as powerful as the other two legs. The problem with many creative agencies is they produce work that is too subjective, expensive, and often rooted completely in Emotion. Then there are those ads that are appealing completely to Reason. The fault with both is that they stray too far away from the purpose for which the business was founded and the PERSON who founded it. That’s where the power of Credibility is hidden. When we speak to our audience from a source they trust (a Founder), with emotive and informative language – they will act. Every time.

This strategy has proven successful across industries for decades, and incredibly valuable for Oxford Road’s clients. But simply using a Founder as Spokesperson is not all there is to the story. After all, it doesn’t matter who is saying it until you have something to say. That is what the Audiolytics™ methodology unlocks. Oxford Road’s Audiolytics™ is a data-driven approach to creative that eliminates bias by adhering to a proven structure of 71 data points. This allows Oxford Road to audit our client’s messaging, optimize it, and outperform the competition with every campaign. Those using a Founder as a Spokesperson combined with Audiolytics™ will have confidence that every word the Founder speaks will have maximum impact.

To give you an idea of how this powerhouse combination works, here are three of the guidelines we’d give to any brand considering using their Founder as a Spokesperson.

  1. First, it can be effective if it’s the right person. This is a combination of the Founder resonating with the target audience, how they come across on camera or mic, and whether there is anything about them that would not benefit the company. At Oxford Road, we’ve discovered that most Founders have a special combination of a distinct personality, style, charisma, energy, and authority that translates well in audio and on camera.
  2. Secondly, the Audiolytics™ formula equips the Founder with the most potent statements they can claim about their story and their company, but you don’t want to make a large promise without the capability to follow through. If the Founder is seen making grandiose promises on behalf of the company, he or she had better deliver, or it could harm consumers’ feelings about the brand. But you also want the promise to be LARGE enough that it gets attention. Our guiding principle for developing offers and guarantees with Founders is, “If the compliance department isn’t fighting you, the offer/guarantee is NOT strong enough.”
  3. Third, plan on it being a long-term commitment. With one advertiser we’ve been running Founder as Spokesperson audio ads for years. That’s allowed us to tell different aspects of their story AND build up the listener’s “relationship” with the Founder. The compound brand affinity that is built by having the Founder of a company talk to audiences day in and day out, month after month, year after year, is impossible to calculate.

For these reasons, and many others, we love using Founders in the ads we create with our clients. As a bonus, a Founder starring in their own ads eliminates the potentially astronomical costs associated with hiring talent or celebrity endorsers. The bottom line is, if a company has an engaged founder, they ARE the face of the brand, like it or not. While they may not be as famous as Richard Branson or have the down-home appeal of Colonel Sanders (in whatever form he takes), they have an authentic story and voice that is all their own and a passion for their business that is unmatched by anyone on this planet. By harnessing that passion, a Founder will win the trust of future customers and compel them to act and that means their ads will perform better. Because EVERYONE loves an Origin Story.

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