Telling Stories with Stagger: Kt McBratney

It’s Christmas eve and there’s no doubt that everyone is settling in with their family and starting to recap the year of 2020. Storytelling is happening in the kitchen, around the dinner table and on living room couches. You can also bet storytelling is happening mostly digital this year. FaceTime, Zoom, you name it.

What’s really special about storytelling this time of year is recapping what we’ve accomplished in the last 12 months. Kt McBratney, CBO of OwnTrail, shares with us what she’s building at OwnTrail and why stories are at the heart of it.


We’ve created a new paradigm for women to own and share their stories as a series of interconnected milestones — their trail. With stories at the heart of OwnTrail, and my marketing career anchored in building brands of all sizes, storytelling is absolutely the foundation of everything I do. 

So I’m thrilled to see so much written on how great brands use storytelling in their marketing — there’s Spotify’s Wrapped, their much shared and data-driven personalized year in review; or Dove’s #RealWomen campaign featuring real women instead of models, for example. I’m stoked to see an increasing amount of data quantifying the efficacy of storytelling as a strategy and a tactic.

There’s no doubt now that storytelling works for brands, but what about when it doesn’t? What about the brand fails, the almosts, the tactless nice tries? If storytelling is so powerful and effective, why can’t the marketing industry bat 1000% with it? As we laud the wins of storytelling, how might we avoid the misses?

Success in brand storytelling comes down to putting people first.

Brands are feelings, created, experienced and shared by people. As Marty Neumeier famously said, brands live in our heads. To build a brand is to engage in dialogue with your audience (the customer). This conversation is a living, breathing defining and redefining of the brand. In real life, storytelling works so well in conversations because it can knock down boundaries, build connections and bridge chasms. The same is true for storytelling in your marketing. But if your  brand gap is so large that your marketing is talking at, not with, your audience, then it’s no surprise your storytelling efforts fall short.

When we fail to see brands as dynamic co-creations of people, we limit storytelling to a means to an end. Brands become things. The people are no longer at the party. The feeling, well, feels forced.

But when you remain people-centric in your marketing, you open up endless storytelling possibilities, including the visual. (We are visual creatures, afterall.) Much like human-centered design, perhaps it’s time to embrace human-centered marketing to unlock the full potential of storytelling.

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    Headquartered in sunny Austin, TX