Creative Director Heidi Taina on Brand Storytelling

Creative Director Heidi Taina on Brand Storytelling

Meet Heidi Taina. She is Creative Director and Partner at the marketing agency TBWA\Helsinki and a Krea alumni student.  She shared her views about how to create a captivating customer experience story.

What are the duties of a Creative Director?

I manage our creatives, guiding and supporting their work. I work directly with clients as well – focusing on their business and monitoring the market. Besides strategic input, Creative Directors should also be very hands-on. After all, they are responsible for the creative outcome. I also work as supervisor for some of the creatives, so we talk a lot about their well-being as well.

How common is it for companies to let customers tell their own stories?

Brands want people to talk about them, and the best way to achieve that is to appear relatable to the audience. So, it is quite common. For example, I once worked on a campaign for the Finnish magazine Me Naiset. We asked Finnish women how they would like to voice their opinions. We ended up having an entire campaign – and even a fashion collection – built around women’s own words.

What makes a great customer experience story?

I would be out of a job if that were an easy question to answer. Customer experiences are very different from each other and so are the stories.

In order for the customer story to be interesting, you need to have a creative idea for it. It needs to be a story worth sharing. First you need to find insight into what people want to know. When you have the insight, develop that into an idea and only after that, come up with a mechanism for its narrative execution.

You can start by following the classical narrative structures. Classic fairy tales, for example, have powerful storylines: Cinderella – from rags to riches. Try to create a strong storyline and introduce a customer experience story with an interesting structure – that makes the story easy to understand and remember.

The basics of storytelling tell us that the main point is to touch the human soul and reach out to the emotions.  How do we choose which emotion to go for when creating an inspirational customer experience story?

Yes, thank you for asking this question! Very often when we talk about creating emotions, people tend to think about a sob story. No! You can be funny. Reaching out to people’s emotions does not necessarily mean making them cry.

I think that it is easier to create a sad story than a funny story stemming from real life. So very often you see campaigns that take their power from shedding tears. Overall, the emotions to go for should be defined by the brand. What is suitable for this brand? I do not want to say that a bank, for example, should always be serious, but people would like to trust a bank with their savings. It may be hard to promote trust with crazy jokes.

What would you suggest for an Italian restaurant?

One of TBWA’s meeting rooms

If you are a happy pizza brand, what sort of a story would fit? Can it be sad? Having a good pizza may not change your whole life, but it can make your day a hell of a lot better. If you just had the worst day of your life, the brand can be honest: “Sorry, we cannot make your girlfriend love you again, but here’s some pizza.”

Do not overpromise, because then it is just tacky. Could a pizza place start a revolution about sexual equality in Finland? Maybe. Who knows? We have seen interesting things from surprising brands. For example the Finnish retail brand HOK-Elanto had a very nice Christmas campaign – Joulurauhaa It is about equality and being open to every person living in Finland. Brands can take on huge issues if they want. Just make sure it does not come out as unrealistic.

How would you advice Krea Spring School students to analyze their brand experience at Via Tribunali?

Where do you meet this brand? You meet it in the restaurant. You experience how people behave. You can see if the employees are multicultural and if they are happy. Are they natural, relaxed? Do they seem like they are enjoying their job? Be honest. Be open-minded and brave enough to say if there is anything that could be changed for the better.

Is there something we should’ve asked you but didn’t?

I think you should know that you have now seen only my side of the story. At an advertising agency, there are many people involved in story creation: copywriters, art directors, graphic designers, clients, managers, photographers, project managers, digital experts. It is teamwork.

Krea students Silja, Susanna, Ksenia with Weile behind the camera


Krea Spring School will take place on 13-17 May 2019 at Haaga-Helia, bringing together creative multicultural student teams to plan and produce inspirational customer experience stories for pizzeria Via Tribunali.

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