Think of your favorite commercial.

Is it the one where the kid says “Tape a cheetah to her back”?

How about the one where the guy accidentally hits “reply-all” and then runs around smacking smartphones out of people’s hands?

Now, tell me what companies or products those commercials are advertising. Can you remember? I couldn’t.

This is one of the mistakes many advertisers are making these days. We’re so obsessed with delivering interesting, funny content that we’re failing to connect that content to our brand. A compelling story is important, but if your audience doesn’t associate that story with the product you’re trying to sell, the story has failed you.

Fortunately, we can all learn from example: many companies out there are getting it right: creating funny, memorable ads that tell a story and connect the viewer/reader to the brand without being them over the head.  Here’s how to do the same:

1. Always return to a central message or tagline. For example, Geico continues to create an array of story lines with the Geico gecko and the “How happy are folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to Geico?” series (including the Hump Day commercial you’re probably sick of , but they consistently tie their stories — however varied and off-beat they may be — back to their tagline “15 minutes can save you 15% or more.”

2. Rely on a main character. It’s no coincidence that ultra-popular series of fiction often follow a central character or group of characters  (think Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, 50 Shades, etc). Audiences fall in love with characters and want to watch them grow. You can recreate this with your brand storytelling. Focusing on a recurring character allows you to present a variety of value statements and target disparate audiences while continuing to connect your message with a central character, representing  the heart of your brand. Allstate does a great job of this by focusing on two recurring characters, “Mayhem” and their spokesperson, Dennis Haysbert. By employing both of these characters, they’re able to produce two very different types of ads (and, thus, appeal to two very different types of audiences) without coming across as inconsistent.

3. Stick with a specific theme or format. If you unify your stories with a specific theme, technique, color scheme, or “look and feel,” that theme will become synonymous with brand and your stories will fall into place. Think of Google’s commercials, which implement the same montage theme punctuated by shots of search boxes. At the beginning of these commercials, the viewer is already primed to recognize these stories as Google’s.

How are you ensuring that your audience remembers your brand as much as they remember your story? Tweet me @rikki_rogers.