“People want the soul in things. They want to understand the whys and the whats and the values that surround it…. It’s not just a coat. That coat has a story.” Christopher Bailey (CEO of Burberry)
You have a great product, great team, doing great work, and yet something just isn’t clicking! Traction and brand affinity are difficult, we understand that. The missing “aha” factor may just be that you lack a compelling brand story. The reason why a story is so important is because it conveys the heart of your company — the reason for its existence, the future it imagines, the values it stands on, etc. A recent BBMG study showed that 73% of people cared more about the company than the product it sells. Sure value propositions are important, but when it comes down to it, what do you talk about at dinner parties, watch at movie theatres, read in your free time? Stories. People are tired of hard sells. Instead, keep your customers loyal and brand relevant by capitalizing on what humans love best — a good story.
Why tell a story
Consumers primarily use emotion rather than product information when making purchasing decisions.
Maya Angelou’s famous quote “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” applies to brands as well.
Brand loyalty is heavily based upon the story a brand weaves. After all, humans are wired to value stories. Through every culture and custom, stories have shaped history and civilization itself — if they’re powerful enough to shape civilizations, they’re clearly powerful enough to transform a brand.
What is your brand’s story
Luckily, your brand already has a story! Your brand already has character, it permeates everything from company values to culture to product. There are different types of stories, and this depends on whether you’re telling the story internally or externally. It may be a story to inspire workers, recognize donors, celebrate a milestone, or tell a history of the origins. Whatever type of story it is, just remember the key elements…
We’ve all been told that every story needs characters, plot, etc. and that’s true. But your brand story needs to convey one thing more — purpose. Why does your brand exist? First you must do your due diligence and find out what your customers want, and then you must know exactly how your company accomplishes that. Your company fills a need, and that’s quite amazing! Simply put, conveying authenticity shouldn’t be hard as long as your company is, well, authentic. You’ve already done the hard part, adding value to the world, now you just have to show people that.
How to tell the story
There are many mediums to tell a story — social media, physical spaces, etc. — and they each are best for different purposes. What is most important though is that the story is intentional, authentic, and consistent across all avenues. Social media is good for short snappy messages while underutilized physical spaces can be transformed into a storyboard for longer term messaging. Using each platform will ensure that all the senses are covered (e.g. online for hearing, physical for visual) maximizing the impact of the story for your audience.
Branding throughout the entire company is incredibly important. The physical space of an office must convey the same feeling for the employees as advertising conveys for customers. Consider adding visual displays to your space that are consistent with the tone of your company. If you’re a creative company, creative packaging, custom furniture, funky lighting adds to authenticity. Matching the design of the logo with the culture of the company creates consistency. Many companies know this well, the three examples below just happen to be exceptional at it.
Examples of great storytelling
The three brands I’ve selected — one classic, one new, and one local — all do one thing really right, they make you feel something. Their stories are so inspirational that you can’t help but root for them to succeed.
Apple: Picture this, it’s 1984, Apple is this small startup trying to break into a monotonous computer world. Super Bowl 1984, Apple runs an ad for Macintosh, the first ever Macintosh, and does not even show or mention the product, but rather tells a story. And think, just 30 years later, you’re probably reading this on an Apple product. This is truly the stuff of legends.
TOMS: In 2006, a young man was travelling through Argentina and noticed both the popularity of the national shoe — the alpargata, as well as the tragic truth that many didn’t have the means to afford any shoes at all. In a moment of inspiration, he comes up with a simple formula to help solve the problem: sell a pair, donate a pair; and in that moment, TOMS was born.
French’s: Workers of a Heinz factory in Ontario sit in the cafeteria and hear the bad news, the plant is shutting down and all 740 full time workers and 350 seasonal workers will lose their jobs. About a year later, French’s Food, decides to work with the local farmers of Ontario and only buy Canadian tomatoes for their ketchup. #Frenchsketchup goes viral and the rest is history.
The best part is that your story isn’t over yet, it lives on, it moves forward, your company keeps connecting with people, so keep writing! Hook your audience by being authentic and consistent and they’ll be with you for each step of the journey, equally excited to see what’s going to happen next.
Mary Gao | Marketing