Brand Matters: What's Your Story?
Great brands tell great stories. Annette Simmons' book title sums it up best: "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins." The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) published a study last year that agrees with her sentiment: "Advertisements that tell a branding story work better than ads focused on product positioning." Bill Cook, senior vice president of research and standards of ARF, stated that "when the emotional peaks align with the presence of the brand or the impact of the brand in the story, the emotional connection with the brand is the greatest."
People resonate with stories, remember stories and most importantly, respond to stories. Even nonbusinesspeople are familiar with many of the stories behind these brands: Nike, Converse, Ben & Jerry's, Volvo, Cabela's, craigslist and Harley. These stories have long shelf lives because they incorporate a particular vocabulary. They are built on a heritage of passion—a core mission and set of values that began with the original founder(s) and are still alive today. They declare a point of view. Their employees authentically live the brand. The whole customer experience rings true. But they also do something else that is extremely important: They make it easy for their customers to share their brand stories with others.
The folks at trendwatching.com have tagged this process as creating "status stories." They advise: "As more brands (have to) go niche and therefore tell stories that aren't known to the masses, and as experiences and non-consumption-related expenditures take over from physical (and more visible) status symbols, consumers will increasingly have to tell each other stories to achieve a status dividend from their purchases. Expect a shift from brands telling a story, to brands helping consumers tell status—yielding stories to other consumers."
First, is your brand experience "storytelling worthy?" And second, do you make it easy for your customers to share those stories with others? If you can't answer an enthusiastic "yes" to either question, I suggest you spend some serious "stop and think" time creating an action plan to turn those "nos" into "yeses."
As a book is thoughtfully composed word by word, then paragraph by paragraph until there are pages that compile chapters, brand stories are created in a similar manner. Let's look at each of these story components individually.
A Particular Vocabulary
No doubt, part of a good read is the author's command of the language—just how words are used, how phrases and sentences are constructed.
The same holds true for brands.
Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of creative branding and merchandising consultancy IER Partners. For 20+ years, Andrea’s joy has been inspiring clients with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She’s the author of two books about brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants and ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.