Ever been to a party or a networking event and wound up talking to someone who just couldn’t hit the conversational ball back? Ever met someone who did a lot of talking without ever really saying anything meaningful or interesting? How about getting cornered by someone who always turned the conversation back to them? The point here isn’t to disparage any one type of person or personality but instead to ask this: If you were at a party, would you want to talk to your brand?
Brands often exist in a bubble that includes their team, the competition and various buyer personas. Brand strategy and language often come from a series of dotted lines connecting these three buckets. This is a perfectly rational and functional way to think, and it worked for years. Focus on one bucket and develop a campaign for that. Focus on another bucket and develop a new campaign for that. The problem with this approach is that with each new goal, there is almost inevitably a return to the beginning required to develop new material. And, with each retelling of your company, product and differentiation, companies expose inconsistencies in their brand identity.
The solution is to focus on your brand story. Think back to the dinner party or networking event and imagine everyone there is a brand. Consider everything that led up to your brand arriving at that event. Don’t skip to the sales pitch. No one opens up a conversation with, “Will you sit next to me at dinner?” Likewise, no one starts a conversation with, “I have a great personality, and I’m way more fun than that guy over there.” What makes someone intriguing and charming is their life experience, their motivation, and their relatability and interest in others.
Like any creative endeavor, a brand story is part truth and part fiction. The truth comes from your product, your people and your reputation. The fiction comes in weaving those aspects together into an imaginative arc that connects the past, present and future. Also, like any creative endeavor, a brand story includes tension and resolution, mission and struggle. A well-crafted brand story integrates a sense of purpose that kicks the vague, old-fashioned mission statement in the pants.
The amount of imagination required obviously depends on your brand, evolution and history. If you’re Patagonia or Warby Parker, the intrigue is preloaded. If you’re a brand with a less-heroic backstory, you will benefit from hiring a good narrator. Regardless, your story is your tool for telling the world who you are, what you do, what you stand for, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Most importantly, your story reveals how you relate to others and helps others relate to you.
The significance of brand stories is becoming more and more critical as the transition to a digital world increases in speed. Companies are finding themselves quickly navigating the social/digital world without a good road map. Consumers are quick to see through brands that are simply talking a lot without saying anything. Consumers are turning away from brands that simply talk about themselves. Meanwhile, there are brands that have a good story, have an equally solid voice, and are churning out content that is organic, authentic and popular.
This week, take a minute and think about your brand. Is it benefitting a little too much from social distancing? Or, is it ready to own the party and make some friends?