Continuing our series on how to build a luxury brand, in this post, I talk about your brand story: how to build your brand story and how creating your brand story has a significant impact on your brand.
Spoiler alert! – It will ultimately have an effect on your bottom line and your profits.
Every brand has a story to tell. Some are inspirational while others are tragic. In so many ways, building a brand is like telling a great story. At the heart of both crafts is the power to evoke emotions from the audience.
Great storytellers can make you cry while branding experts can make you buy. – Mash Bonigala
There are many forms of media to tell your brand story from advertising, social media, audio podcasts, videos packaging to business cards and more. Thanks to the Internet a brand is just a click away. And just like stories, it’s not what you say but how you say it to your audience.
You can use the strategies and selling points of your leading competitors but it won’t have the same effect unless told in a compelling way.
As brands and branding is everywhere, it is important to understand brands and brand images not only from the company’s perspective, but also from the consumers’ perspective. The Brand image is a consumer concept and defines how we as consumers perceive the company and its products and services. – HAAGA
How do you develop a great brand story then?
Start with the end.
Or in the words of Stephen Covey, begin with the end in mind.
Imagine you’ll be on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine next year. How would you like your story to unfold? Do you like to tell them about your superb customer service or innovative thinking?
The fact is that it can be whatever you aspire your company to be. You can start by outlining the things you need to do to make that dream a reality.
In some aspects, branding is different from storytelling – for it is a two-way system.
In stories, the author controls the ideas and plots. In branding, your story is a collaboration of your vision and opinions of your customers, suppliers and even competitors.
What about your logo design? It will play a pivotal role in uniting all aspects of your communication. You see ads, web design, and packaging may change from time to time but a great logo design stays the same for many years. Just like any storybooks, your logo is your cover.
But branding is more than just words and designs. It must be accompanied by great actions. Otherwise, it will all be a waste of time and money.
One of the most important ways of connecting with your target market and your audience is to create the perception of a luxury brand by telling a story. Now, most businesses do not even think of a story. When you ask them do you have a story? They might say “yes look at our website. look at the marketing material”.
A brand story is not what you say on your website or what you say in your marketing material. It is not what you’re trying to convince your target market about. It is not about trying to convince them to make a purchase or to buy something at that moment.
A brand story is something that will create this perception in your target markets minds that will translate into loyalty down the line. Of course eventually into conversions and sales.
Before we talk about your brand story we need to talk about the power of storytelling itself.
The power of storytelling
Humans communicate and pass on traditions with stories. This is how we were doing it since the dawn of mankind. Even in this modern world when we get up in the morning we tell ourselves stories.
We tell our spouses stories. We tell our kids stories.
Our kids tell us stories. Our friends tell us stories. We tell our colleagues stories.
Everybody is telling everybody stories.
Telling stories is how we communicate. We understand stories readily.
Stories actually make us imagine and arrive at our own conclusions. This is very important to understand.
At their core, organizations are human; and humans tell stories. When organizations use storytelling strategically, they tap into their human nature and, in doing so, bring more meaning, focus, and productivity not only to their work but also to their workforce. – BB&CO
Why do we like stories in the first place?
We like stories because stories allow us to think through and formulate our own opinions. To formulate our own conclusions about a particular belief or a particular event. So we feel more liberated when we hear stories. We also align ourselves with the right kind of stories.
The market for consumer attention (or “eyeballs”) has become so competitive that attention can be regarded as a currency. The rising cost of this ingredient in the marketplace is causing marketers to waste money on costly attention sources or reduce their investment in promoting their brands. – Harvard Business School
So when we hear a story about a particular brand or about a particular company, a particular leader, about a particular race or even a country, we sort of align ourselves with the right kind of stories and we convince ourselves of their authenticity.
We convince ourselves of their power and we get sold or we sell ourselves on the power of the right kind of stories. Believe it or not, we are all very good at telling stories. Since we were children we have been great at telling stories. You know we told stories to our parents when we wanted something. Then later on in life for everything we tell stories. So why not apply that to telling your brand story.
The health of the American economy rests in the hands of consumers in their prime spending years. Their attitudes, behaviors, and spending habits are reflective of their formative years and are shaped by the political, economic and social climate of that time period. – PPAI
Why do you need a brand story?
Your brand needs a story. I’m not talking about marketing messages, your slogan or your jingle. But rather your core story.
You need a story to cut through the noise. The marketing world is full of companies making a lot of noise to be heard. Customers are overwhelmed by the noise of advertising. With the noise of branding. With the noise of sales.
So if you want to cut through the noise you need a compelling story. A story that sets you apart from the competition and a story that appeals to the worldview of your target market.
…Emotions–both related and unrelated to the decision at hand– play an important role in shaping consumer decision-making. Emotions embedded in marketing stimuli influence decision- making via processes driven by cognitive appraisals. – EISEVIER
You start with the worldview of your target market.
You try and understand what makes them tick. You try and understand what appeals to them. What do they read? What kind of movies do they like? What do they wear?
Yeah, I know it sounds a little silly but getting into the psyche of the target market can help you understand their worldview. You need to be empathic toward your target audience’s worldview. This is not manipulation. Because manipulation only goes so far. What you’re trying to do here is a genuine understanding of your target market.
An example: Owned by Marriot, Moxy is a popular boutique hotel brand, especially with millennials. The brand found almost instant success with younger audiences by connecting with them on YouTube and other channels via their video series, Do Not Disturb.
What are their families like? What do they do doing their off time? What kind of movies do they watch? Things like that. That will get you closer to understanding your target market – your customers. You will feel like you know them because most businesses operate from a position where their customers are aliens. They do not understand who their customers are.
Today nostalgia is playing an important role in marketing. Through nostalgia, we can effectively communicate with consumers, in this way we can achieve the purpose of marketing. In fact in the marketing practice at home and abroad, more and more companies use the nostalgic psychology of consumers as a marketing strategy. – Journal of Service Science & Management
The typical unconscious thought process of most businesses starts with – “okay we want these people to buy our product to give us money. We don’t care what they think. We don’t care how they think. They’ve got a wallet. We have a product. They need to buy from us.”
But that is a wrong way of looking at it. It’s especially true for smaller companies. It might work for AT&T or Coca-Cola but not for you and me. It does not work for us. So we have what is called an opportunity cost where we’re losing money on the table just because we’re not sensitive to the fact that our customers need to be understood properly. Not understood from a marketing perspective but from a human perspective.
Emotions are a key part of all stages of the retailing experience, and retailers have to not only understand and predict customers’ emotions but also shape retail environments to cultivate desired emotions and eliminate undesired ones. – WHARTON
Your product or service should NOT be a commodity.
Even if you’re selling tea or sugar. Even if it is a commodity it does not have to be a commodity. I actually wanted to give an example of Starbucks. Starbucks sells coffee which is nothing more than a commodity. One coffee is no different from the other if they are made using the same recipe.
Yes, I do know that different beans come from different places. Of course, the aroma is different ever so slightly different and the taste too.
I will be brutally honest to you. If you look at the statistics. If you analyze how the market works. Most of these coffee companies get their beans from one particular region in South America. There are different farms. In fact, Costa and Starbucks may have coffee farms and plantations side-by-side. There are sharing the same soil. There are sharing the same water. The same environment. In fact, members of the same family will be picking these coffee beans in competing plantations.
Consumer research has demonstrated that emotions play an important role in the decision- making process. Individuals may use consumption or purchasing as a way to manage their emotions. – Loyola Marymount University
At the end of the day, why would you pay five dollars for Starbucks coffee and not coffee found at your local café?
When you go to your local café. If they say $5 rs or $7 or $10. You will be like “what” a copy coffee cost $10?”.
But then you walk into Starbucks and you ask for a frappuccino, you are happily willing to pay eight bucks for this frappuccino.
Another example Chiquita Brands International, formerly Chiquita Bananas. All they sell are commodities, and for a long time, only one type—yet, they are one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Here is what Chiquita says on their website:
Lights, Cameras, Bananas
Chiquita is one of the world’s most popular brands due in part to our beloved commercials and print ads over the years. We’ve compiled a whole bunch of favorites for you to enjoy.
As a leading, iconic brand, we have a big ambition – we want to be the banana of choice in every market we are present. Our brand positioning Playful by Nature puts us at the heart of our consumers.
In 2015 Chiquita launched the Just Smile! campaign as the creative platform to connect Chiquita bananas and consumers in a playful way. In 2017, we started the We Are Bananas campaign in North-America and we kick off 2018 with the Chiquita Always The Best Choice campaign in Europe.
That is the power of turning your product or service from being a commodity into it non-commodity.
A commodity is defined as something that can not be differentiated from something else in the market. But at the end of the day, you can differentiate your commodity, your service or your product just with the power of your storytelling – genuine storytelling.
You want your brand story to be original and unique.
You want your company to be unique. You want your business to be unique and original.
If you’re selling a unique product and that no one else is selling, your market is niche. It’s very small and you do not even need to worry about your brand story.
A great example is Warby Parker: They have positioned themselves as the alternative to expensive eyewear. They have a very compelling story that resonates with consumers on their website:
Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. (We don’t recommend this.) The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options?
In fact, you do not even need to have a company name, a logo or even a website. There is no question of branding when there is no competition.
Branding comes into effect when you have competitors.
You want to be original. You want to be unique at the same time you’re selling the same kind of product or service like 100 different other companies of selling. To make yourself unique and original you need your brand to have a story.
A unique brand story that goes viral is an awesome weapon in taking your brand to the next level. Here is an article from Wharton University called “Social Transmission, Emotion and the Virality of Online Content” that goes into detail about how emotion plays a huge part in viral stories.
How do you tell a brand story?
In my opinion, to start creating your brand story you need to start thinking inwards. Like in Zen meditation. You think inwards not outwards. You need to balance between inwards and outwards.
You try and discover and distill your company core values. Every company, every business, every individual has a set of core values. We all do. Sometimes we realize that sometimes we don’t.
You need to find out the core values of your business. Everybody is in business to make money but most of the time money is not the only thing that motivates us. We’re passionate about something.
A great example is the Minnetonka brand. The ‘quintessential American brand,’ Minnetonka has been selling traditional Native and western footwear since the 1940s, seeking to strike a balance between fair price and profit. This is a brand that truly cares about their product.
This is what they say on their website:
It began in 1946. Americans took to the open road – they’d pile in their cars and take any highway west. They sought natural wonders and roadside attractions and returned home wearing Minnetonka moccasins. Sold alongside giftshop mainstays such as glassware and postcards, customers could find mocs for a starting price of $3.80.
Let’s say that you want to sell T-shirts. There are 1 million other outlets selling T-shirts. When you decided to sell T-shirts you could have picked something easier but you had a passion for apparel design. A passion for selling quality T-shirts has motivated you for a very long time and that is how you started your business.
You need to find what your values are.
If you look at most brands and their mission statements, you can’t help but laugh because their mission statements sound like marketing pitches. They read like marketing statements.
If you read any marketing manual you usually find advise like – you need to have a mission statement that says “this is what we provide and we are providing it at the best quality possible”.
Who is going to say that they’re going to provide bad products at bad quality? Who is going to say that? So you are saying that you’re going to provide your products at the best quality and your competition is going to say the same thing.
So there’s nothing special about you saying that you’re going to provide the best quality. If you not going to be providing the best quality you not going to be in business anyway or at least if you do not say that yours is the best quality you not going to be in business.
More positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone and is driven in part by arousal. Eventually, nine factors were deemed “important determinants” for a viral video: title length, run-time, laughter, an element of surprise, element of irony, minority presence, music quality, youth presence, and talent. – EON
Talking about the usual fluff is not going to cut it. Don’t talk about the benefits of your service all your product. Go beyond that.
There is a place and time for talking about the benefits. But when you’re creating a mission statement which is going to be the fundamental pillar of your business, talk about your core values. Talk about your beliefs. Talk about what how you plan to make a difference in this world.
When I tell this to a lot of my clients, they feel uncomfortable talking about a philosophy. But at the end of the day companies that talk about philosophy, they are companies that become market leaders.
Take the example of Apple. Apple does not sell computers. They do not sell music. They sell a lifestyle. That is why we pay exorbitant amounts to buy Apple products. They are beautiful products but beyond beauty, there is this kind of community effect. A culture that they have created with storytelling. Pure storytelling.
Look at why you started the business in the first place.
I want to give an example of a client whom we came up with the brand strategy. Lambeewear sells premium hats. The whole mission statement and the brand story of Lambeewear are about connecting with the past where the CEO the owner of Lambeewear brings in the stories of his uncles. His great uncles and his grandfather in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s when they came to America and had these occupations that they really were dedicated to. They used to wear hats. In fact, in his collection, each hat is named after one of his uncles. There is the uncle Bud hat. An uncle Chuck hat. Harry the barber so on and so forth.
So you can see immediately the story of his brand. It is not just the hats. Tomorrow is where he might be selling regular shirts, gentleman’s close, suits, wallets, and anything to do with men’s fashion or ladies fashion. The story would not have to be changed but if you have a marketing message.
Another example is Burt’s Bees. Founded in 1984 when founders Burt and Roxanne met. Roxanne was an artist and Burt was a beekeeper. They founded the company with the idea that body care products should be as close to nature as possible.
“What you put on your body should be made from the best nature has to offer.”
Look for clues on how you see the idea of where to be. Don’t be afraid to be philosophical. Don’t be afraid to be lovey-dovey. That is because that is what comes out of your brand. Your customers will see the love. They will see the genuine intention of why you started the company and that itself will become a story.
If you do not have a history or an interesting story that you can tie together, look at yourself. Look at your life. Your attributes and your quirks. Things that make you tick. Because you are an individual and you are different from the 7 billion other people on this planet. There are bound to be attributes that make you, you. Try to pick those. Take those and turn them into a story.
What are the Brand story touch points
The brand story touch points start with your brand name, your tagline or slogan. Your mission statement. Marketing messages. Design and content and things like the content of your website or your brochures. Your social media channels and even how you answer your phone.
Describes what your story is. It might not sound like such a groundbreaking idea but you would not believe how many times people forget the messages that they give out from how their sales reps or how the customer service representatives talking on the phone and how they interact. These are all the touch points to where your brand story can be told.
Look at Zappos for a great example.
They made service as their brand story. People talk about it. I’m talking about it. Millions of others are talking about it. That is how they get all of there advertising. They do not need to do anything proactive.
All they need to do is focus on this service and their marketing take care of itself.
So use your brand story as your anchor point and it will center you. It will bring you back to the center of your business. It will give you ideas. It would give you messages on how to market yourself, how to deal with your customers so on and so forth.
You can read about the lessons you can learn from Zappos and their CEO by clicking here.