Stories help us make sense of the world. It's the same for us personally and when we look to purchase products or services. Consumers will look at your product and service and make up their own story about you. It will create meaning in their minds.
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Manage your meaning
When working with leadership teams I always suggest they get some audience feedback to see what kind of stories exist.
What you want them to include in this story of their's is things like:
"they always do what I expect", "they help me overcome this or that challenge", "they always give me an amazing consistent experience", "they help me enjoy life", "they are all about sustainability so I like them", "they believe what I believe", "they are the only brand that does what they do."
These are obviously very general and in your space you would look for more intense meaning to be layered on top based on your specific industry sector.
Meaning like this though does not simply magically happen. It comes from great leadership and firm direction from the top to the bottom of an organisation. I believe that businesses need to design and define this meaning with their ideal customers in order to understand it within their organisation and communicate it out to their ideal audience.
If we do not get to grips with managing meaning we may find that the statements above are, in reality, swapped around in a negative way:
What you want them to think is things like:
"they never do what I expect", "they don't really help me overcome this or that challenge", "they don't give me an amazing consistent experience", "they don't really help me enjoy life", "I've no idea what they are about so I can't really like them", "I don't know what they believe so I have no emotional attachment to them", "they one of hundreds of brands that do what they do so I could go elsewhere."
Such a set of customer feedback would be a sure indicator that a business was not doing a good enough job on managing the meaning of their brand. They would not be effectively "branding".
This is also the case when you receive feedback (sometimes all positive) which is all mixed up. Different customers attaching vastly different meaning and value to what you do. Yes, it might be positive. But it's not good. You are not standing out.
How do you create brand meaning?
So we ask, (and here's the killer question) how do you create brand meaning?
By defining your brand story.
I'm not talking about a fairytale. I'm talking about the emotional meaning that should be binding everyone in your company together. Make it clear why you exist. What you stand for. What you do not stand for. How you see the world. Where you have come from. What you value. Where you are going.
When you boil it all down you need to write a brand story. Not alone. In collaboration with your leadership team so that everyone buys into its authenticity. In collaboration with customers who will tell you what they think when they see aspects of your offer and experience your products. And then, when this is set, get this out to staff who will get it out to customers.
You'll find that within your company people will connect with what you are about more. You will attract talent which believes what you believe. You will behave as a business in a way which is consistent. You will create a culture. If effectively implement your marketing and sales teams will communicate with customers in accordance with this story. Customers will see what you are about. It will attract a loyal, emotionally engaged audience. An audience which attaches the right meaning to you. an audience willing to pay more because they value the story and want to be part of it.
7 benefits of a brand story
I believe that when leadership teams work out their brand story this has some powerful benefits. I've listed them out below:
Unification - It unifies the leadership team and therefore saves time as there is less conflict.
Attraction - It gets people onside. It will attract passionate customers and new recruits who believe the same as you and who stand for the same things.
Addition of value - When it has been executed and gains traction, customers will be prepared to pay more for the value of the meaning the brand offers.
Clearer communications - It informs marketing and advertising initiatives and gives a framework for making decisions.
Minimisation of subjectivity - It generates the basis of a clear, purpose driven, creative brief around how the brand should be positioned and visually portrayed.
Differentiation - It helps businesses stand out in their marketplace.
Clearer business strategy and culture - It helps to give form to the behaviours of the business and inform the types of new products or services the brand might develop and offer in the future.
8 Examples of brilliant brand stories
Check out the below examples of brands who have really got to grips with their brand story. See in these examples how it drives everything the brand is about. How it flows through the people they recruit and the experiences they offer. It is the backbone of their culture and strategy.
Rebel Kitchen: https://rebel-kitchen.com/about-us/
Life is good: https://content.lifeisgood.com/hub-of-optimism/
Fred Perry: https://www.fredperry.com/brandbook
Great Jones: https://greatjonesgoods.com/pages/about-us/brilliant
The Body Shop: https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-gb/about-us
Willmott Dixon: https://www.willmottdixon.co.uk/about-us/history
Tell better stories
So. I hope you are on board with the idea that a powerful story will help build a powerful brand. The key is to get yours down on paper. Get it out there into the world. It is stories we connect with. It is stories we are willing to pay for. Go write yours!