“Tell us a story.”
Most of us can relate to being on the giving or the receiving end of the plea for a story. It’s true in your personal life and it’s true in business. Stories capture our attention. Stories make presentations better. Stories make ideas stick. Stories help us be more persuasive. Smart leaders tell stories to inspire us, to motivate us. (That’s why so many politicians tell stories in their speeches. Remember the story about Joe the plumber? Uh huh. That was good until it backfired.) Storytellers realize that “how you say it” is just as important as “what you say.”
Funny thing is, storytelling has been a buzzword off and on since advertising became a bonafide profession. Well, we’d like to remove it from the buzzword category (where you’ll also find “paradigm shift” and “synergy”). We’re here to tell you it’s a timeless skill. It’s the oral tradition and so forth. Stories have been a way to teach lessons, to explain complicated issues, and as a catalyst for change throughout human history.
Here at Red Chalk, when we say right on our home page, “your brand is your story,” we mean it.
With social media at our fingertips, we’re all just one post or video away from sharing a story with…just about anybody. As consumers, we’re not afraid to ask questions and compliment (or rage about) an experience we had with a big business. As businesses, we don’t hesitate to engage with the public, revealing that there are actual humans behind the logo. But what are you saying? More importantly, how are you saying it?
How many stories have you seen of guys popping the question to surprised girlfriends, or kids with cancer holding up handwritten signs one after the other, or someone persevering and crossing a finish line? They tug on our emotions and we become involved, caring about what happens. The same thing can happen with your brand.
For example, TOMS Shoes challenged people to go barefoot for a day, and declared that every Instagram photo of bare feet that was tagged by anyone meant that a free pair of shoes would be given to a child who needed them. This works on so many levels, but the basic idea of helping those less fortunate is powerful and compelling. It’s a story. Emotions are stirred because people don’t like to see others in dire need. With this campaign, the emotions were all about caring, a mixture of sadness and hope. People wanted to get involved and were happy to know that when they chose to buy TOMS Shoes, this showed they cared. TOMS stepped it up a notch when they made it “no purchase necessary” for two weeks.
But storytelling is more than engaging people on social media. It should encapsulate your brand culture.
It’s told through your marketing, yes, but also through your products, your packaging, your services and the way your employees act as your brand ambassadors.
Take Duluth Trading, for instance.
They understand who their market is (hard-working, manly men who want hard-working, comfortable clothes) and they clearly tell their brand story using entertaining illustrations of manly men doing manly work wearing their manly clothes. Same goes for women. If you’re a hard-working woman who needs comfortable clothes that are as strong as you are, you need Duluth Trading. The folks at Duluth Trading say, “We admire good craftsmanship, whether it’s an illustration or a dove-tailed corner. Illustrations just seem to capture the essence and heroic quality of our products better.” Got that right. They consistently tell their brand story across the board, through voice, tone and content. In fact, their illustration style is recognized in their TV ads, print and digital ads, in their catalogs, on their website and even on the boxes that arrive at their customers’ doors. Have you heard the one about the angry beaver? If you haven’t, the gist of it is Duluth Trading fire hose work pants are even tougher than a giant, angry beaver. Entertaining. Compelling. Sold.
L.L. Bean’s brand story is another great example.
Everything they are about is wrapped up in the line: “Built to last.” The brand famous for its iconic winter boots has maintained a 100% customer-satisfaction-guaranteed mandate since it was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean. This generous policy comes straight out of their brand story and is printed on every receipt: “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.” They live and breathe their brand and after a century, it’s clear the company itself is built to last.
So remember, you’re not simply generating content. You’re not just designing a label or selling a product.
You’re telling a story.