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Successful Brands Tell Stories

Customers today have too many choices, regardless of the type of product or service they are shopping for. Often the differences between them are indistinguishable, and as a result, companies tend to compete based on price (even though they might not admit it). When the biggest difference standing between you and your competition is price, then branding must become your key differentiator.   To be successful, all brands must tell their customers a story. No matter the company, industry, or product/service, all brands have a story to tell. As long as it connects emotionally with customers by telling them why your product or service is better, or how it will impact theirs or others’ lives, it is possible to demand higher or premium pricing. Customers will pay more for something that they believe in.   A classic example of this principle in action is the (PRODUCT) RED initiative, started by Bono to raise money to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Consumers will pay premium prices for red-colored products from various brands, such as Apple, Nike, and Starbucks, and 50% of profits go directly to the Global Fund. (Product)RED campaigns     The idea of telling a brand “story” is not new: business and marketing gurus such as Jim Collins (Good to Great) and Seth Godin (Purple Cow, All Marketers Tell Stories) have written about this concept for years. The problem is that brands have a hard time discovering what their “story” should be. Here are some ideas to help get you started:  

1. Is there something unique about the history of your brand? For example, what trials and tribulations have you overcome? Have you been in business longer than any of your competitors, and why?

Indicia is celebrating our tenth anniversary this year, but the more compelling story is how the business partners met. Over 15 years ago they were introduced to each other by a high school art teacher and started a t-shirt company together. The resulting business lasted throughout college, and after going their separate ways they reunited four years ago.  

2. What “pain points” does your brand address? In other words, is there a particular problem that your product or service solves? Does it make peoples’ jobs or lives easier, and in what way?

Herb Kelleher started Southwest Airlines because regional flights between Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, Texas were too expensive for most travellers. In doing so, he launched a revolutionary, low-cost, no frills airline that gave people “The Freedom to Fly.”  

3. Are there any social or environmental causes that your brand is participating in? How are you helping the local community or giving back?

We already discussed the (PRODUCT)Red campaign to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa, but other companies are “going green” and trying to lessen their impact on the environment. Target’s story of social responsibility is evidenced by the fact they donate 5% of their profits to the communities surrounding their stores. Walmart now has recycling centers near most stores, and is trying to reduce their impact on the environment through conservation efforts.   These are but a few examples of the types of stories brands can tell. The secret to your brand’s success is to discover what it is about the company, product or service that makes it different. The next challenge is to tell that story in a compelling way to connect and resonate with your customers. Finally, following up on the claims you make is critical. If your brand’s story is not genuine, confidence in the brand’s authenticity will falter, driving customers away and into the wallets of your competitors.   By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy, Indicia