Good afternoon. It is terrific to be here with you today and I want to thank Jake Haupert for the opportunity to spend time with you to talk about the importance of creating a compelling brand story and why it is essential you have one. I run Solaia Consulting and I assist small to mid-sized companies who need assistance and solutions with marketing, branding, operations and general management challenges. On some projects, I partner with StoryTellings Consulting, hence the two logos.Think back when we were children. What were the four of the most memorable, powerful and magical words we used to hear usually every day and sometimes many times each day from mom, dad and our teachers? For many of us, it was—or still is if you have children—‘Once upon a time.’
Four words that move you, that transport you to a different time, to a different place.
What do stories do? They persuade. Teach. Amuse. Divert. Inspire. Bring us together. Help us to remember. Allow us imagine and dream.
Stories are how we make sense of the world. And they just might inspire you to think differently and/or to take action.
Storytelling is not something we just happen to do. It is something we virtually have to do if we want to remember anything…the stories we create are the memories we have. From author and blogger Paddy Harrington: “Stories become the source code for who we are and who we want to be.” Bottom line…it’s in our DNA to think and tell stories. There is truth and wisdom in the old saying ‘everyone loves a good story’.
Stories are a priceless culture-shaping tool. They help us to understand how we "fit in" to the larger social order. They are the principal means for transmitting what’s really important to the tribe, the clan, and the community. From stories we learn the very relative notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, what is expected and how we must behave.
Flash forward to today and we are being inundated with marketing, media and messages. Truth is, your primary competition is not from other people or companies and who make, sell or do something similar to you. No, your real competition is the extreme clutter and nonstop 24/7 noise of the global digital marketplace.
The number of marketing messages the average person is exposed to every day is now reported to be 3,000 or more, double the number from 45 years ago. At the same time, according to Marty Neumeier, author of Zag and the Brand Gap, our ability to pay attention to marketing messages has not grown at all. Despite a 75% increase in advertising, “evidence shows we’re paying less attention to any given product, message or medium.” Neumeier says, and I agree with him, that for the first time in history, the most powerful barriers to competition are not controlled by companies but by customers who erect mental walls and noise filters to keep out the clutter. Not to mention how most of us are also armed to the teeth with DVR’s, Tivos and the like.
And not just the noise from traditional outbound ‘interrupt-driven’ advertising; more than ever it’s the noise from user generated content via social media that competes for our limited attention span. This quote is from Philip Kotler’s new book, Marketing 3.0 - From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit. His pioneering book, Marketing Management, is the world's most widely used graduate level textbook in marketing.
Command and control is dead. The new rules: you don’t market to customers, you market with them. You invent, they participate. They invent; you consider, improve, produce and distribute. They validate. They adopt. They spread the word. In other words, they co-own your brand with you. If you don’t embrace this emerging paradigm, much of your marketing is almost certain to be dead on arrival.
So how to break through and stand out from the crowd? At the risk of stating the obvious, you must have a compelling brand story. And why is that? Here’s what my colleague and partner Edward Wachtman, co-founder of Storytellings says: “To be human is to have a story and when you stop and think about it, we think of our lives as a story. Story is the structure that gives meaning and order to our lives. Instead of trying to make sense of the literally millions of independent events that comprise our lives, we intuitively organize them into an orderly sequence of events. We have a past, a sense of where we came from; a middle, who and where we are now; and a future, what we aspire to become. This is essentially the same structure - beginning, middle, end - that makes up a story.
But simply standing out from the crowd is not enough. You—and by you, I mean your brand—must establish an emotional connection with your customers and you have to be meaningfully differentiated. And you do that with a compelling brand story. A quick Internet search of companies reveals that many organizations view their Brand Story as a version of their company histories. Interesting as these histories may be—and often they are very compelling—they fail in their primary purpose, which is to emotionally connect people to the brand.
We’re talking about a story that emotionally connects you with each customer, deeply and personally. At its very best and most powerful, your story transcends time, culture, and location because it speaks to those ageless and unchanging truths about the humanexperience—birth, mating and marriage, family, growing up, growing old, kinship, struggling against all odds, death, etc. That’s the story that needs to be told through everything you do. You use your Brand Story to communicate what you stand for, what you promise, and what your customer’s willexperience.
The extraordinary appeal of the world’s most successful brands is based on their mythic qualities – qualities that have moved people to action since the beginning of time, such as self-reliance, freedom, empowerment, belonging, self-discovery. These brands have become storytellers of these myths through relevant modern narratives which resonate with consumers at a deep emotional level. Who are some of the brands that have really great stories…ones that are perceived as authentic, genuine, and true? Here’s but a few that most of us are very familiar with.
But great brand stories don’t just belong to the big guys; here’s a sampling of small to mid-sized companies I think have a great story: Which companies would you add? Think about it…even though there are so many companies now employing some form of storytelling, there just aren’t that many trulymemorable brand stories…how many can you come up with that have truly inspired you, and moved you to act? So despite all the marketplace clutter and noise, there is space for your brand story to be heard, read and embraced.
So how and where to get started? This quote from Sergio Zyman, former chief of marketing at Coca Cola is spot on: “An effective brand strategy starts with a thorough examination of your brand’s DNA, the building block that determines how your customers see you and how well your brand meshes with their needs.”
Great brand stories start with great research. I’ll now show you a few examples of brand story research tools my colleagues and I use. One is what’s known as an “only-ness” or positioning statement. Seems simple enough - You are the ONLY _______ that _______. The only-nessstatement answers “what’s the one thing do we do best that no one else can do like we do?” But beware, this process is a lot harder than it looks!
Doing this right takes time, creativity and being willing to be brutally honest about who you are…and who you aren’t. When you have your only-ness statement, you set yourself apart…you meaningfully and possibly radically differentiate yourself…you stake your claim in the brand-scape. Here’s two only-ness statements, one from a very familiar brand, the other from one of my clients in Chile.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Harleyriders are a wildly passionate and active brand tribe.
The Harley only-ness statement is one of the fundamental elements that shapes its brand story, brand promise (which is the pursuit of freedom) and brand personality (which includes such attributes as fierce individuality, free spirited, a bit wild, adventurous). By building their Brand Story, their brand promise and their personality into everything they do, Harley-Davidson has maintained brand loyalty for over 100 years.
This is the EcoCamp Patagonia, owned and operated by Cascada Expediciones in Chile.
For many smallerbrands, their onlyness statement tend to be slightly longer because they occupy a narrower, niche-ier slice of the market.
In doing deep StoryTellings research, the analysis of the stories created by the research participants is analyzed at three levels: message, meaning and myth. The key here is interpreting the stories at the two deeper levels, meaning and myth. Message is top of the mind, conscious and public. It is about facts, brand or corporate identity and attributes; it is rational and logical, with little, if any, emotion. For a travel company, the message level which defines the reasons to act might be expressed as: with 35+ years of experience, trust us to get you to exotic and remote places and back. Meaning is more subjective, more personal and by definition more meaningful. Meaning touches us deeply at an unconscious—or at least subconscious—emotional level and it is much more powerful than message. How does the brand ‘speak to me’ as an individual? What does it say about who I am, what I hope to be? How does it make my efforts more significant? My life more meaningful? In this slide, meaning is summarized as: take the journey of a lifetime. Myth level is archetypal, universal, very powerful, and almost always unconscious; it deals with those ancient and timeless stories—myths—that speak to the fundamental truths of the human condition. We’ve all had the experience of the hairs on the back of our neck tingling when we hear a particular story. This is our natural response to a powerful mythic image. When a brand or company story taps into this level, we feel deeply connected with the brand or the company, we identify with it and want to integrate its story into our personal stories. The result is an almost indestructible emotional bond. In this example myth includes summoning courage, venturing into the unknown, facing ordeals, and reaping the rewards is summarizedas: crossing the threshold or with these physical footsteps I venture beyond a mental boundary.
All great stories involve dramatic tension; it is what makes the story authentic, persuasive and believable. Dramatic tension isthe soul of story. Story is metaphor for life, and to be alive is to be in seemingly perpetual conflict. Without conflict there is no story.Dramatic tensions are: The source of emotional energy in a story. They are the conflict that must be resolved or overcome. They are the choices the protagonist must make; dilemmas to resolve. They are not opposites, but they are definers: night is not the opposite of day, rather we define day in terms of night.
As I’m sure you’d agree, for many adventure and specialty travel & boutique hospitality organizations, there is often a fine line between what constitutes being a traditional tourist and what constitutes being an enlightened and engaged traveler and/or volunteer. And how this is perceived by the customer participant versus the organization may or may not be in alignment which then offers up another layer of tension and/or unmanaged expectations that can have an adverse impact on the brand.
From storytellings based research, we can determine what archetypes a brand embodies: it might be the Guide, the Wizard or Magician, the Earth Mother, the Healer, the Rebel, the Wise Man. Most brands embody more than one archetype. In the case of Kimpton Hotels, the brand personifies the archetypes of the Healer, Rebel and Trickster.
So how did this research translate into new marketing and branding in the real world? This comp reflects the colorful, whimsical, fun, stylish, energetic, round and feminine nature of the Kimpton identity we uncovered from the research. It resulted in re-skinning of the Kimpton web site and a completely new look for virtually all their collateral…everything from elevator signs, to key cards, in-room materials and more.
Here’s the old Kimpton logo…rather dull, corporate and IBM-ish with the dark blue. Note the old tagline; while it uses the word story, the tagline is about the company…not about the guest and why I should stay at a Kimpton. I’m thrilled with the new tagline, as the word true is powerful and staying true refers to not only the physical stay at the hotel, along with staying true to your values by staying at a Kimpton.
The core themes, meta theme and only-ness positioning statement are three of the points of the brand compass exercise I complete for each of my clients. By articulating each point on the brand compass, a company effectively finds its unique true north and before every key business decision is made, the organization can ask itself, “is what we’re about to do in alignment with our brand story?”
Brand managers (who are really brand stewards and curators) must look for new opportunities to grow their brand’s value. One thing is certain – once a consumer’s mind is made up about a brand, it’s next to impossible to change it. One of the worst things that can happen to your brand: consumers no longer care about itbecause it has lost their compelling meaning in the consumer’s mind.
And now you’re ready to do what my colleagues and I call 360 brand story building. You infuse and integrate your brand story into every aspect and function within your organization.
And marketing is now more important than ever. From an article published in the latest edition ofMcKinsey Quarterly. Bottom line…engaging customers today requires commitment from the entire company…everyone is in marketing, like it or not, and needs to be accountable.
When you truly understand your brand story, it all comes together…your marketing, branding and communications is infused with and driven by your brand story. And dare I say it, there are so many happy endings for your organizationfrom having a unique, powerful and emotionally compelling brand story.
You’re positioned to be a winning brand…a brand that
Will attract prospects who otherwise would likely not find you; this is critical if you want to expand the pool of people who you engage with. And think about how many people out there who if they only heard your story would want to engage with you.
You also increase the likelihood that prospects will convert to being a new customer.
You increase the likelihood of creating powerful indelible emotional bonds with your best customers.
And you increase the likelihood of repeat purchase from customers who become your brand tribe and will tell their story about your brand to others.
You expand your brand and communications footprint as prospects and customers share their storiesabout your brand…both the good and bad.
More people including key influencers, such as bloggers and analysts will be talking about you.
And over time, you become a thought leader and the trusted authority in your specific niche.
Summing up…your brand story: Gives meaning to who you are and what you do. Unites your employees with a common purpose and connects them with the customers they serve. Communicates what you stand for, what you promise, and what your customers experience. Foundation of fundamental business decisions. At the heart of all your marketing. Creates powerful emotional bond that turns customers and employees into brand advocates.
And hopefully you’ll live both happily, profitably (and sustainably!) ever after. To wrap up, I’m sure all of you can guess the final two words to this story about creating your compelling brand story and why you most have one…
Creating a Compelling Brand Story and Why You Must Have One Mark Campbell
Persuade Teach Amuse InspireBring us together Help us remember Allow us imagine and dream
WHAT is your category?HOW are you different?WHO are your customers?WHERE are they located?WHY are you important?WHEN do they need you?
Harley DavidsonThe ONLY motorcycle manufacturer that makes big, loud motorcycles for macho guys (and macho wannabees) who live mostly in the United States who want to join a tribe of cowboys in an era of decreasing personal freedom
Cascada Expediciones The ONLY boutique hospitality provider in Chile with unmatched expertise to design and operatedome-style vacation lodges in remote wilderness foractive travelers who seek to experience Patagonia in a unique and environmentally conscious manner inone of the world’s few remaining truly wild places in an era of unprecedented environmental challenges and increasingly homogenous ‘me too’ packaged vacation product
23 Secondary Themes People Soul Fun Guests More than a job To stay Authentic Employees More than a To work What you see is The ‘place to stay’ community who we are (Home away from Who you are is valued home) Celebration MilestonesWhimsy Special momentsDelight Indulgence Style Legacy Colors Bill Kimpton Architecture Food Diversity/ ‘Fresh’ and Wine individuality Socially (Kimpton Style) responsible Nourishment for Everyone is welcome Values body and soul Strength in Commitment Wine hour differences
24 Core Themes People Soul Haven Authentic Fun Transformation Save my day CelebrationWhimsy Free to be me Give to get Enduring bonds Legacy Style Socially Food responsible and wine Diversity/ individuality
25Meta-Story People Soul Fun Haven Authentic Celebration Transformation Save my day Whimsy Free to be me Legacy Give to get Style Enduring bonds Food Socially and wine Diversity/ responsible Individuality I belong here…and I’m better for it
Message Meaning MythThree levels ofcommunication Message Easily accessible Reasons to act Meaning Accessible through story, Emotional symbol, and imagery motivators Myth Timeless and universal truths 26
Dramatic Tensions• Source of emotionalenergy• Conflict & dilemmathat must be resolved• Choices protagonistmust make• Not opposites…butdefiners
Dramatic TensionTourist Traveler The experience—good or bad—thememories and transformational change that ensue is what travel is all about Experience trumps comfort
NewOld Stay true to you™Every hotel tells a story™
Mission Core VisionStatement Themes Statement Meta Brand Theme PromiseOnly-ness BrandStatement Story Value Elevator PersonalityProposition Pitch Attributes
Aim higher! • A brand can only stand for one compelling, radical differentiating selling idea • Don’t be clever or complex • Simple, obvious idea that elevates & differentiates your brand to a new meaning people really care about
• Customers no longerseparate marketing from theproduct—it is the product• Customers don’t separatemarketing from their on-siteor online experience—it isthe experience• In the engagement era,marketing is the company
Your brand story…• Gives meaning to who you are and what you do.• Unites your employees with a common purpose and connects them with customers they serve.• Communicates what you stand for, what you promise, and what your customers experience.• Foundation of fundamental business decisions.• At the heart of all your marketing.• Creates powerful emotional bonds that turns customers and employees into brand advocates.