What's Your Unique Story?

Whats A Brand Story Anyway?

Branding, Communications, Design, Marketing, Storytelling

I had a discussion recently with my coach Michael Felberbaum about brand stories.  Michael’s education was in philosophy, so he can be (by his own account) rather literal.  So he asked me, “tell me more about how stories are important in branding and, what do you mean when you say “story?”

I explained that stories are how people connect and engage with the world, as well as brands.  A successful brand looks to become a part of a person’s personal story. “I am a Harvard Man” (actually, I am a Babson and Penn woman!) is a great example.  To which, Michael responded “you mean perceptions, right? I mean, that’s not really a story – where’s the narrative? The main character? The antagonist?”  OK, I give.  He’s right.  But that’s part of the point.  Most of the time, in fact all day long, we hear little bits and fragments of stories.  It’s the ones that have personal meaning that resonate and create enduring connections.  And, therein is the narrative.  For example, when I shop at Whole Foods I buy into the whole eco-earth friendly story that they tell.  I feel like a better person  – instantaneously adopting their story as part of my own.  Suddenly, just for shopping there, I am an eco-friendly person concerned about local and organic farming, sustainability and more!  It’s not just about buying groceries, its about engaging as participant in the Whole Foods story. You think I’m going to go back to shopping at ACME now?

2 Responses to Whats A Brand Story Anyway?

Michael Felberbaum says: January 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

Months later, I’m still contemplating this conversation. You really got me thinking. I’m glad you wrote about it here because I’m eager to hear more from you on this topic. The question that stays on my mind is whether by “story” most people mean “identity” or “persona.” The way I see it, in your example of being a Babson and Penn woman, that make a statement about you — you value education and you have the intellectual goods to back it up. The desire that I believe we all possess to weave a product or brand into our persona or identity is enormously powerful. It gives us power to point to that “thing” as part of who we are. In some sense, we find ourselves in those companies, products or services by making an identity out of the association. There really doesn’t need to be much of a narrative or conventional story when referring to this phenomenon of human behavior, I don’t think, but I’m sure you’ll set me straight on this topic! Nice work on the blog — I’ve been enjoying the posts…

Sharlene says: January 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Michael, thanks for taking the time to comment and, as always, for the thoughtfulness of the question too. You are correct. How we perceive ourselves (our identity) is, in fact, part of what I’m talking about here. But I believe it goes deeper. So, at the risk of becoming highly philosophical (I know you realize I can go there! ha), here’s what I also see at play: our identity is shaped by stories. The story we craft in our minds — from our relationships, experience and culture — informs how we perceive ourselves (identity again) and our place in the world. We are the protagonist in the story we create about our self and place in the world. We face all the elements of a true narrative in the process of our lives. We have epic, defining moments, challenges to overcome, antagonists, etc, etc. They all weave together into the story of our life (or our business). I think everything we interact with has a role in the story. And it has implications for the brands, products & services we choose to buy and engage.

So, take this a step further. I believe that, generally speaking, what identity is to self, brand is to organization. Brands have epic stories too. And those stories provide us with a glimpse of what makes them different, unique, special. They also help us understand and answer the question “why should I believe and trust you?” This is, in essence, the heart of a brand promise.

I’ll stop there. You are correct. Brand and identity are very closely interconnected! How we perceive, shape and interconnect both are tied to story.

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