The Power of Story

Since the beginning of time stories have had to the power to transport us to a different time and place. Great stories are compelling because they share an inner truth that resonates with us on an emotional level or reinforces a personal belief or value. That connection has the unique ability to insert us into the story.
Movies are just one example of powerful storytelling. It's why we laugh, cry, cover our eyes during an intense scene, or yell at the TV when one of our values is violated. If you think about it, much of our everyday communications are in the form of a story: blogs, newspaper articles, reality shows, and even a casual conversation with a friend over coffee.
In its simplest form, a story contains three most basic elements. It is a character who must overcome an obstacle to reach a goal. The same elements apply when building a business story.

Building a Powerful Brand Story
Let's apply the story format as a brand strategy. A business with a product or service (the character) wants to inform and motivate (the obstacle) consumers to make a purchase and embrace it enough to tell others and to purchase again in the future (the goal). That's pretty straightforward, but creating a powerful and lasting connection between a brand and its market is complex and it is not without great effort and constant oversight. It is as envied as it is elusive.
First, let's look at what a brand story is not. The standard marketing strategy focuses on a story like this, "Tom needs a lawn mower to cut his grass, so he went to the store and bought an ACME 27" mulching lawn mower with premium direct drive, ultra mulching blade technology, and electric start. Tom loves how great his lawn looks and it takes less time to cut his lawn than with other lawn mowers. Buy an ACME lawn mower today!" The story does communicate the product, points of difference, and a call to action to buy one, but it's a pretty boring story. It doesn't create a deep connection between the brand and the consumer. In fact, it creates more resistance than resonance, because it focuses on the business and what it offers.
Now let's reword it to create a personal connection between the brand and consumers. "To the homeowner who takes pride in a professionally manicured lawn. Who understands the value of reliable lawn equipment that gets the job done quickly and efficiently, so there is more time for what he really enjoys. To the man who considers a well trimmed lawn a reflection of his status in life. Who politely dismisses the compliments he receives from friends and neighbors, but quietly feels a sense of pride every time he pulls into his driveway or on his deck after a long day. ACME lawn mowers don't cut grass; they make lawnscapes." The difference between the two stories is obvious. The first one has no personal connection, the second one puts a consumer into the story by connecting what the brand stands for with what the consumer believes or values.
Connections of this type causes consumers to champion a brand. Nike is a great company that sells all types of athletic equipment, but what it sells is completely different from what the brand stands for. Nike sells shoes, golf clubs, clothing and a host of other sports related items, but the Nike brand stands for achievement, perseverance, discipline, and dedication. You can see it in their tagline, "Just Do It.". It resonates on deep level because it's the same thing that little voice in our head says when we're deciding between going to lunch or going to the gym. All relationships are built on shared values; not products.

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