Are you and your customers on the same page?

Marlon van Schellebeek, Senior PR & Communications Officer at VanBerlo.

By Marlon van Schellebeek — As consumer consciousness grows, the means of generating appeal for a brand have diversified. One concept we have immersed ourselves in recently, is that of storytelling, and how an inspiring story can spark faith in potential consumers.

Regardless of what you do or where your passion and drive lies, one thing is clear, that we all have a unique and interesting story to tell. Whether we care to admit it or not! Telling a story can be as silent as choosing your next purchase, expressing your style, personality and world view. A unique story can also be attributed to brands and businesses via the products and services that they offer. This is a fact that the market at large is taking more seriously now than before. By having a compelling story to tell, you can empower consumers, leading them to become ambassadors for your brand.

We all have a unique and interesting story to tell

I for one, would consider myself an empowered consumer! I like to know about what I am buying and, like a growing number of consumers, I want to know that when I buy something, that I might be supporting a positive cause. A brand or company being able to attribute a positive story about societal factors to its offerings, can really strengthen the bond between them and their consumers and promote an authentic relationship. Recently Julie Hornix and I tapped into this idea when we spoke at a Trash-2-Cash meetup in Bilbao.

Trash-2-Cash is a global partnership between VanBerlo and 17 other stakeholders, that is committed to research, development and innovation into the field of sustainable production (You can learn more about the partnership here). We talked at length about the importance of a positive story and were able to identify three unique types of story that have the potential to foster strong links to empowered consumers.

Part and parcel to the basis of Trash-2-Cash, is the notion of a story of environmental sustainability. So, it’s no surprise that it’s the first type of story we identified! Climate change and global warming are now widely accepted as a great threat to humanity and life on the planet as we know it. And we can see this acceptance echoed in buying habits now, such as the exponential growth of people buying organic food; or the growing number of people joining the vegan cause (of which I am a member) out of reaction to the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry.

Image source: Parley for the Oceans website.

The demand for a story of a happy environment is rising! One case of a successful story that caught my eye was the partnership between Adidas and Parley to create a line of stylish sneakers and sportswear, sourced almost entirely from plastic that had previously been dumped into the ocean or other recyclable materials. This story demonstrates how a company can benefit itself whilst supporting a positive cause and inspiring admiration from consumers. Adidas isn’t typically a brand associated with this kind of cause. However, due to their broad reach and market power, a positive message has been spread and promoted. Being more sustainable with packaging also forms the start of a great positive story. Take Tetra Top by Tetra Pak, a neat little carton that comes in multiple sizes, but which can be separated at the top so that the plastic and paper components can be recycled separately. I think that down the line it will be incredibly beneficial for clients and companies to set goals for environmental sustainability and use that to create their own story.

The environment is incredibly important, but so are the people who exist within it. People also gravitate towards a story that demonstrates care and compassion towards fellow human beings. We are living in a time where divisions are more clearly identifiable, and where the concept of unity is close to many people’s hearts. On a large scale, businesses that are linked to charities for example, have a story of social awareness that makes them attractive.

“Economies aren’t made of money, they are made of people”

The multinational ice cream giant Ben and Jerry’s, has from their humble beginnings, emulated positive social practice. Aside from practicing transparency and sourcing sustainably; the brownies in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream are all baked and prepared at Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York. This is a factory that is located in one of the most underprivileged areas in the U.S.A, but which provides a fair wage and hires members of the community regardless of past convictions or addictions. This way Ben and Jerry’s is supplying a product which in turn supports a real community and provides rehabilitation and a new lease on life to the people who need it most. This kind of story is very powerful in my opinion, economies after all aren’t made of money, they are made of people. This makes giving your company a human face, very advantageous.

So, what kind of story do you have to share or want to tell? Feel free to get in touch and we can try and bring it to life.