How the storytelling craze is killing brands.
The past few years, “content is king” has been replaced with “it’s all about storytelling.” The concept is strong, but we seem to be missing one very important detail: it’s not a story about you.
Your brand is not your story.
The story is about your customer, and what it says about them simply because they buy from you. Think about the memberships, products and services you consistently buy. Why? Taste, quality, reliability are all pieces of the whole brand that make us loyalists, but at the end of the day I spend more on Nike because, after all, I’m a real athlete.
Out of the millions of reusable totes, women across the country are doubling Lululemon shoppers as handbags. Why? It helps define their lifestyle, interests and character. In other words, it tells a story of who they are.
How many people do you think can really tell the difference in taste and quality between Absolut and rail vodka? What about the performance of a Honda over a BMW? And do you think people pay more because they are inspired by the story of those brands, or is it that their purchase tells the world something about themselves?
Beanie Babies aren’t exceptional or novel products—their brand architects knew how to position themselves in the minds of middle-class mamas that started a nationwide craze in 1993 that continues today. These moms bought into the club.
Brand positioning is not just for premium and luxury. The smart fortwo is driven by people who care about the economy. MacBook users are artistic and appreciate exceptional design. Intellectuals listen to NPR and Manhattan residents are more sophisticated. Rugged, manly men use One Wipe Charlies and discerning mothers read Goop.
These top brands are building true, long-term positioning that define egos and create loyalty. They aren’t saying “me too” or explaining why people should care. Instead they fill holes in the minds of prospects with real value that validates their self-aspirations. They are creating simplicity among noise, and that my friends requires no autobiography.
People become loyalists without knowing why. We typically don’t conduct extensive research on every single product, service, philosophy or routine we buy into. It’s up to brands to help people identify which products and services fit into their lifestyle on an emotional level, over specific features.
This approach takes research, listening, understanding and staying rooted in your prospect’s reality. The alternate (and most traveled) path is to put a shelf life on your business by continuing to make the story about yourself and contribute to the landfill of an over-communicated society.
So please, stop spending so much effort refining what is ultimately a scripted elevator pitch about why anyone should care about your business, and instead create rich, deliberate experiences that define real human beings.