What's your story: Is your brand story worth listening to?
Old brands have been telling us their stories for years – through TV ads, poster campaigns and snappy slogans that reached out to as many people as possible. And it worked. We sat through thousands of ads on TV and at the movies that are big, glossy and totally interchangeable.
Dictating your message to the masses seems quaintly old-fashioned in today’s world of social media, flash mobbing and word-of-mouth. Now, consumers are allying themselves with brands that have a unique perspective, authentic point of view or engaging personality.
Here’s a thumbnail guide that shows how to make a start in telling your story:
Get right to the core of who you are
What does your organisation stand for? It sounds like an easy question but it’s notorious difficult to pin most brand guardians down on. So many companies produce similar products to others that many get overlooked; but what makes them truly different is their belief in fairness, their insistence on excellence, their super-quick service or their quirky way of communicating.
When you clearly and succinctly define these three or four ‘core values’, it creates clarity for a brand – and should determine everything the organisation is, does or produces – from the product and its packaging to staff uniforms and the environment you work in. Think of the environmentally-friendly Body Shop throwing away mountains of unwanted product or treating suppliers disrespectfully; it would chip away at what the brand stands for.
What’s the big idea?
Some brands have one really strong idea behind them that determines who they are and what makes them different from anyone else. Project 7 Purified Water in the US are dedicated to addressing worldwide issues from poverty to building the future, and the premise drives every aspect of their business from how they hire to where they work to their packaging, and it makes them unique. Gü believes in indulging in pure pleasure in life; Innocent believes that being healthy is fun and life-enhancing. Simple.
What’s the one big idea behind your brand? Be as specific as possible, so you can ‘own’ that area of the market. It could be using natural products, exceptional design, innovation…
What are your brand’s values?
Your values can define your big idea, or just be one element of your brand. Either way, it is incredibly useful to define what your brand believes in – whether cutting-edge design, sourcing local ingredients or fair trading. Tesco launched LocalChoice milk to help raise the price per litre that went to farmers; Nespresso believes in promoting fine coffee through expertise and education, so they have a dedicated concierge service is available to members. Innocent’s values are about openness and honesty, integrity and caring; you can see it in the ingredients they use, their charity work and their packaging – and they always encourage people to drop in and see them. And what’s not to love about little bobble hats on bottles to help the aged?
Some brands define themselves by where they want to be; as one car maker announced in the early 1900s, ‘Ford will democratize the automobile’. Maybe you want your brand to revolutionise its sector, and this in turn should define how you advertise, package, manufacture and treat your staff.
Gin artisans Sipsmith wanted revive London’s gin heritage, and handcraft in the old style the way old London gin houses did; even their name mirrors it through using the old English artisan word ‘smith’. By contrast, Absolut Vodka wanted to be the ultimate urban brand, so launched a range of city-based bottles from New Orleans to Vancouver, each with different ingredients that reflected the city’s character.
What’s your brand’s personality?
It’s once again up to you to determine what your brand is like to hang out with. Is it an authority, militant, quirky, fun, unpredictable, a best friend, super-efficient…? These character traits will translate into all your communication streams, from design and copy to customer service, presentations and even what you wear. Snog positions itself as individual, healthy and appealing to all, so its straplines of ‘Less talk, more snogging’ and ‘I like snogging more than ice cream’ hit the cheeky, all-inclusiveness on the head.
Jordans Cereals launched Macho Muesli using nutritionalists and men’s health statistics to work out the ideal ingredients for blokes, and speak in a no-nonsense, down-to-earth way: ‘It’s not bird food!’ The muesli comes in a big man-size tub and is chunkier than competing cereals. Finally, the ultimate brand expression comes from the Austrian Gut Oggau vineyard, which features a line-drawn member of the family on each different vintage, demonstrating how wines have different personalities. So grandfather Berthold’s vintage is full of energy and down-to-earth, but is mature with many stories to tell; the daughter Winifried’s wine is young, animated, refreshing and charming. Very personal and very engaging.
If your brand was sitting in a chair opposite you, how would you describe it?
Answer this question and your brand has a great starting point
to telling an authentic and compelling brand story.
Graham Parker, SO Creative – London branding agency
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About the author
Graham Parker is SO Creative's brand strategist. A branding and luxury retail specialist with over 25 years' experience, he works closely with our clients to redefine their core proposition and develop a distinctive tone of voice.
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