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What’s Your Big Idea?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Every great brand leads with one big idea. The big idea is what the brand stands for—it’s core belief. Articulating the big idea is harder than you think, living it every day is even harder than that.
The brands that do have a much easier time differentiating themselves from the competition. Here are a few examples.

Starbucks—The local cafe should be a ‘third place’ between home and work.

Marie Kondo—Tidying up has the power to transform your life.

Warby Parker—Prescription eyewear should be stylish and affordable (under $100).

Go-To—Skin care should be free of confusion, cruelty and faux-science.

Lune—A great croissant is created with attention to detail at every stage in the making process.

Patagonia—Business must inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis and do no harm.

School of Life—Emotional Intelligence is a life skill that everyone needs help to develop.

Banksy—Art belongs to the people.

What’s your big idea?

Image by carnagenyc

Where Do You Want Your Story To Land?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

This is the story of two independent bookstores located on the same street, separated by a walkway and three cafes. The bigger store has a more spacious feel. They display most of their books face out in clearly labeled categories. New releases are showcased in easily accessible, neat piles on tables. The whole place has a curated, orderly feel. The second store is smaller and more disheveled. You get a sense that the books could be used even though they are new. Only one or two copies of a title are stocked. The books are cataloged haphazardly and displayed spine facing out. The experience of finding the right book is akin to going on a treasure hunt. It’s obvious that each store is serving customers with different worldviews

The bigger store gets more foot traffic. More people are inclined to drop in during the last ten minutes of their lunch break to browse and while away some time. It’s easy to assume that the bigger store is more successful because it looks like they have more customers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they sell more books.

Two important takeaways. Different customers respond to different stories. If you want your story to resonate you need to be really clear upon which ears and in whose hearts your story will land. And it’s possible for a business to be sustained and thrive with a small number of loyal customers who love it. Unicorn status is overrated.

Image by Elisa Banfi.

The Things You’re Not Measuring

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The more data we have the more we think we need. We measure everything from email open rates to foot traffic. We obsess over numbers of followers and rates of growth. And yet we often forget to take stock of the things we’re proud to have done and the ways we’ve made a difference.

Here’s your chance. Make a list of the things you’re proud you did over the past twelve months.
What’s the most important thing that needs to be on that list, but isn’t?

The clues you’re choosing to ignore in favour of what it seems important to know, are more powerful than you realise.

Image by Khánh Hmoong.

Are Your Business Goals And Actions Aligned?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

He pushed the door. It was only when it didn’t give that he noticed the handwritten “back in ten minutes” sign. John was already twenty minutes into his lunch break. He just didn’t have time to hang around to buy the new picture book he’d promised he would read to his daughter tonight.
He swore quietly under his breath as he walked away empty handed.

Jan the bookstore owner is four doors away collecting her sushi order. She doesn’t see the harm in popping out for a quick bite to eat. It’s only ten minutes out of a very long day. If she misses out on a sale or two, so be it. A girl’s got to eat! People will understand. They’ll either wait or come back.

Except they don’t. They cross the street to try their luck at the department store or ‘buy with one click’ on Amazon. “Back in ten minutes” sends a signal to customers about how they are valued. Those ten minutes don’t just cost Jan a single sale, they add up to much more when she stops to consider the lifetime value of a loyal customer or the cost of acquiring a new one.

Every move you make is part of your brand’s story. How you act is who your customers believe you are and those beliefs impact your outcomes. What do you want them to believe?
Are your business goals and actions aligned?

Image by Tom Fahy.

Your One And Only Shot

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Dave volunteered to fill in for another gym instructor at the last minute. He arrived late for class and was greeted by a full house of enthusiastic morning gym goers, weights at their feet, water bottles at the ready. He hit his first obstacle within minutes. The gym didn’t supply the workout music and there was no CD player. Dave only ever used CDs and had no backup music.

He chased around the gym for ten minutes looking for alternative options, until one of the attendees handed him her iPhone loaded with a variation of the workout music on Spotify. Fifteen minutes in, his confidence shattered and rhythm broken Dave was undone. The unfamiliar variations of the tracks threw him. Everything began to unravel. In his attempt not to look stupid Dave had stopped thinking about the audience long ago and was now focused entirely on himself. He’d not only lost it, he’d lost them. It was the worst class he’d ever taught. The complaints from the attendees to the management flooded in.

You can probably empathise with Dave. When we are preoccupied with our emergencies, expenses, staffing issues, delivery delays and on and on, we can lose sight of the end goal. There is no bigger emergency than having no customers. Without customers there is no story to tell. Above all else we need to keep the customer top of mind. Just showing up isn’t enough. You need to tell your story like it’s your one and only shot to do it, each and every time. Act as if you won’t get a chance to tell it tomorrow.

Image by Daniel Diaz Vera.

A Question Of Attention

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Have you noticed that more email marketers are trying to attract your attention at the weekend? Many weekly digests now hit inboxes outside office hours in the hope of getting traction when people are less busy.

As marketers we’re using every trick in the book to capture attention in order to further engagement, and so are our competitors. Email marketing services can help us to optimise email open rates by sending them at the optimum time. And we can read 101 posts to discover 10 ways to write headlines that get our emails opened.

But what if instead of wondering when and how to get more attention, we sought to understand what would compel the person on the receiving end to look forward to hearing from us? When we shift our focus to answering that question, we suddenly stop thinking about how to extract value and concentrate on how to create it instead.

Image by David Ramos.

Patient Growth

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

My trusty blender died a couple of weeks ago, or rather I killed the thing with overwork and by overloading. The new blender had a lot to live up to. On the advice of the sales assistant I bought the most powerful one on the market, but was still frustrated by its performance. Why wouldn’t this thing respond the way I wanted it to when I filled it to the brim? It’s taken some trial and error to work out that if I want to optimise the blender’s performance then patience is all that’s required.
I have two choices. I can take the shortcut, overfill the bowl and become frustrated when the motor can’t process the load, or I can gradually feed vegetables into it and watch as they are pulped in seconds.

In business as in life, we seek out what we think is the quickest route to the outcome we want, then we get frustrated when things don’t work out as we hoped they would. When our expectations don’t match our capabilities, or the customer’s worldview, or the marketplace’s readiness, we push harder—trying to hurry things along before it’s time.

Sometimes what we need is more patience and more time to work out how to turn aspirations into outcomes. Slow and steady is often the quickest way to get to where we want to go.

Image by Steven Depolo.

Hedging Your Bets Vs A Stake In The Ground

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

When we’re having problems articulating our story or making ideas resonate it’s often because we’re afraid of putting a stake in the ground. It seems safer to hedge our bets and easier to be more things to more people, than to commit to choosing who to matter to.

When you narrow your focus and stake your claim to a category or an idea, you must decide who you want to serve and how to matter to only those people. This in turn, helps you to get better at telling your story.

If you make a list of beloved brands you’ll find that they don’t hedge their bets. Spreading ideas isn’t simply a case of telling a better story, it starts with deciding exactly which story to tell.

Image by George Laoutaris.

The Value Of Challenging Our Assumptions

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

It’s 6am, and a passer-by bends down to leave a couple of bananas next to the homeless guy who is turning over in his sleeping bag in the doorway of 7-Eleven. When he wakes, he gathers his things and the few coins in his tin. He drops the fruit in a nearby bin and heads into the city.

The passer-by made an assumption about how best to help. But despite her good intentions their worldviews didn’t align.

This misalignment between giver and receiver, provider and user, business and customer occurs all too often. It happens when our understanding of the people we serve falls short—when we’re more focused on our story than we are on theirs.

We can challenge our assumptions about our customer’s wants and needs with knowledge, proof and truth. We seek those out by noticing, questioning, and understanding.

How are you doing that in your business?

Image by Gary Knight.

Brand Storytelling And The Rule Of One

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Have you ever wondered why movies like Toy Story are so compelling and successful? The best writers in the world speak to universal human themes—the things that drive every one of us no matter what our worldview is.

Compelling storylines work because we see ourselves reflected in the characters. Their story is our story. A great script looks us right in the eye and says, “I see you”. Contrast that feeling with the one you get when you’re speaking to someone at a party, who is looking over his shoulder for the next most interesting person to enter the room. That’s exactly how you don’t want your customers and clients to feel.

Great storytellers make us feel like they’re speaking directly to us. And so it goes for great brand storytelling. The best brand stories make you feel like the company understands and is speaking just to you. The goal is to be more like Pixar and nothing like that guy at the party.
You achieve that by remembering ‘the rule of one’.

Speak to one person at a time. Make that person feel like she’s being looked in the eye.
That’s the foundation of a winning brand story.

Image by Luis Miguel Justino.