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What Do You Want Your Brand Story To Do?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

What’s the role of storytelling in your business? What are you expecting your brand story to do? Most of us tell stories to describe the value we create. Storytelling is a tactic used to convince or convert prospects to customers—a way to close the sale. We’re selling the power of story short.

Before they had words our ancestors told each other stories in paint and pictures on uneven stone walls. Storytelling has forever been the way we related to one another—how we connected, informed and inspired. Stories created a sense of belonging. They brought us closer.

That’s also the job of the brand stories we tell. Our stories signal belonging to the people who believe what we believe. It’s important to remember how the stories we live and breathe are shaped by the outcomes we pursue. You might make the sale by focusing relentlessly on tactics that support near-term goals. But in doing so you may miss the opportunity to forge lasting connections with the customers who will sustain your business over time. Significance scales.

Image by Bryn Pinzgauer

Why Not Make Something Great?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Success

Like his grandfather, before him, Shane was in the textiles business. He made good socks for a living until the day he realised that pretty soon there would be no living to be made in a product that was good enough. His company was struggling to differentiate from and compete with big retailers who could manufacture and sell socks faster and cheaper. Shane realised their survival depended not on competing to make a comparable product only cheaper, but on understanding the customer who would be delighted by and pay more for the warmest socks in the world. Ten years on his business is thriving because he dared to rethink his business model.

Without exception, whoever you are and wherever you’re reading this there’s one thing you have in common with every other person who is reading it too. You want your business or idea to succeed. You may not know exactly the path to that success, but you’re clear about the destination you want to reach.

Two things trip us up on the way to making our ideas matter. The first is our love affair with those ideas. The second is the fear of failure. In many cases, we’d rather press on uninformed and unenlightened than face the truth about the changes we may need to make to get to where we want to go. Because we invest so much of ourselves in our projects and businesses, the prospect of failure is painful. So we apply blinkers or look the other way hoping against hope that we were right all along. Blissful ignorance won’t help you to take your ideas from good enough to great.

The single biggest difference between a good product and a great one is the worldview and the posture of the person who created it. Instead of falling in love with their ideas they fall in love with their potential customers and users. They wonder what their customer cares about most. They look for problems to solve and unmet needs to fulfil. They strive to become indispensable by creating products and services that are not just useful, but meaningful. They’re not afraid to get it wrong because they know their missteps take them one step closer to getting it right.

We all have the potential to be that person if only we can lean into the doubts and dig deeper. That’s what I’m inviting you to do today. You can join me and other like-minded peers who are making their ideas matter by registering for The Story Strategy Course which starts on October 2nd. The course is self-paced, but you will have access to the platform and content as soon as you sign up, so you can get a head start. Be the exception. Take your idea from good to great.

Image of Fearless Girl by Shinya Suzuki


Three Pillars Of Great Branding

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

There’s nothing extraordinary about the location of the vegetarian Mexican street food restaurant at the corner of a Fitzroy laneway. The tacos are good, not exceptional. The prices fair, not cheap. And yet, even on quiet Tuesday evenings, when other restaurants advertise specials to entice mid-week diners, the taco place has a steady flow of customers who come because of how being there makes them feel. The Mexican is no longer just another eatery, it’s become a beloved brand.

Good branding is a promise. Great branding is a promise that’s fulfilled in a way that creates an emotional connection with the customer. Our promises can be made with a symbol, a taste or a sound. They can be spoken or silently enacted.

Great branding:

1. Creates an expectation.
2. Delivers a meaningful experience that matches the expectation.
3. Builds an emotional connection that compels customers to want to repeat the experience.

Every brand aspires to be more than ‘just another’ in their category. We become one-of-a-kind when we stop acting like ‘just another’ and do things that don’t always scale, with a touch of humanity.

* Registration for The Story Strategy Course is now open.

Image by Sigmund

We And Us

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The group of colleagues on a business trip say goodbye as they board their respective flights. The boss congratulates them on a job well done. Their smiles slip as soon as he’s out of earshot. How could he possibly think that meeting was a success? The company is just going from bad to worse.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about what the collective ‘other’ is failing to see or do.

Why can’t they see the culture is broken?
How can they be so out of touch?
Why don’t they do something to fix the problem?

The truth is in every group endeavour there is no ‘they’ and ‘them’ only ‘we’ and ‘us’. We do our best work when we take ownership of the problems and solutions in equal measure. It’s up to us to create the future we want to see.

Image by Manuel Schmalstieg

The Limitations Of Marketing To Persuade

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

We assume sales and marketing are simply a case of fulfilling unspoken desires or unmet needs and making the people with those needs aware we’ve solved their problem.

But there’s another piece of the marketing puzzle we often overlook—the doubts our customers must overcome. People don’t just want to know that our products and services exist or how they are better. They also need reassurance that the product enabled the change they are seeking. What most people care about isn’t making the right decision, it’s making the wrong one.

We market to persuade, often forgetting the place of marketing to reassure.

How are you ticking the reassurance box?

Image by Art DiNo.

What’s On Your Y-Axis?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The strategy for any project or business and even our days, weeks and months could be plotted on a graph using an x-axis and a y-axis. What every endeavour has in common is time. This is plotted on the horizontal x-axis.

What we can change or influence is represented on the vertical y-axis. In a commercial world, we tend to measure the thing we are actively working to increase on the y-axis—dollars, revenue and profits, numbers of customers or users. Our y-axis is the place to plot the thing we want more of—something we want to change.

In 2009 Airbnb was struggling to gain traction, with a total weekly revenue of $200. The founders needed to do something to increase revenues dramatically if the business was to survive. They could have focused on getting more listings and more bookings, instead they doubled down on getting to know their hosts better, understanding how they could help them to succeed. They plotted customer success on their y-axis. This deliberate focus on helping hosts was a turning point in the business.

Every day begins with a quest for more. We’re all looking for ways to amplify our reach, grow our influence and increase our impact. It’s never been more important to be intentional about what’s on your y-axis.

Image by Sue Seecof

The Visibility Paradox

filed in Marketing

A bullet point list of tactics to increase your visibility might include; perfecting your elevator pitch, networking, forming strategic partnerships or creating a compelling press release. You don’t need to look far to see that we’re expending a lot of time and resources metaphorically waving our arms in an attempt to be seen. The irony is the best way to be seen is to get better at seeing.

When we become more interested, empathetic and generous, we not only see the opportunities others miss, we also do our best work in the service of others. There will always be a place in the world for, as broadcaster Krista Tippett says, ‘voices not shouting to be heard’. We build businesses we’re proud of by ignoring the noise and getting in touch with our humanity.

Image by Dell Inc

What Do You Need More Of In Order To Succeed?

filed in Brand Story, Success

If you had to pick one thing you need more of in order to succeed what would that be? Do you really need more time or more resources? Will more attention or more influence enable you to get to where you want to go?

When we dig deeper what we find we’re lacking isn’t cash or connections, it’s the courage and commitment to finish what we started. The story we tell ourselves and the lines we draw are a choice. What are you choosing to believe and act on today?

Image by Thomas Hawk

Attention Deficit

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Worldwide ad spending for 2017 is expected to reach $583.91 billion. That’s an increase of 7.3% on last year. We spend extraordinary sums of money and disproportionate amounts of time trying to get people to notice us—often without being specific about the end we have in mind.

No business ever died from a shortage of attention. Companies and ideas fail because of a lack of resonance with the people they seek to serve.

Questions for you

How much attention is enough to sustain your business?
Are the time and money you invest in creating brand awareness converting to results?
What resources are you devoting to creation and connection that will help you to resonate?

Image by txmx2

Three Ways To Sell

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

If you want to get more comfortable about selling, it’s helpful to consider which of these three sales techniques you use and to assess how they’re working for you.


This is the most common way to sell—one you’ve likely experienced or used. Describing the specifications, features and benefits of our products and services is usually our default sales technique. We tell people what they get, how it works, what it does and how much it will cost.


There’s no doubt that customer success stories are a powerful way to explain the benefits of our offerings. Before and after case studies and testimonials help people to imagine what their future might look like or who they might become in the presence of our product.


By far the most overlooked and underutilised sales technique is to listen before pitching. It’s far easier to make something people want than it is to make people want something. We can only do this by understanding the stories, frustrations, challenges and goals of our prospective customers.

Empathy is underrated.

Image by smr+lsh