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How Matters

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Worldview

The woman clearing tables in the Qantas airport lounge is almost invisible to the many preoccupied travellers she cleans up after. People are anxious to charge their devices, grab a bite to eat and catch their flights. The lounge attendant scrapes plates of half-eaten food and piles them on a trolley to take back to the kitchen. Sometimes people stop to ask her where they can get a drink or an extra spoon, but they don’t really see her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she notices a passenger, his feet awkwardly perched on the table, balancing a Macbook on his knee. It’s a bad angle to work at, but at least he’s got a socket and WiFi. Two minutes later, the attendant appears in front of him with a low stool to rest his feet on. She helps him to turn his chair, so he’s not straining his back while he works. Then she silently returns to wiping tables and clearing plates as the travellers busy themselves all around her.

You may not always get to choose the work, but how you do it is always a choice.

Image by Ian

Understanding The Arc Of Your Customer’s Story

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The plot of every story begins with an inciting incident—the revelation of a problem the hero must overcome. Harry Potter’s offer of a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Cinderella’s invitation to the ball. Buzz Lightyear’s arrival on Andy’s birthday. Everything we know about the hero’s circumstances up until that moment is the backstory. The inciting incident compels the hero to act until the problem is resolved.

As entrepreneurs and organisations with products and services to sell we spend a lot of time collecting data and insights about customer demographics—their backstory. But it’s equally, if not more important to understand the inciting incidents of their story—the events or circumstances that drive your customers to act. What has sent them off on a quest to solve their problem? And what’s your role in helping them to resolve it?

Sometimes marketers use this powerful information simply to sell more of their product to people who don’t need it. Only today, I saw a picture of a giant chocolate bar on a billboard right outside the gym. The caption asked passers-by if they were ‘craving something’. Traditional chocolate manufacturers know the problem we’re trying to solve every January. The last thing they want is for those New Year’s resolutions to stick.

Our job is never to exploit the customer’s circumstances. It’s to help improve them where we can. No matter what we’re selling, we can’t serve the people we want to engage with or create change for the better unless we know what kind of quest those people are on.

Image by David Werner

Marketing Backwards

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

I recently witnessed a young friend agonise for two months about which new smartphone to buy. A thousand dollars was a big investment for her. She had to weigh it up carefully. She trawled through every online review site for weeks. But the internal dialogue went on for much longer. We often believe the customer only considers the story we tell her and forget that she’s thinking about what choosing our brand says about her. When we’re making products and services we hope people will buy, it’s easy to overlook what influences their decision. One way to get better at this is to anticipate their self-talk.

10 Questions Customers Ask Themselves Before Buying A Product

1. Why should I choose this product over the other one?
2. Why is it worth more to me?
3. What features will I use or won’t I use?
4. How often will I use it?
5. What do I like or dislike about it?
6. How does it look?
7. How does it feel?
8. What does it say about me?
9. What will people think?
10.What would make me regret this decision tomorrow/next week/next year?

We get better at making and marketing when we get better at anticipating how our customers think and feel.

Image by Jev

The Key To The Perfect Story

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing, News

In a world where information and ideas can be shared in likes, swipes and clicks, we have never had a better opportunity to make our stories more visible. With so much for people to pay attention to, we have also never stood a better chance of being ignored. And that paradox sets us off on a quest to craft the perfect story—the one that resonates with the most people.

All stories have a beginning a middle and end. There is an inciting incident, conflict and resolution, a hero and a guide, failure and success. But unlike on the screens of Hollywood or in the pages of bestselling fiction, there is no ideal structure for crafting the perfect brand story because there is no single algorithm for touching the human heart.

The important thing isn’t the mechanics of the narrative or brilliance of the creative—the intention behind them is key to resonating with the people we hope to serve. Our quest to tell the right story stops us telling the real story. The key is to start with the truth about why we believed in what we do enough to begin and why we care about solving this unmet need for that particular person. It turns out that getting to the heart of the truth works better than finding an angle.

Image by Luigi Tiriticco

Only You

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

We had a storm on Saturday. More than 20mm of rain in minutes. We lost power shortly afterwards but managed to isolate the problem until we could get Frank, the electrician to come on Monday. He was busy. One of his big contractors had also called him out that day and they were a priority—regular work that paid the bills. He couldn’t put them off because they wouldn’t wait. As he said, as far as they were concerned, ‘If it wasn’t him it would be somebody else.’ They wanted an electrician, they didn’t care who it was.

How Frank has positioned himself (in his head as much as much as anywhere else) is not where you want to be. Another hat in the ring. Just one of many. The best option as long as it’s fastest or cheapest.

Your aim is to be the one people seek out. The one they don’t want to live without. The business worth crossing town to visit. The deliberate choice for the people you serve best. In a globalised world, we tend to think competition is inevitable. That attitude is often our best defence of our drift towards the middle. Choosing to be at the edge, then staying there is a choice. It’s the harder one at first, but in the end, it becomes the decision that frees us to do our best work.

Image by Stephanus Riosetiawan

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