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The Story Of Successful Ideas

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Every product or service that becomes the backbone of a thriving business succeeds because it enables someone to do something they want to do, but can’t do.

Before Keep Cup, millions more disposable coffee cups ended up in landfill.

Before Stripe, it was more difficult for people and businesses to receive payments over the internet.

Before Zumba, exercising was less fun.

Before Shopify, launching an online store was costly and complicated.

Before Blue Apron, putting a home-cooked meal on the table was more time-consuming.

Before Amazon, shopping online was less convenient.

Your product should bridge the gap between your customer’s imperfect present and her imagined future. And your marketing must tell the story of how her life will be changed in the presence of your product. Who is your customer before she encounters your product, and who is she after?

Image by Jinn

Good Is The New Average

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Meeting expectations was once enough to mark a business out. If every meal was served piping hot, served in a timely fashion, with a smile—the restaurant owner won. Now, efficiency is expected. It’s the minimum requirement for operating any business.

Good is the new average. Only the exceptional will survive and thrive.
Your goal isn’t just to satisfy customers. It’s to give them a story to tell. What is that story?

Image by Frédéric Poirot

Making Sense Of Nike’s Controversial Ad Campaign Decision

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Unless you’re an American football fan, you probably hadn’t heard of Colin Kaepernick before August 2016. Kaepernick, an African American, was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when he was propelled into the media spotlight for choosing to sit (then later kneel), during the United States national anthem at the start of NFL games. Kaepernick was protesting racial injustice and alleged police brutality towards African Americans. His controversial actions divided the nation.

In a proud and patriotic country, Kaepernick’s protest was seen by some (including the president) as an insult to the flag and its military. To many, he became a hero. Despite the controversy surrounding Kaepernick ‘taking a knee’ during the anthem, other players followed his lead. Their pregame protests began to dominate the news during 2017 when the country’s president publicly criticised the players’ actions. Ultimately Kaepernick, who was thrust into the international spotlight, as a result, paid a heavy price for his activism, opting out of his 49ers contract early because he believed they did not intend to renew it. At the time of writing, he has yet to be signed by another team.

On 3rd September 2018 Nike revealed their new advertising campaign, featuring Kaepernick. The words, ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,’ followed by Nike’s, ‘Just do it,’ slogan, appeared on billboards across America. The reaction in the media and on social media was immediate. People who were deeply opposed to his stance and his activism took to social media to criticise the company. The U.S. president questioned what Nike was thinking in a tweet. Experts debated the wisdom of Nike’s decision to make Kaepernick the face of their campaign. Analysts watched the company’s share price and sales—looking for confirmation that its new, seemingly risky marketing strategy had harmed their brand.

Among all the speculation and the noise, one story seemed to confirm Nike’s foolhardiness. A former Nike customer, Sherry Graham-Potter posted an open letter to the company on Facebook, objecting to their portrayal of Kaepernick as a hero. In the letter, she wrote about how her life had been devastated the night her husband, a police officer, was killed by a vehicle while in pursuit of a suspect on foot. The couple had only been married a month. Their two young sons (from her previous relationship), who her new husband had raised as his own were bereft. Mrs Graham-Potter went on the describe how her husband’s death had left her broken. She couldn’t eat. She barely left the house. Then she told the story of the moment when she found the courage to go on. Even as she was grieving, Mrs Graham-Potter realised she had to do something. She had to move her body. So, she put on her Nike cap and went for a short run. For those few moments on the road, she felt like a ‘normal person’, and that feeling kept her going.

Here’s some of what she wrote;

“That black cap became a symbol to me, it is sweat-stained and its shape is gone, the buckle in the back barely closes; but that hat represents my family’s rise from the ashes. It stands for the strength and the sacrifice we made loving a man who had a job that we all knew could end his life, every time he walked out that door. And it did. And I accept that.

I still wear this hat, I wore it on my run this morning.
And then I heard about your new ad campaign.”

I quote Mrs Graham-Potter here, to show how the campaign divided Nike customers. But also to point out that what the Nike brand symbolised for her at her lowest moment aligns with the company’s mission. And to perhaps shed some light on the reasons why Nike was willing to take the risk of making Kaepernick the face of their campaign.

Nike’s mission is, ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.’ The company’s conviction is that they have the power to change how people feel about what they can achieve when they wear the Nike logo. Shelly Graham-Potter’s heartfelt words about how she gained strength from that Nike hat likely gave the team at Nike the courage to weather the storm surrounding the Kaepernick campaign. Nike’s decision about what story to tell was based on their beliefs about who they are as a company and the change they’re here to create for whom. They followed through on that, knowing that their decision would polarise people.

Marketing analyst, Professor Scott Galloway, declared Nike’s decision as ‘genius’—the ‘most gangster marketing move of 2018’. According to Galloway, the Kaepernick campaign also stacks up commercially. He estimates that of Nike’s $35 billion in annual revenue, $20 billion is generated overseas. Two-thirds of Nike consumers are under 35 years old. They are likely to live in urban areas and have above average disposable income and a progressive worldview. Extrapolating from this data, Galloway says that Nike risked $1-3billion in revenue to deepen the brand’s connection with customers who represent $32-$34 billion in revenue.

We sell storytelling short when we think of it as only the means to get attention. Stories, well-told are the way we make an emotional connection with the people who believe what we believe—which is why the most successful brand stories aren’t for everyone.

Image by Michael Casim

Thanks to Lori Fields who inspired this post.

The Art Of Differentiation

filed in Brand Story

One day you will find a design you laboured over, taken and copied or several lines of copy you crafted, used and unattributed. And you will rant and rave until you realise, that there are things you can say and do that can’t be copied because those things are only true for you.

We spend billions of dollars every year trying to differentiate ourselves and the things we make serve and sell, often ignoring that what makes us different is the thing that’s closest to home. The truth that nobody else can own. The closer you can get to owning those truths, the more differentiated your brand will be.

Image by Michael Coughlan

Is The Consumer The Customer?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

When the Old Spice ‘Smell Like a Man’ advertising campaign launched eight years ago, it called out an often unspoken truth about sales and marketing. The consumer and the user are not necessarily one and the same. This insight inevitably alters how you tell the story of the products you sell and the change you’re trying to create.

We don’t only buy things that are useful. We often buy things because of the story they enable us to tell ourselves about the kind of pet owner, parent or partner we are.

Successful brand stories speak to the heart and the head of the decision-maker, who may not be the person (or animal) whose needs the product was designed to satisfy.

Image by David

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