There is no more important tool for rolling out brand positioning than a great brand story. The best brand stories can create gravity around a brand and also help build a strong brand community. They show the concepts behind the brand positioning in action, making it more than words on a page.
Does your organization have legends or stories that have been told and retold over the years? How the brand got its name? How the founders of your organization first met? The original problem they were trying to solve by developing your product? Perhaps your particular worldview or internal values became very clear at one moment in the organization’s history. Most organizations have internal legends, stories, and fables that are already being told. Your existing stories and legends are powerful because they are illustrations of who you are and why you do what you do. Often, these stories serve as building blocks for a larger brand story.
A brand story is an attempt to articulate the brand positioning by answering the deepest truths about the brand, things such as:
– Who are we?
– Why are we here?
– What do we care about?
– What do we do?
– Why does it matter?
In all likelihood, your brand story is already partway being told in the form of these stories and legends that follow the brand around everywhere it goes. Consider collecting as many of these stories as you can as background research and inspiration. An authentic brand story won’t just be made up on the spot. Great brand stories have a lineage and a heritage that are built over time and with the hard work and perseverance of many people.
In attempting to articulate the brand story, your job will be part historian, part archeologist, and part sculptor, taking the existing building blocks that have been provided to you by those who built the brand and merging them with the new brand positioning you’ve developed. You’ll need to mold these two views together into an overarching brand story that is both authentic to the brand’s past and relevant to the brand’s future at the same time.
It is hard work creating a great story that will get passed on from person to person. You’ll need to recruit the best storytellers you can find to the cause, including your organization’s top writers, designers, and poets (or if you work with an outside firm, bring their best folks in, too).
But based on my experience helping develop brand stories for organizations over the past decade, I can tell you that the effort is worth it. A great brand story will not only help you attract new people to your brand community, it will become a powerful guiding force within your organization as well.
If you’d like to learn more about the brand stories we created during my time at Red Hat, take a look at the following posts:
And here is an example of one of the original Red Hat “legends” that we collected during our time building the brand.
Consider taking a look at my new book The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:). It has some nice tips for how to build a great brand without the help of… you guessed it… advertising!
We talked about the Management Innovation Exchange and I shared some ideas from the winning hacks and stories of the folks that will be on the panel: Lisa Haneberg, Joris Luijke, and Doug Solomon. In addition, we talked more broadly about communities of passion, employee engagement, and social media, among other things.
You can listen to the podcast here.
When corporations engage with communities, many make the mistake of focusing first on what the community can do for them. I encourage companies not to start with the benefit they get from the community (buy my stuff! design my products! give me feedback!), but instead with the benefits they give to the community.
What can corporations bring to the table that helps communities? Some examples:
• Funding: Companies can invest real money in projects that help the community achieve its goals.
• Gifts: Many communities are in need of assets that individuals can’t buy on their own. Are there assets the company already owns or could buy then give to the community as a gift?
• Time: The company probably has knowledgeable people who might have a lot to offer and could spend on-the-clock time helping on projects that further community goals.
• Connections: Who do people in the organization know and how might these relationships be of value to others in the community?
• Brand power: Could the company use the power of its brand to shine the light on important community efforts, drawing more attention and help to the cause?
This weekend, a story in The New York Times highlighted one example of a company that brought great value to a community in need with a well-timed gift.
After the March earthquake in Japan, many affected areas had electricity restored relatively quickly. Gasoline, however, still proved hard to come by.
So Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko donated almost 100 of his company’s i-MiEV electric cars to help ensure people and supplies could keep moving in the affected areas.
This gift, which cost Mitsubishi relatively little, has provided a huge benefit for the affected communities. One story from the article:
“There was almost no gas at the time, so I was extremely thankful when I heard about the offer,” said Tetsuo Ishii, a division chief in the environmental department in Sendai, which also got four Nissan Leaf electric cars. “If we hadn’t received the cars, it would have been very difficult to do what we needed to.”
Mr. Ishii and other officials in Sendai assigned the cars strategically. Two were used to bring food and supplies to the 23 remaining refugee centers in the city, while two others served doctors. Education officials have been using another two vehicles to inspect schools for structural damage. Others helped deliver supplies to kindergartens around the city or were loaned to volunteer groups.
Most corporations would view a gift like this as simple corporate philanthropy. But I believe giving back to communities is much more than a “do good” strategy. I believe it can be good business as well.
Mitsubishi’s story is a case in point. Not only has Mitsubishi garnered goodwill from citizens appreciative of the gift, they have created a wonderful, emotionally-resonant proof point of the practicality and reliability of electric vehicles at a time when many are still questioning how effective they will actually be.
The people at Mitsubishi will not only be able to sleep at night knowing they provided a valuable gift to a community in need, but they will also have a powerful story that can be used for years down the road illustrating the effectiveness and practicality of the electric vehicle.
The community benefits. The company creates value for its shareholders at the same time. In my view, gifts like this where everyone wins are the best gifts of all.
[This article originally appeared on opensource.com]