Once Upon a Time, There Was a Wonderful Brand
By Martin Lindstrom
The year was 1895. King Camp (his real name) stood before his shaving mirror, as he’d done many times before. A new thought occurred to him. His cut-throat razor was performing its job as well as usual, but so little of the blade was actually used in the shaving process. King Camp wondered about a new type of blade, one practically all edge. He thought about housing it in a device that would make shaving cuts and accidents nearly impossible. Then, he thought about making it disposable. If he could make a blade that was thin, flat, efficient, cheap, and disposable… did I neglect to mention King Camp’s surname was Gillette?
We all love a good story. More important, we remember good stories. Good stories make things personal. We identify with characters and recall details associated with them. The effect is the same when characters are brands. Introduce a brand in the context of a good story, and the corporate entity gains personality. It becomes warm and friendly.
Many brands forget interesting bits and pieces of their pasts, the details that make them unique and differentiate them from other brands. Why all this talk about branded story telling? The Web is probably the best place for sharing a story.
A Web audience can explore fascinating stories, like why a Coke bottle looks like it does or how Band-Aid and Mars Bar got their names. A good story around a brand, one intrinsic to its identity, is an effective way to generate consumer understanding and loyalty. Why are stories untold by Fortune 500 companies? You hardly ever find a good story on a brand’s Web site, despite the fact most companies would have a story to tell that makes them unique.
Stories don’t need to be spectacular or reside at the core of a brand’s existence, like Mr. Gillette’s. Tell the story of why your design approach looks the way it does, how your name came about, what’s behind your logo, interesting ways your product has been used by customers, feedback from unexpected people. Small stories can differentiate your brand from others.
Branding occurs in the minds of consumers. Humans naturally create associations. We surround ourselves with associations — the physical, intellectual, and emotional familiarities of our lives. When the Internet appeared, instead of URLs there were numbers. Soon, these were converted into text because no one could remember a 20-digit number. Even fewer could relate to one. Numbers may be more rational and systematic, but that’s irrelevant in the face of our human instincts.
Ask your founder about your company’s past. Ask your customer service department about funny or memorable customer experiences. Ask your product development department why your product looks like it does. Then, turn corporate memories into a branded story you can include on your site. Not only will customers love it, employees will feel proud of their heritage and brand’s history.
Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world’s primary branding gurus by The Chartered Institute of Marketing. His book BRAND sense can be ordered at Amazon. Lindstrom is the author of several best-selling branding books including BRANDchild with Patricia B. Seybold (Customer.com), Clicks, Bricks & Brands with Don Peppers & Martha Rogers (1to1 Marketing) and Brand Building on the Internet. He’s an advisor to Fortune 100 brands including Microsoft, Reuters, Pepsi, Yellow Pages, Nokia, Disney and Mars. More information on BRAND sense can be found at BRANDsense.com or MartinLindstrom.com