One of the best ways to use storytelling is to deal with the challenge of branding. It’s one of the most critical parts of marketing and some people like to make it complicated. When my clients begin to work with stories, the process goes much more smoothly … whether you’re in the pre-branding stage, or you’re implementing a branding strategy, or you’re rebranding with a business pivot.
The truth is, once your business becomes associated with a story, you’re branded. Some business owners do this deliberately: they tell a story that becomes their brand. They might talk about how they started or how they helped a particular client get a big win.
But sometimes a story will come back to haunt you … literally. Here’s an example.
Back when flying was good (like the movie, Catch Me If You Can), I was traveling almost 100% of the time. We had no security, friendly airline staff and lots of good stories.
You may have heard this old chestnut. To go anywhere in the south, you had to go through Atlanta. So a traveler was at the Eastern Airlines counter asking, “If I go to Birmingham, do I have to go through Atlanta? Little Rock? Miami?”
“Yes, yes and yes,” smiled the gate agent.
“What if I’m going to hell? Do I still go to Atlanta?”
“I wouldn’t know, sir,” the agent answers. “That’s a Delta flight.”
Of course the Delta folks probably told the story in reverse, but each airline had an image. Long before it went out of business, Eastern had troubles. When Flight 401 went down in the Everglades, crew members reportedly came back as ghosts.
I was doing a lot of travel back then and I asked all the flight attendants about that story. Every single person knew what I was talking about. Most believed in the ghosts.
Two lessons about branding from these stories:
(1) Stories are sticky.
Eastern tried very hard to stop the stories. A flight attendant told me, “If management heard someone talking about ghosts, they’d send them off to see the company shrink. He wasn’t very good. So people stopped talking about the ghosts — at least when management was around.”
The ghost of Flight 401 became a book and a movie. Skeptics insist there were no ghosts. Stories about the crash soon circulated in psychology classes, but not as support for the paranormal: the pilots focused on a faulty landing gear light while ignoring the planes rapid loss of altitude. Researchers studied things like “effect of task load on performance.” Less appealing to large audiences but extremely valuable.
(2) Stories affect the way clients perceive everything you do.
Eastern’s reputation affected passenger response when things went wrong. A seating mistake on Eastern?
“What you’d expect from a haunted airline.”The same mistake on Delta or American? “Oops — they must have missed one.”
We see this all the time with small – and large – businesses.
Sally messes up the time of a call, forgets to send reminders and sends a broken link. Your reaction depends on your image of Sally, which of course may be affected by your relationship. You might say, “What a confused muddle!” or, “She gives so much value I barely notice.”
Michael offers a workshop on a particular topic and you think, “Perfect – he’s an expert.” You hear Sally’s giving the same workshop and you think, “Where did that come from?”
One of my favorite ways to work with clients is to help them differentiate themselves and begin to develop a branding story — something that you’re hoping will stick with your audience. It could be as simple as, “She’s the person who started out as a life coach and got so successful, people began asking for business tips.” Or, “He’s the guy whose business earns a 100% income on a 50% work schedule.”
Most likely, you’ve already got a story: you just need to let it shine bright on your website, sales letter and everything else you do. If you’d like to explore possibilities, let’s start with a call: we’ll talk about how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd while making a difference to your clients (and maybe even the world). Click here to learn more and get started.