A few years ago, I was headed over to the Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia to run a few errands before my dance class at the gym. It would normally be a quick trip, but the street I needed was blocked off to traffic.
This happens a lot in Philly, usually for construction. But this time, the word was out: “The Clydesdales are coming!”
Sure enough, at the very hour where dinner time and happy hours come together, the big brown horses came marching down Walnut Street, looking as if they’d rather be back on the farm. (I know nothing about horses, so I may be reading something into their expressions, if horses can be said to have expressions.)
And even though I’m not much of a beer drinker, I knew exactly what was going on. I’ve watched the doggy Superbowl commercials.
And Budweiser’s branding is legendary. As soon as you saw “Clydesdales,” you probably knew just what was going on.
Budweiser tells stories to build brands.
The “adopted dog” story isn’t about beer, but reinforces the Clydesdale association and the company’s desire to evoke wholesome, happy emotions.
In fact, there’s a story behind the Clydesdales. The prophet.com website shares this story:
Budweiser has used the Clydesdales to create a signature story, and the Super Bowl ads play a key role in bringing the story to life in a fresh way year after year. The Clydesdales are a great example of how a symbol can be the vehicle to help create a story and to keep it alive.
The story really started in April 7, 1933, when a red, white and gold beer wagon was pulled by six Clydesdales (the teams now have eight horses) from the St. Louis brewer. The wagon contained the first case of post-Prohibition beer and celebrated the repeal of Prohibition. The Clydesdales and the wagon later delivered a case of beer to the former governor of New York, Al Smith who had led the repeal fight, and to President Roosevelt.
So ultimately there’s an origin story connecting to the brand as well as the series of feel-good stories. The company’s events contribute to the story, as they tour the country’s major cities. And the horses were a very impressive sight. Their signature Dalmation came along for the ride. He seemed to be having a blast.
Some marketers build their brand entirely by telling stories. Some do this so subtly you wonder, “Is there a brand in there?”
So what can a small service-based business learn from a big product-brand like Budweiser?
Stories tend to be especially powerful for branding in any business because
— they’re unique: nobody else can call your story
— they’re memorable: who doesn’t want to share a good story (and remember enough to re-tell it)?
— they grab attention in a crowded world
But ultimately, what is Budweiser is selling? Liquid chemicals. Beer doesn’t come with a personality so the job of the brand has an added dimension: create a personality, as well as recognition and memorability.
That’s why a lot of tangible products tell stories that evoke emotions, rather than demonstrate or explain benefits. There’s nothing inherently emotional about a product that’s usually a mixture of barley, water, hops, and yeast. Beer doesn’t taste like a party or a family gathering, any more than soft drinks taste like sentimental scenes in the ads.
The advertiser uses emotion to build associations, using the theories of learning you probably studied in Psychology 101. You watch an emotional, heart-wrenching story about a dog who doesn’t want to leave the farm…and then when you see a beer can with the Budweiser logo, you find yourself with that same warm and fuzzy feeling. At least that’s the idea.
“But I’m a service business!”
As a service-based business, you are selling yourself. You’re a person with a style of service delivery. You don’t need to create a personality. Instead, you communicate your brand with your story archetype. To learn more, download this free report. Discover why your mentor’s communication style may not work for you … and why the stories you chose may actually be working against you. Click here to sign up and download.
You can learn more from my Storytelling Program – Build Your Brand One Story At A Time. Click here to learn what stories work best for small business marketers.
And if you’d like to talk about the best story for your business, let’s set up a consultation. You set the agenda. We can talk about any business obstacle, find your story, review or start your content creation…or even have a lightning round of questions. Click here to learn more and set up a time.