A powerful brand story, when executed well—builds trust, connection, and loyalty with your audience.
Does your brand have a story? You know—a story that’s captivating and inspiring; has real meaning and comes from the heart of what you’re all about as a brand. It’s a story your employees believe in. They stand behind it through their behaviors and actions. It reveals itself in your systems and processes and your customers are convinced by the story because you live it.
Countless times I run across brands that are really good at touting a story; what they believe they’re about and what they think they stand for, only to find that the story is backed by dysfunctional processes, empty promises and a culture of discontented employees undermining it at every turn. This in-congruence is dangerous as it tarnishes the brand at every customer touch-point. It creates mistrust and I vow never to do business with that brand again.
Authentic brands live and breathe their story. It’s reflected in their core essence—what they stand for and how they show up. You trust their story because you experience it through the living of their values and brand personality. The story is embedded in their standards of performance and the consistency in the delivery of the promise they make and keep to their employees and to you—their customer.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, product or service you provide. If your story is true to who you are as a brand, your employees will get behind it, and live it. If your story is convincing and consistent, your customers will love and trust your brand, and continue to buy from you. If the story is false or rather just a marketing gimmick, because the brand doesn’t really ‘own’ it, then your employees won’t live it and customers will always see through the fallacy of it.
Consider the following scenarios of two competitor brands I have experienced:
BRAND A is a company where its founders express a simple story that doing business with them should be fun, easy and enjoyable. They emphasize integrity, and a friendly and exceptional service experience along with 100% guaranteed satisfaction or your money back.
The initial purchase experience was reasonably fast and efficient, but when I went to return my item (a pair of shoes); I was sorely disappointed with the customer service representative and their supervisor’s behavior, and their return policy.
- I was one-day past the 15-day return policy (of which I wasn’t aware of because it was in the tiniest print—hardly visible to the naked eye, however, the 100% guaranteed satisfaction or your money back was in huge, bold print, on the packaging receipt. Seemed a bit misleading to me).
- I haggled for 45 minutes over the phone and during that time was put on hold for several extended periods. I thought, “How difficult is it to live up to YOUR 100% satisfaction guarantee and refund MY money?”
- I must mention that the supervisor was insincere in his droning tone during most of the call—not really friendly, nor fun, easy and enjoyable—the story I was led to believe.
- But I just kept at it. I think I finally wore the supervisor down to which he agreed to let me return the item, but for exchange only.
- Needless to say this brand did not live up to its story and I’ll never venture back. And, yes, I’ve told several of my friends!
BRAND B is a company whose story is about open and honest relationships, a family spirit, and humility. They emphasize that it’s important for their customers to feel special, a part of a community experience as they strive to deliver the best customer service possible – it’s their WOW philosophy.
- My initial purchase experience was great! I received my order the next day, not to mention I ordered the shoes on a Sunday. I didn’t expect overnight. I also didn’t expect free shipping.
- When I tried the shoes on, I found they had a flaw in the toe of the right shoe that made it impossible for a comfortable fit. And of course, I thought, “This should be an interesting return experience.”
- When I phoned, the customer service representative apologized profusely (very humble in his tone), and instructed me to give the shoes to goodwill.
- The rep explained they didn’t have another of the same shoe of my size in stock, so he offered me $15 off my next purchase. I received an email in my inbox within minutes with a confirmation of the offer and instructions on how to use it.
- He asked if he could place me on a wait list so I could be notified by email when the item would be back in stock. Of course, I said yes!
- He then offered VIP status. I said, “Absolutely!” He mentioned several things, but one thing I remembered was free overnight shipping both ways. Talk about feeling special, not to mention by this time I was truly WOWED!
- This brand truly lived up to their story in every way! I continue to venture back and have never been less than wowed.
So how do you compose a compelling story that you can live up to it like Brand B? How do you know if your brand’s story is believable to your employees? How do you know if it resonates with your customers? Find out in PART B—coming soon!
By Carol Chapman, Former Co-founder, The Brand Ascension Group