Your Brand as a Story

Your Brand as a Story

I’ve had the opportunity to work for some companies that have interesting brand stories.  Instead of explaining what I mean by a brand story, let me give you a conventional approach to a company description and a story approach to describing two of these companies.

AIG

Conventional – AIG is a global insurance company known for its innovative approach to business risks.

Story – AIG was the first company to insure satellites and oil drilling platforms, which were new technologies at the time and were considered too risky to insure.  AIG applied the engineering and underwriting skills of its employees to find ways to insure these complex, unknown risks.  Today, AIG continues to insure innovations that help its commercial customers stay ahead in their markets.

Kepner-Tregoe

Conventional – Kepner-Tregoe provides training programs to help organizations solve problems and make decisions more quickly and effectively.

Story – Kepner-Tregoe was founded by Chuck Kepner and Ben Tregoe, who worked for the Rand Corporation in the 1950s.  While conducting a study at Strategic Air Command, they became fascinated with how officers processed information in order to take action.  When Rand was unwilling to pursue this line of inquiry, Kepner and Tregoe went out on their own and researched the thought processes applied by managers and executives who where considered strong problem solvers and decision makers in their organizations.  They synthesized and codified these processes so the skills could be learned by others.  Since then the processes have been continuously refined and adapted, and have been applied by millions of people around the world to solve problems and make decisions more quickly and effectively.

The conventional approaches listed above are generic.  You could slap on the name of dozens of companies in AIG and Kepner-Tregoe’s markets and the statements would be true.  The story approaches are unique:  No other company can claim the story if it is specific enough.

Brand stories draw in and engage people.   Maybe it is genetic programming, but we love stories.  From the earliest beginnings, people told stories to communicate.  As children, we were read stories that taught us important lessons.  Rather than telling our children “there are different types of people in the world,” we can more easily impress them with the story of the slow-moving sloth’s responses to questions about why he is different.  As adults, we’ll watch an hour-long television program because we love the story, even though we suspect the outcome after the first 10 minutes.

There is no formula for the brand story, but here are some ideas to think about in developing your company’s own story.

Use specific examples – Specific examples make a general statement come alive.  In the AIG story, satellites and oil drilling platforms become concrete examples for innovation.

Provide history –  History can provide context for what the company does and, more importantly, how and why it does it today.  Don’t rely on history alone:  You need to tie that history to why the company provides superior products and services today.  Without this, your products/services will sound dated.  Even if your company just started yesterday, the founders have a history that led them to start the company and address a need.  Tell their story.

Tie the story to a benefit – You need to tie the story to a benefit for the customer.  Merely telling a story without a “lesson” might be interesting to the reader, but it is not very useful in promoting your company brand.

When done well, a story can be a compelling and powerful device for communicating your brand.  It takes your message from the “ho-hum, I’ve heard that before” to a unique, memorable brand in the customer’s mind.

 

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