This entry was originally posted on December 5, 2005 at the old Brandstory blog (link available for a limited time).
Every once in a while I read a post that makes me think, I wish I had written that. This post by John Winsor is one. Adding to thoughts posted by John Moore at Brand Autopsy (follow the link for a free PDF), John Winsor writes about the elements of a good story. Great ideas to keep in mind when developing or telling your story.
It’s one thing to talk about what your story should include. But what if you haven’t thought out your story? What if you don’t have a story? Where should you look to find it? Here are a few ideas:
1. Many great stories emerge from a company’s history. Southwest’s story is that of an upstart airline challenging an established and possibly corrupt industry. It unfolds over several years. By offering lower prices, better service, point-to-point flights, they changed air travel for good. Or so the story goes.
2. Customer experience. When it comes to service, Nordstrom is the gold standard. One story is told of the customer who long after purchasing a toaster, returned it without a receipt to Nordstrom for a full refund. The punchline of the story is that Nordstrom doesn’t sell toasters. (Another version of the story can be found here.) Whether the story is true or not, it accurately represents the brand for its customers.
3. Technology. Companies like Google take their narrative from the technology they own. From their search algorythm and Blogger to Google earth and Google maps, Google’s story is based on making cool things easily available and easy to use for its customers. Ebay, Sony, and Apple have stories at least partially based on technology.
4. Advertising. Nike’s story used to be about the founders making shoes with a waffle iron and selling them out of the back of Phil Knight’s station wagon. Today the story is about empowering customers to accomplish the things they want to do. Each ad tells a micro-story that reinforces the macro-story that Nike give you the power to “Just Do It.” Importantly, employees have embraced the story as a mission.
5. Product. Companies like Clif Bar get much of their story from their products or product philosophy. The Clif Bar was created after founder Gary Anderson couldn’t eat another processed energy bar despite his hunger on a long bike ride. His bar is made from organic ingredients and, the story goes, tastes better and is better for you.
6. Positioning. For decades, WalMart has told a story about giving customers what they want—primarily low prices. Everything from the logo and advertising to the “messiness” of their stores reinforces this story.
7. Leadership. Though it is seldom a good long-term strategy, many companies are so closely associated with the CEO that his or her story is the company story. This may work in the short term, but eventually the company will need another story to live by when the CEO moves on.