Powerful Brands Generate Powerful Stories


Powerful Brands Generate Powerful Stories


One of the best ways to bring a brand to life is to tell a story

This really shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, Paul Harvey, Toni Morrison, Garrison Keillor, and countless others have long understood the power of a great story.

We know from both data and anecdotes that stories not only bring the brand to life for the customer, but they bring the brand to life for the storyteller as well.

Finally, powerful brand stories contribute to the larger brand mythology; the constellation of stories and attitudes and feelings that surround a great brand.

I talked to some of my brand-building colleagues (Eric Sickler, Bob Sevier, and Becky Morehouse) about the importance of great brand stories and discovered that powerful stories almost always have five essential qualities:

  1. While powerful brand stories rest on facts, they are much more than just factual
  2. Powerful brand stories resonate with us
  3. Powerful brand stories are simple
  4. Powerful brand stories surprise
  5. Powerful brand stories heighten loyalty

Are more than just facts

Bob can recite facts about how safe his Volvo is, but that’s not the story. The story is how he walked away from a head-on collision when another driver went left of center.

Resonate with us

Eric notes that the menu at your neighborhood Cracker Barrel restaurant might not be your cup of tea, but there’s no denying that walking into one of their old-timey general stores immediately sweeps you away to a very different place—perhaps reminiscent of a childhood vacation with your family or Sunday dinner at grandma’s house. Tapping in to that kind of emotion delivers an element of resonance that can make a lasting impression.

Are simple

I’m (Ron) not a motorcycle rider (though not for lack of wanting to own a bike). But I do have a deep affection for the Harley-Davidson brand. In part, my brother owns a “hog.” I’ve lived vicariously through his experience and the independence and freedom that being on the back of a bike, with no particular destination in mind, brings.
That’s the power of the Harley brand story—a profound but simple idea of fulfilling your dreams of independent freedom. That resonates with most of us, whether we would ever find ourselves on the back of a big bike.

Offer a surprise

Like many of us, Eric travels. He recounts the surprise he recently received on his birthday.
Says Eric, “Spending a birthday alone in a hotel is about as lame as it gets, but I have an entirely new (and fortified) appreciation for Omni Hotels after being greeted with a hearty ‘Happy Birthday’ by front desk staff upon arrival a few weeks ago. Later that night I found a personalized birthday cake in my room along with a card signed by no fewer than 25 members of the hotel staff.”

Heighten loyalty

Bob is a devoted user of Bose headphones. Over the years, his headphones often became damaged and more often than not were held together with black duct tape. One day he was talking to the Bose rep at the Bose kiosk in the Denver airport about their need to build a stronger storage case for the headphones. He showed the rep both the case and the headphones. The rep took one look at the black duct tape and swapped Bob’s old headphones for a new pair. He said he didn’t want people seeing Bob wearing those beat-up headphones. Bob was already a loyal Bose customer. Now he is pathological. He is on his third pair of headphones. He also has two Bose radios. And a Bose cradle for his iPod in his shop. I think he is trying to convince himself that he needs a pair of Bose earbuds.

When a brand story characterizes these five qualities something important happens: the story gets repeated. It seems that while everyone loves hearing a great story, we love telling them even more.

I want to close with a quote from J.K. Rowing: “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

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