Avoid the most common pitfalls that can prevent your brand from developing a powerful and genuine story.

  1. Storytelling

There are many different ways you can tell the same story. First ensure that you have a relevant, unique and genuine brand story. The choice of media, creative expression could all be different and yet could tell the same story. Dollar Shave Club’s viral video helped an already well-planned brand story that was extremely differentiated and offered a great solution. The video furthers the brand’s core promise and personality!  Pepsi’s epic fail with Kendal Jenner Ad did not quite get this aspect right.

Takeaway:Storytelling comes after you have carefully designed your Brand Story. 

2. Content

Another mistake is jumping to content without precisely defining your brand story. I have seen digital and creative agencies asking clients about their brand voice and the brands offer generic inputs like high quality products, local, premium, clean, environmentally friendlier etc. The content writers then spin a story around these undifferentiated claims within a matter of hours and even worse it sounds more like an ad then a genuine story that entertains, educates, excites or piques interest.

Takeaway:Volume of content without a comprehensively defined, differentiated and powerful Brand Story won’t take you anywhere.

3. How you started?-Founder stories

Sounds paradoxical! Just having a page on your site about a founder’s journey without making the entire brand story revolve around it is a mistake. The founder’s beliefs, values and personality are strong ingredients of a Brand Story’s core promise but then this core promise has to be felt, experienced or understood obviously or subliminally at every touch point whether it is the product, purchase point, marketing activity, website, e-commerce, staff etc.

Virgin is an example of a brand story based on the founder’s personality and values. In fact, you can create a brand story with mythical personalities as done by the Betty Crocker team. There was no real Betty Crocker but the whole brand from products to marketing echoed the personality of Betty Crocker.

Takeaway:To leverage a founder’s story, make sure everything you do and say reeks of her personality and values.

4. Socially and Environmentally responsible initiatives

Again, contributing to social and environmental causes is different from building an entire brand story around it. There are pros and cons of leveraging causes to promote yourself. The Ten Tree brand is a perfect example of a perfect brand story built around the core idea of supporting the environment.

Takeaway: Be genuine. Don’t think of taking advantage of people’s sentiment for social and environment causes for cost effective marketing! 

5. “Free from” claims: 

Most of the “Free from” claims are table stakes now! Clean, natural and organic are just not enough if you want to break the clutter unless you are the only one in the category. 

Takeaway: Compare your “free from” claims with other brands in the same category to check how unique are these claims

6. Product Quality

Product quality, both real and perceived, is all the non-price attributes of a product.  To quote Professor Ken Wong of Queen’s (Smith) School of Business, “Different consumers define, weigh and rate quality differently”. Define what you mean by product quality with 3-4 attributes and then rate your brand on those attributes and also get it rated by your target consumers to see if you are conveying real differences or marketplace antes.

Takeaway:Quality is a “vague” term and means different things to different people. 


7. Local

If you are the only one who is local, then you can weave a story around the same. If not, then you need to search for uniqueness vs other local brands. Also, you need to expand the different attributes/benefits of Local and focus on ones that you are unique at and offer a superior benefit vs others. For example, a connection to source by offering transparency, incorporating local vendors as part of your branding etc. There are actually researches done defining the maximum distance you could be away from a city to qualify for being local. Different US states and retailers define local differently, from within the same city to produced within a few states around to travel time to the retailer BUT for consumer it usually means produced in the same town.

Takeaway:You can only be local in one city? What about when you enter new markets? How differentiated are you from other local brands?

8. Social Media Fans

Merely being on social media and talking about yourself is not being effective at telling a brand story. Chances are, you are just communicating on a cluttered media and the novelty of the media makes you feel good. Don’t mistake the initial engagement for success. Unless you go viral with a marketing tactic, it is expensive to reach people.

A powerful brand story has a built-in element of virality, which, when coupled with creative storytelling has a much higher probability of achieving massive awareness and word of mouth referrals for sales.

Takeaway: Don’t do what everyone else is doing, that is just being present. Everybody, or most of us, says hi to the ones sitting next to them. But there are some people that we want to meet and have a conversation with. 

9. People like our Story

Who are these people? Friends and family who you speak to once a week and they give you undivided attention? That their family has a brand is a powerful story for them! Most probably, they are not your early adopters.

Takeaway: Your target consumers, who you don’t know that well personally, should be excited about your story.

10. For Everybody

As Professor Ken Wong of Queen’s ( Smith) School of Business would say, “ You will never get a specialist job with a generalist profile”. Anything, that is good for everybody is great for nobody! Your Brand Story is for a particular audience and that’s where the power lays. You would not mind selling to almost everyone who pays for the brand but direct your brand story at the ones who care the most.

Takeaway:He tries to please them all a bitter man he is.

11. We were the First

This one is tricky. If you claim to have started much before the competition even existed, there has to be a very strong business, social, visible proof of your Brand Story. Google was not the first search engine to index pages on internet, Alta Vista was! Are you a market leader? Does your Social Media fan base outdo those who came much later? What is the quality of your reviews? Is it a well-known fact amongst the target segment?

Being the first to start doesn’t mean you got it right and therefore deserve the podium. To win the race or even come a close second or third, you need to do much more than be the first mover. Method Home Products, a green soap company, was founded in 2000, much later than a lot of other green soap companies that are still not 1/100th of its size!

Takeaway:  Make sure that first mover actually delivers advantage

12. We did not come this far by fluke!-Dominant Design

We did not come this far without being relevant, Rohit. A line I hear quite often. I don’t deny that brands have done something right to have survived and grown to where they are. But I also know that entropy is an undeniable reality and nothing explains it better than Murphy’s laws. Evolving consumer trends, channels and competitive threats cannot be ignored either. You need not reinvent every now and then but you have to evaluate your brand’s relevance, uniqueness, cohesiveness and consistent delivery to those who are loyal to you and evolve accordingly.  From executing the story better, to evolving your brand story and strategy, to changing your culture or questioning the existence and nature of your business are all evolutionary steps.

Takeaway: To look back in the rear-view mirror & justify your current direction is missing the future.


13. Consumers are stupid

Another line I hear quite often is, “We offer much higher quality products but still consumers prefer competition because they are fooled by their marketing.” While I don’t deny that higher marketing budget can get your competition higher level of awareness but if they lack a good consistent story, consumers won’t offer their loyalty. Consumers might not have asked for a car when there were only horses or a tablet, when there were none, but once they experienced these innovations, they supported with all their love. Don’t worry about consumers being stupid but think about consumer validation. They value coherence, look for meaning and are moved by emotions, consciously or sub-consciously, beyond marginal functional benefits.

Takeaway:Don’t live in denial.

14. Better at everything-Really?

Even if you are better, at a lot of quality attributes, than others, having a laundry list of great at everything won’t cut it with the consumer and you would never be able to design a genuine and cohesive brand story around all of those benefits. Every Superhero has certain great powers but not every kind of power! For that, you have different superheroes. 

Spiderman has night vision, super adhesive abilities, pre-cognition, healing abilities whereas Batman has great intellect, scientifically advanced gadgets, exceptional mental and physical strength etc. 

Takeaway:Consumers have a limited attention span and you have to make it easier for them to place you in a limited and an unoccupied space in their minds. 

15. Only a small segment might want this Brand Story

According to Prof. Laurence Ashworth of Queen’s ( Smith) School of Business, “ There is always a segment” and add this to Seth Godin’s comment about building for Smallest Viable Audience. If there is a small set of consumers that a brand story is highly relevant to, they, if you delight them, in high probability, will carry it on their shoulders, take it places and introduce the story to the rest. 

Takeaway: Market size estimation is only relevant if you have the resources to create proportionate level of awareness quickly, consistently and be able to leverage proportionate existing distribution. If you don’t, then identify a core group of early innovators and use them to reach early adopters.

CONCLUSION

Human beings are suckers for coherence and any inconsistency would be costly for a brand! 

The only way to ensure consistency in creating and delivering your brand to the consumers is via a well-thought out, relevant and thoroughly defined brand story, and then leveraging a content strategy for diffusing your brand story.

Be selective, mean it with everything you do and say, keep your ear to the ground and don’t spread yourself too thin.

Let your guiding light be the Brand Story Core or Core Brand Promise. Decide the Core Brand Promise and then define the Brand Personality/Voice in alignment to guide all the content.

Intellect and Passion over Money!-Brand Story could be built and spread without significant investment but never without significant thought or passion and only money.

To want to know for free how your brand story rates on the above mentioned myths, please click top right of the page for a free story consultation!

Agree/disagree with any myth about brand story or would like to add a new myth, please let me know in the comments section!

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