#1 TRUTH— WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU IN?
If every business is built around satisfying a customer’s need, then every brand story begins at the intersection of your business’s truth and the truth about what your customer needs or wants from you. The most successful brands show customers what their businesses stand for by communicating that truth in everything they do.
Car companies don’t build cars to be just functional and safe; the companies work hard to help customers to feel a certain way. Porsche understands that its customers want a very different experience than Volvo drivers do. Your customers may want to experience a feeling of excitement or safety. They might want to feel more healthy or happy. Perhaps they just want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
#2 PURPOSE—THE REASON YOU EXIST
Google exists to satisfy the curiosity of anyone with access to the Internet; Method, the household cleaning brand, wants to inspire happy, healthy homes; and Jimmy’s Iced Coffee delivers moments of joy. Each of these ideals provides a reason for existing, beyond the bottom line. Could it be that the way to build a thriving business is to do more works of love?
If your purpose is your “why,” your vision is your “possibility.” Your vision is your destination. It’s a projection of the impact you want your business to have in the world. A clear vision informs the day-to-day running of your business and shapes your strategy for the future. It focuses on the impact you will make on the lives of your customers.
Values help to clarify who you are and what you stand for. Your brand values are anchors and guideposts for staff, helping to explain why you work the way you do. They influence customers’ buying decisions because customers buy from brands whose values align with theirs.
#5 PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
While you’ve got to get the cookie recipe right, it’s really important to make the fortune—the story—good, too. You need to give people a reason not just to buy your products, but to buy into your brand. The product must tell part of the story.
#6 YOUR PEOPLE
Every single person in your organization, from the cleaner to the designer, from the waitress to the CEO, has a role to play in touching your customer. Whom you hire, what they stand for, and how they show up all tell a story.
#7 VALUE YOU DELIVER
People don’t buy what you do; they buy how it makes them feel. To deliver value, then, businesses need to generously focus on what customers want and how they want it delivered. Real value, the kind that builds loyalty and a sustainable brand, is never about what the business owner happens to have in the warehouse and urgently needs to sell at a knockdown price. Value, like love, is in the eye of beholder.
#8 NAME AND TAGLINE—YOUR OPENING MOVE
A name can change how the customer feels about the product. “Italian Almond—Real Leaf Tea” just tastes better than plain old Almond Tea. The name tells a story that people want to believe and am happy to pay a little bit extra for.
Your brand name should be designed to create lofty expectations and to make people believe something, not just notice it. It should signal your difference to the world. Don’t set out to name your company or product. Set out to name your vision of what you want to see in the world.
#9 CONTENT AND COPY
Many business owners are scared of sounding unprofessional, so they professionalize their content with jargon. The result is that they end up sounding just like their competitors.
Think of your content and copy as being like a first date. It’s the way your brand starts establishing the kind of relationship that leaves people wanting more. Your content doesn’t need to give all of the facts; it simply needs to foster the next conversation with a customer.
Design can make ideas tangible, elevate the value of a commodity beyond its function, and make something more desirable by changing how people feel. Store layouts and packaging design can change how much people spend in the moment.
Design can be your brand’s signature. Think about how Apple made white devices and ear buds cool when every other company was using black. Design makes shoes with shiny red soles more valuable than ones without.
#11 YOUR ACTIONS
Making a difference to your customers can be as simple as the way you sign off your emails or as complex as fire safety precautions at a rock concert. How you act—and the system you have in place to make sure that happens consistently—forms the basis of what customers will come to expect from you.
#12 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
The feeling your customer leaves with, as she walks out the door or clicks away from your website, is your best opportunity to differentiate your brand. Commodities are just stuff with a fixed value—until they’re not. The brands you love and talk about are not the ones that competed on price or features. They are the ones that changed how it felt to buy a cup of coffee, slip on a pair of shoes, or open a laptop in a café.
#13 PRICE AND QUALITY
When Starbucks entered the coffee market, they were having a different conversation about the price of quality than Dunkin’ Donuts was. Price was one of the ways they sent a signal to customers that they were different. Price and quality are immediate signals to your customers, or at least they should be. You can use pricing and quality to attract the type of clients you want. The price you charge sends a signal to the right people.
#14 POSITION PERCEPTION
In a Googlized world full of informed and empowered consumers, a big advertising budget is not enough to make people believe you. Your brand is no longer what you say it is. It is what your customers feel, what they believe, and what they say as a result. It’s the story as seen through their eyes, not as it is told with advertisements and shelf space.
If you’re not selling directly to customers, you are relying on others in the distribution chain, like retail stores, to help tell the story of your brand for you. Your distribution channels affect what you can charge and how much control you have over other aspects of your brand story. They can affect your business growth and how well your brand story can spread.
Of course if your customers are online, then that’s where you must meet them. The shift in the way people buy music is an example of how customers’ purchasing decisions can affect the location strategy and business model of an entire industry.
Location, though, isn’t just about where you choose to do business; it’s about figuring out where your customers are, and that’s still important even in an online, less localized world. Where you choose to interact with and sell to your customers—and, more important, where they want to connect with you—must form part of your story strategy.
#17 UBIQUITY OR SCARCITY
Do you want to have a product in every store, or will being selective about where your brand is stocked align with your story? Is your plan to have a presence on the tablet of every consumer with access to an Internet connection, or will you serve just a handful of consulting clients each year? If you don’t decide whether you are this or that at the outset, then how can you tell a story that will resonate with the people you want to believe it?
Today the brands and ideas we buy into and care about are shorthand for creating meaning in our lives. Our purchases, Facebook likes, and things we choose to share with our friends are part of our personal story. They are outward signs of what matters to us.
Word of mouth is accelerated and amplified. Trust is built digitally beyond the village. Reputations are built and lost in a moment. Opinions are no longer only shared one to one; they are broadcasted one to many, through digital channels.
Think about it for a minute. People trust the stories other people tell about you more than they trust the well-lit Photoshopped images in your brochure.
#20 REACTION AND REACH
The fastest-selling paperback of all time was not the best book of all time. Word of mouth, not the quality of the writing, made the erotic book Fifty Shades of Grey an international bestseller. Women who weren’t ordinarily big readers bought the book because their friends were reading and recommending it. The reaction of readers was all the marketing the book needed.
Think of reach in this context not merely as measuring customer numbers but as a way of measuring impact. The new definition of reach therefore is a measure of how far you’ve come and of the difference you’ve made.