Brand Storytelling

Why certain businesses stand out from the crowd.

Have you heard about that BBQ place in Austin, Texas? Its opening hours are Tues-Sun, 11am–till sold out, attracting lines of over two and a half hours most days.

What about that traditional gelato chain in Brisbane, with the name I can’t properly pronounce, that has queues mosts nights? I hear they make gelato by hand, the traditional way.

The coffee roaster who can be seen hand sorting the green beans to remove any with imperfections?

What about the gym in Sydney where the owner has kicked out members he thought weren’t training hard enough?

As humans, we love stories. That’s how we learn and how we remember. The best brands have stories. Sometimes about how their product is made, their exclusivity, or even around their recruitment practices. Louis Litt on the popular TV show ‘Suits’ will only accept Harvard graduates into his grad program.

Stories like this travel. They set businesses apart from their competitors, creating larger than life identities that endure in the minds of audiences. In such a saturated market, that can be the difference between being unheard of or being talked about from BBQs to networking events.

“Have you heard about that design firm? I hear their Lead Designer doesn’t even have a computer. She just draws things up on a paper and the juniors recreate them on computers.”

What stories can you create and share about your business?

How do they add value to your product or service? Great stories, told well, can completely change customer perception and substantially alter their experience… and this difference can gain a premium price.

Can you create theatre through your process? I’m not recommending song and dance, but rather something that invites your customer to experience the service and “buy-in” to your process rather than be a spectator.

Nike nail this with their NikeID pop-ups, allowing customers to custom-design and order their own sneaker in-store…and obviously charge a healthy premium for the privilege.

The NikeID Lab in London

It could be a recruitment story, to help you strengthen your “Employer Brand”. These become bragging points for employees who tell their friends on the weekend “at our work we have beers and watch TED talks on Friday afternoons…” Not many people sit around and talk about their salary, but they will openly discuss their work perks: on-site barista, monthly team breakfasts or day off for birthdays.

Years ago one of Brisbane’s top Search Engine Optimsation (SEO) firms was renowned for hiring Journalist Grads rather than Marketing Grads, given the importance of content writing for SEO purposes. This added credibility to their claim of being the best in the business.


So how do we put this into action? What’s the takeaway?

Firstly it comes down to identifying how you want your audience to perceive you— your customers’ desired perceptions. Are you wanting them to value your product more? Then it comes down to how that product is produced, what qualities it possesses to make it more premium. If you’re a serviced-based business it could be about positioning your staff as experts in their field. It could be proof and evidence— industry awards, your portfolio, testimonials or the process through which your product is created. If you want to attract better staff or build stronger market reputation as an “employer of choice”, think about what would get people talking about why working there is so great, or how rigorous the application process is.

It’s one thing to identify the perception shift, it’s another to make it believable and famous. Not only should it be unique to your business (a point of difference), but it should be attainable and you need to be able to support it with proof and evidence. Most importantly, it needs to have a real care factor for your audience. What’s in it for the customer? How does it make their lives better?”

This “Claim, Proof, Value” exercise is something we do with every client in our Brand Workshop and is a key factor in developing great brands.

Sometimes you may already have something unique you do, something that illustrates the immense care and craft particular to your process. It’s about documenting and sharing that with the world. Show people behind the scenes, let them peek behind the curtain!

Recently one of our designers, Reuben, spent almost two full days crafting and finessing a client’s wordmark logo, building a typeface from scratch. Rather than just show a finished product, we decided to screen record the entire process and showed a timelapse of the wordmark being built and coming to life. We’ll often show the process of a logo creation, from initial sketches and models, through to first concepts and final artwork.

Queen Street Medical Centre, wordmark progression. 

Our focus these days will be inviting clients and a wider audience to experience our brands by hand process. Before this it would be a workshop followed by three to four weeks of separation and then the big reveal. Nowadays we invite them in to see our process, our thinking and how we are building it. This collaboration not only saves time in avoiding miscommunication but gets them involved and creates ownership of their brand.

So go out and create stories, invite your customers into your world and develop your brand’s authentic story. The reward for doing it well? A greater perception of value in what you do and create, attracting and retaining quality staff, and building an extraordinary brand.