Let me tell you a story

I wrote recently that branding is all about the experience that your customers have with your organisation: how you make them feel is what they will remember the most. Naturally you want them to feel good so that not only will they return but they will also bring others with them.

I believe that the best way to create an emotional connection with your customers is to involve them in your story; and the more simple the story the better.

trading stories, Carnak temple
Take Google for example: when they first created that business their aim was to be the best at search. That was their ‘story’ and we were very happy to be part of it because, as users, we wanted to find things quickly. They removed a lot of the frustration and made us feel good.

Your story might not have such global resonance (although it might) but your story is unique and it is this uniqueness we are seeking because that is where your strength lies. Create a story that your stakeholders want to buy into and you have created a monopoly.

When Andrew Whitley started the Village Bakery, as he freely admits, he had no clear understanding of who is customers might be. His main motivation was creating a lifestyle for his young family which would be as healthy as he could make it; and his intuition told him there would be others who felt the same way about healthy eating. Looking back he can now see how more time should have been spent thinking about what was distinctive and different about his product and to market it accordingly. However, as with any good product or idea, people found him anyway.

Having found him, he involved the visitors to the bakery in his story by producing the bread in view of them all. All his customer’s senses were stimulated: the sight of Andrew preparing the bread; the smell of the baking; the crash of tins. Unfortunately though, as Andrew explained to me, as the business grew it became impractical to produce the bread in view of his customers. He had to build a separate and bigger bakery. However, he did not compromise on his values and resisted the exhortations of so-called ‘business experts’ to create an industrial production line. He maintained the traditional baking methods and now involved his customers by telling them what he was doing. His bread, for example, came with illustrated labels explaining the origins of both the recipe and the ingredients for that particular loaf.

Andrew managed to create so much interest in what he was doing that customers would write to him with their views and stories about bread and healthy eating. He had made an emotional connection.

Andrew sold his business in 2002 and now runs Bread Matters which offers bread making and team building courses and promotes “a sane and rational approach to food and health.”

Andrew’s passion for his businesses has created a loyal following of customers who want to be part of his story.

As for me, my story is also simple, I want to help businesses find and develop their own stories; and then to help those stories spread.

For thousands of years stories have been a powerful tool for communicating information and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So what’s your story?

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