Throughout time there has been one major element that has connected us as human beings. Through evolution and adapting to the climates, as far back as we know this element has kept the human journey alive. It is what makes us who we are, it creates our identity. The element I speak of is the power of a story. Stories have been the backbone to human civilization dating all the way back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Most all art is an expression that tells a story. From music to fine art, to photography to design all forms of art capture a moment in time that will tell a story for as long as it exists. We learn through stories of history and create new stories with our imaginations. Most of us live our lives dedicated to a story through religion and worship.
By now you get the point, the power of story is an immortal element that will forever be in the forefront of human society. Much like humans, all successful brands have their unique story. Let’s take Guinness beer for example.
During the transition period from brewing their beer in wooden casks to brewing their beer in metal casks, Guinness drinkers were not fond of this new change. The metal casks were topped with a new nitrogen induced formula with the purpose of providing a better head to top off the stout. This new method of brewing Guinness came with a huge side effect. Due to the nitrogen, the beer had to sit for 1 minute and 35 seconds before the bubbles would form a nice foam head and the beer could be served. That left the Guinness drinkers at the bar waiting for a minute and half while watching their beer just sit there. With backlash from their consumers, Guinness had to think quick before their brand was tarnished. What came next is one of the best marketing campaigns to date. Guinness accepted their “flaw” and made it part of their brand story. They introduced the Guinness Two Part Pour, referring to the two steps it took in pouring the perfect Guinness. Step one was to pour the beer, step two was to wait the minute and a half. They followed this with an advertising campaign with the tagline “good things come to those who wait.”
The campaign was a hit and suddenly people did not mind waiting on their Guinness, they actually enjoyed it. Guinness has since built on this campaign and most of their online ads today are a respective 1 minute and 35 seconds long. Guinness found a way to offer more than a stout infused with nitrogen to their consumers, they provided them with an experience.
Having a story behind a brand is the key to success and can be the backbone behind the entire organization, however, it is equally important to stick to that story. Oftentimes brands look to restructure and redefine themselves in an attempt to increase sales and tap into new markets. While this can be done if the brand remains true to their core values, most of the time it strays from the story that it’s loyal consumers know and love. Let’s take LEGO for example.
In the late 1990’s in an effort to make their toys more intricate to compete with other toy manufactures, LEGO introduced a new series of toys and totally rebranded themselves. LEGO had long been known as the simple building blocks that children and adults alike could use to create whatever their imagination allowed them to. It was a very simple design and LEGO was a staple in the toy industry. Their plan to rebrand completely backfired causing them to lose $300 Million in one year. While creating new innovative toy designs may have seemed like a good idea on paper, it did not go over well with the children who happen to be LEGO’s target audience. In 2004, LEGO found a new CEO in Jordan Vig Knudstorp. Knudstorp had a new strategy, ask the kids what they wanted. After focus groups and interviews with their target audience, LEGO rediscovered what made them successful from the beginning. Kids want to build; kids want to create. In 2006 from the efforts of ad agency Blattner Brunner, LEGO introduced a new campaign targeted towards kids titled “Imagine.”
LEGO found out the hard way the importance of knowing your target market and allowing your brand story to develop naturally.
An issue with today’s brands is just that. Today we are in a digital era where it has never been easier to communicate with your consumers. Through social media, big and small data, and other platforms, brands have a clear window into who their consumers are. The issue is that most brands fail to fight inertia. They are so used to traditional methods of advertising that they fail to properly adapt to the climate. Advertising is no longer one-way messaging or broadcasts. Successful advertising today is creating a dialogue with consumers and allowing them to tell your story. This is especially true for new brands or small businesses. It is important that a brand create core values and stick to them, no matter the circumstance. Allowing your consumers to experience your brand and become part of the story is a guaranteed way to create brand loyalty. Airbnb does an amazing job doing this by allowing their hosts and consumers to tell their story through short videos and blog posts and sharing them on their site.
A success story using this method is Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). In 2001 PBR was on the verge of bankruptcy. They could not afford traditional advertising and were desperate to fix their branding. PBR hired Fizz, an Atlanta based marketing agency to help gain some insights on how PBR could turn things around. Fizz began by finding the consumers that still drank PBR and personally reaching out to them for an interview. They found that the reason these consumers remained loyal to PBR was because they had never seen an advertisement for them. Fizz quickly realized that PBR’s target market was filled with what we may call hipsters or those who tend to go against the grain. Fizz suggested that PBR get in touch with like consumers and since PBR has hosted random events like art shows and skateboarding events in Portland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and other cities. Today PBR is a billion-dollar company that has yet partake in any traditional advertising.
The moral of the story is to know your consumers, know their preference, talk to them, interact with them, let them tell your story. The life of a Brand is much like that of a human. Life is a journey and in every journey there are setbacks and adversity. Instead of letting adversity discourage you from continuing a path, embrace it. There are many paths we can take in life, and we are bound to end up on a wrong one. Instead of feeling lost, pivot and get back on course. Most importantly, know who you are. Know your core values and stick to them no matter the competition or pressure you are facing. If you do, you will attract the right people. You will find longevity. You will find your story.
What brands are you loyal to and why? Has a brand ever made you feel like part of their journey? Join the discussion in the comment section below and share with your peers. For more matter, hit that follow button.