Stories are everywhere. Children thrive on them. Young children in particular love fairy tales where handsome princes marry beautiful maidens. To a developing mind, they’re simple ways of conveying moral notions of good and evil, right and wrong. Stories are also a vital part of an adult’s life, but instead of simple tales of derring do and loves lost and found, they’re complex tales with nuanced portrayals of ideas in action. It’s no surprise to me that two fictional genres have risen to the top of the bestseller lists in recent decades: detective and science/fantasy fiction. Though the morals of the characters in adult fiction may be looser or at least less easily discernible, what shines through in these popular formats is the idea of justice and the triumph of good people, through pluck, hard work, and commitment to ideals.
In business, stories are equally compelling. We want to know what a company is all about, not just what they sell, but why they sell it and how they serve their customers. If all we cared about was a gadget, then devotion to companies like Apple, Amazon, Nespresso, and others would be far less fervent. We’d simply be buying stuff. To the contrary, devotion to a great product is not just about the product itself, but how a company presents itself to us. Now, I have some experience with the dull, beige world of the former Communist Eastern Bloc, having lived and worked in the Slovak Republic in the early days after the fall of Communism. They had products, too. They had clothing, toilet paper, tinned goods, alcohol in great quantity, and even cars. The state firms that provided these items never had a story to tell or a journey for customers to follow. They gave their captive consumers no reasons to want to buy their products, save one: we’re the only players out there. If you wanted yoghurt, it was the state brand or nothing.
In our world, however, we’re not captive of a monolithic state that sells us one brand of stale, tasteless tea, but rather we’re awash in a sea of choices. With such an array of brands and prices, the companies that succeed are those that offer a vision along with great products. Lots of companies sell smartphones, but Apple in particular inspires the most passionate followers—and detractors. That’s no small feat. How do they do it? They tell great stories, they have a consistent Narrative, and then they make good on their promises.
Who are the companies that don’t do well and ultimately fail? Those that don’t tell a story, or those that tell a story without backing it up with great products. Sometimes the story isn’t explicit, but rather implied, which is a subtler, though no less effective way of selling good products. Case in point: Gelato Messina in Sydney, Australia. They’re a small chain of Italian style ice cream shops in several strategically placed locations in nice neighbourhoods. Ice cream by itself is a prosaic treat, but Messina makes it compelling with their unique blends of flavours, hiply designed shops, and quirky ice cream flavour names. There’s always a queue outside a Messina shop, come rain or shine, spring, summer, autumn or winter. They sell a simple, delicious product that keeps people coming back for more. Is it the best ice cream in Sydney? Not necessarily, but it’s easily the most memorable and enticing ice cream experience.
For the reasons stated above, it’s vital to convey to your customers a compelling vision of who you are and what you stand for. You can accomplish this in a number of innovative ways, but at the core of the matter is good, clear communication. It’s how you describe your products and services, it’s how you talk to your customers, it’s how you resolve customer service problems, it’s how you teach your customers about what you have to offer. And then you have to keep doing all of those things in continuously compelling and new ways. This is why we at Bloomwood Media have chosen Helping Your Customers Understand Your Story as our tagline. We understand that how you tell your story is just as important as what you tell your customers, both existing and new.