Author: James Hurman | Reading Time: 4-5 minutes.
I am going to come at this from left field.
93% of drivers think they’re better than average. A researcher called Ola discovered that when he asked Americans to rank their driving skill in the 1980’s. But it’s nothing to do with driving.
They call it illusory superiority. Or ‘the above average effect’ if you have a below-average tolerance for complicated words.
What’s it got to do with business?
Starting a business has become popular. So popular, that the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor estimated in 2015 that 100 million new businesses are started each year. So each year, there are 100 million new businesses in the world talking to the same pool of potential employees, customers and investors. How many of them do you think believe their new killer product or service is better than average? All of them? Probably.
I’m not saying yours isn’t. I bet it is. But next time you’re talking to somebody about your business, imagine how many other businesses they’ve listened to telling them about their better service, their killer product. Having a better product makes you the same as the 100 million other businesses who started the same year as you. What you need is a great brand story to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
What is a brand story?
A brand story is not about simply making up a story, it’s about clearing away all that mental clutter and noise to reveal three really simple things:
- The problem and inspiration that led you to create your business in the first place
- The product (or service, or experience) you created and how it’s different
- Your ambition for how that product will make the world (or at least the world of your customers) a better place
We’re usually pretty good at the middle one. Because it’s easy to see why explaining our product benefit is useful. So why bother with the rest? Because great stories don’t just explain a product – they contextualise a product in a way that makes people want it. When you tell people why you started your business in the first place, their reaction is “Oh, this was created by someone who actually really cares about solving the problem.” When you tell people about your ambition, their reaction is “Hey, by buying this product, or joining this company, I can help create a future that’s more like the one I want to live in.”
What makes you different is your story
- why you started your company
- what made you care about the problem your product solves
- your vision for what you want to achieve with your business
This is the stuff that people aren’t used to hearing. The stuff that makes them want to hear more. And the stuff that sticks with them after you leave. Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you said, and forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.
And by ‘story’ I don’t mean your marketing campaign. I mean what you actually say to someone when you want to make them want to come and work for you, or invest in you, or buy what you’ve got. What you say when you don’t want them to merely ‘comprehend’ what you do. What you say when you want them to care.
Great products on their own don’t usually make people feel very much. But great stories sure do. They make people feel surprised. Or compassionate. Or inspired. Or confident. Or involved. And that’s when they go from disregarding you as just another one of the many who think they’re better to remembering you as one of the few who really are.
Your brand is more important than your product
Customers forge relationships with brands, not products. They make emotional connections with them, That is why your brand and it’s story are critical to your success. And being able to articulate your brand story has a positive impact on so many aspects of your business. Ask yourself how many days have you invested in your product strategy and development? Now ask yourself the same question about your brand story. Chances are your product wins hands down. It is common for businesses to focus more on their product than their brand story but that needs to change.
Having a honed and polished brand story helps
- distinguish you from the competition – not just visually with your brand and logo and also through reputation
- build trust with your customers and prospects – people make buying decisions based on what your company means to them and the emotions that this triggers
- inspire staff – in the same way that pulling on a club football jumper instills pride in what people do as a team, your brand story gives staff a purpose beyond just getting paid
- investor confidence – being able to articulate why you do what you do and how that will change the world will make it easier to secure investment and increase your valuation
The core of this article has been reproduced here with the authors permission from a previous article published in 2019. It’s even more relevant in today’s uncertain world. If you like what you’ve read here and want to learn more about how it might work for your business then check out our Brand Strategy in a Day Project. It is a ‘brand strategy in a box’ digital project designed specifically for start-ups and small businesses, allowing them to develop a world-class brand story, in a day.