Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Branding starts with your creation story

Patrick Hanlon’s Primal Branding is a bit dated (originally published in 2006) but still fascinating. It analyzes why certain brands gain “visceral traction in the marketplace,” while other brands with equally good offerings fail. Crux: Branding is a belief system. Specifically, Hanlon (who also blogs for Forbes.com) says the “creation story is the crucial first step in providing answers to why people should care about you, or your product or service.” If “creation story” sounds a lot like corporate history, that's because they're almost identical.

Excerpt: The creation story not only answers who you are and where you come from, but helps set up the further pieces of primal code (creed, icons, rituals, pagans, sacred words, leader). Every company was started somewhere, somehow, by someone. Like telling a good tale, the opportunity is how to make it interesting…. It’s all about creating a sense of meaning. When people believe in and belong to a brand it’s no longer about the task, it’s about the experience. When people shop for outdoor equipment they don’t say, “We went shopping for a tent.” They say, “We went to REI.” When they travel out of state to gamble, they don’t just say, “We went gambling.” They say, “We went to Vegas.” 

Further, Hanlon points out that while the creation story may be well known to old hands at a company, newer employees may not have a clue. This, he says, “results in a fractured culture, with people who … have internalized what the company is about, while everyone else (managers included) stumble along.” Great reason to include basic company history in onboarding sessions (print, video, displays). And to spruce up your website's About Us or Our Story pages. Be honest: When did you last update those? Our bimonthly reviews of About Us pages reveals that many companies with major brands don't pay sufficient attention to their web history presence.

The power of a good creation story was hammered home today by a sponsorship spot on a WNYC newscast. I heard and remembered a pitch by Veteran Movers: founded by an ex-Marine; gives jobs to vets; does moving jobs in the NY metro area. That's all I need to know. The story sticks. If I heard someone was moving, I'd say "Hey, have you heard of Veteran Movers? Sounds like they're worth checking out." All on the strength of 10 seconds of creation story!