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Stories in The Village: EVERYONE must understand the brand

Our stories as marketers continues to be a theme of late, whether it’s understanding how YOUR history and biases impact your stories and now from Seth, how your EXECUTION is central to the story/brand experience. Below is an excerpt which asserts lack of a story can impact consistency of the brand:

But what if you haven’t figured out a story yet?

Then the work is random. Then the story is confused or bland or indifferent and it doesn’t spread.

On the other hand, if you decide what the story is, you can do work that matches the story. Your decisions will match the story. The story will become true because you’re living it.

Does Starbucks tell a different story from McDonald’s? Of course they do. But look how the work they do matches those stories… from the benefits they offer employees to the decisions they make about packaging or locations.

The pithy piece from Seth opines about what comes first, the story or the work. Not sure that this is the best way to manage the story or the execution, since they are more or less ONE thing – the Brand. These are two interactive and evolving components which can’t be untethered. Customers, employees and transactional interactions move the story and change the story over time, evidence the $1 coffee from Starbucks or the 3 hour re-training event which was intended to boost the barista-ness of the the customer experience.

This example from Starbucks is a great use case for how to align execution to the story and the market. So if the story is linked to execution/the work, then speaking to the market is only part of the story to be told.

As brand managers/creators, marketers need to continuously deliver messaging not just for the market, but for the larger organization in partnership with human resources and the leadership. What are the types of activities and processes required to consistently deliver on a brand story/uphold the integrity of a brand? The realities is it varies. This will vary from industry to industry and market segment to market segment, but 3 key areas for consideration regardless of industry:

  • Establish a Unified Tribal Understanding
  • Open Channels for Feedback
  • Consistently Reward and Publicize Contribution

Tribal Understanding

You can’t tell the same story, unless you KNOW what the story is, so what have YOU done as a marketer to make this happen?

This is the concept of making sure the whole organization understands what a product is supposed to do and what the value drivers are for the consumer. In technology for example, the larger organization needs to understand the solutions being delivered, the relative importance of the solution for the consumer and overall strategic direction of the company.

With this baseline folks can understand and how this relates to what customers/the market need for a given technology provider. Without common tribal understanding, you get inconsistent execution which can greatly change the market version of the story/the stories your customers tell.

Tip: The easiest way to figure out if you need to develop a plan for this is fairly simple, walk around the business. Walk around and ask say 10 folks across the organization from a functional perspective and seniority perspective and see if they tell the same story about your product or your brand. If you get 6 different answers, you probably need to do something.

Channels for Feedback

As consumers habits change and market requirements evolve, it is important that every organizational story teller cannot only understand the brand story, but also that they can contribute to the evolution of the story. Whether it’s collections, professional services or customer service, all of these stakeholders interact with the market daily and should have easy access to provide input from the business. This can be as simple as email or a suggestion box on the intranet and is imperative to keep a pulse on the market and to understand how your product is perceived on the front lines.

Tip: See if you have a clear path from communication to the marketing team, product management and leadership of YOUR organization, if not perhaps you should roll out a formal plan, remind folks of how to contribute and develop a formal plan to manage input for improvement.

Reward and Publicize Contribution

This seems a little obvious, but telling the story for the market, requires awareness for the larger organization of how a single person can leverage their tribal knowledge and exceed the promises of the brand. While the type of recognition will vary by company size and budget, marketers need to equally tell the story internally and leveraging an open channel for feedback and ensuring the full understanding of the story makes it simple. Don’t underestimate a Starbucks gift card and an “all employee” email.

Tip: Recognition isn’t about burying an accomplishment on the intranet for a specific functional group – it needs to be shared. Don’t fall for the corporate newsletter trap here – you can mention it in the newsletter, but take the time to highlight individual successes outside of the normal communications channels for the whole organization.

While this clearly is not the alpha and omega of brand based story creation and modication, it’s a good place to start. Do YOU have any ideas on how to improve the stories told in the village? Leave a comment and let us know.

Stories, Marketing and personal bias – OH MY!

Most marketers apply their personal biases to initiatives. These biases are created through experiences – personal and professional. Whether a bias is earned from lessons learned or a personal “style” element – it often manifests in the types of channels used, the tactics used and which of the 4 P’s is central to the brand. With that as a baseline, I found this interesting pitch entitled – “Writing Customer Stories”. I wanted to know more about customer stories. The pitch is below that has no real content to drive the talk track, although it has one. I clearly had a personal talk track on it prior to listening and good thing, click through first WITHOUT AUDIO. Think about the story you have – then listen LISTEN to the audio. (I know this post has a bad email forward feel)

So do you think this person’s bias is radio? It’s was so much cooler in my head. I think I might could even pitch those slides and potentially it would even work, without a single edit, but I’m confident my story/pitch would deviate in key themes and messages based on my preferential biases and after listening – I KNOW THAT. Oh the stories we conjure as marketers.