Tag Archives: Brand Story

What Brands Will Live, What Brands Will Die, Who Will Tell Your Brand Story

In the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, the final ensemble is called, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”  It recollects that all the founding fathers were allowed to grow old and tell their stories, save of course for Alexander Hamilton who died young in the famed duel and that it fell to his wife, Eliza to tell his story for another 50 years so he would be remembered and revered for all that he contributed to our nation’s founding (and that without that story he would have been forgotten).  The same lyrics can also apply for brands today.  Today’s consumers expect a brand to do more than just have the best products, services, and prices.  They expect a brand to tell a story.  If a brand doesn’t have a brand story, it will die and be forgotten.  So who tells your brand story and what is it?

Ask yourself what is my brand story.  You may think that you don’t have a brand story but you do.  Your brand story is told by your website, social media, products, and services.  It is the basic DNA of your company.  It tells your vision and values.  It defines what separates you from the competition.  Just as in Hamilton, Eliza told Hamilton’s story, his values, flaws, sacrifice, and what made him so different and special compared to his political rivals, Jefferson and Madison.  The play also clearly defines that George Washington had a unique and special story that established the brand that history remembers him for and separates him from all of his compatriots even still today.

So who should be the chief storyteller of your brand?  As Harry Truman, famously said, “the buck stops here.”, meaning that it should be the owner, CEO, or President of the company who conveys the brand story.  Successful leaders are game changers.  They transform the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, vendors, Wall Street, and the media to act on their strategy, buy the latest product, or provide the latest assessment of their company.  Storytelling is essential to achieve this.  If the CEO or Company President isn’t able or unwilling to tell the brand story, it should be another key officer who is totally familiar with the brand’s DNA and convey the story to all stakeholders – employees, consumers, shareholders, and vendors.  Just as in the play, Eliza Hamilton was uniquely qualified and perhaps the only person possible to convey Hamilton’s story.

In today’s business world, a brand story is essential in the global economy.  Without one, your brand will die.  With one, it will flourish and be remembered.

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Branding Lessons From This Is Us

This Is Us, the drama/comedy on NBC is the breakout hit of this television season.  The show centers on the fictional Pearson story and jumps back and forth from the time that Jack and Rebecca Pearson were raising three children in the late 1970s to present day following the three now grown up children.  NBC has such faith in the show that it renewed the show for not one but, two more seasons.  Brands when developing their brand story can learn from This Is Us on how to develop a strong and compelling brand story that resonates with consumers.

  1. Stand out from the competition. The whole concept of This Is Us is unlike anything else on television.  The concept of jumping back and forth in time with the same family was an unique concept that viewers found compelling and original.  In a television landscape that is filled with procedural dramas, sitcoms, and cop shows, This Is Us stands apart.  The show is not dark and sinister nor does it tap into any of the polarization and politics that fills the news.  It is a feel-good show even if it does cover some of life’s tougher moments.  Brands when developing their story need to follow this concept and let their story be unique and compelling that will appeal to their target audience.
  2. Have compelling spokespersons. Part of the popularity of the show is the appeal of two characters who are spokespersons for the theme of the show.  One is the Pearson patriarch, Jack.  He is the father that everyone wishes they had and communicates in a simple, effective, yet fun manner.  The other is the recurring character of Dr. Nathan Katowsky, popularly known in the show as Dr. K, the replacement doctor who delivers the Pearsons’ children.  In every appearance the character gives a quote that resonates with viewers and is tweeted and retweeted over and over again.  Like Jack, Dr. K is seen as original and compelling.  Brands need to make sure that the person they have telling their story is compelling and one that audiences will relate to when hearing the person speak.
  3. Keep it simple. This Is Us tackles birth, marriage, child raising, death, illness, family conflict, and much more but it does so in a simple and easy to understand way that the message and enjoyment are not lost.  Brands need to remember this when crafting their story message.
  4. This Is Us creates an emotional connection and reaction from its viewing audience.  People report coming to tears when they learned that Jack Pearson, the father, is dead in present day.  Others swoon with the romance of the Toby character courting grown up, Kate Pearson.  Brands need an emotional connection with their audiences as well.  Consumers are not just buying the brand but the brand story and that is why the emotional connection and shared values must be present in the story.

Brands in developing their brand story and communicating with consumers should study This Is Us as it teaches news lessons weekly in communications strategies.  And if your current story or strategy isn’t working, it can offer a lesson on how to correct it, for as Dr. K says, “There’s no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”

A Tale of Two Brands

One week after Donald Trump’s stunning win in the presidential election, the debate is still going on, as to how he was able to pull off his stunning election victory. One reason that is being overlooked and should be studied by business communicators and CEOs is that Trump regardless of if you love him or hate him was consistent with his brand identity.  In every election since Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, the candidate who came across as being more authentic with his brand identity won the election.  This election was no exception.

A brand needs to tell a story.  That story needs to be consistent and reflect the brands values and beliefs.  It is what consumers and voters buy into and will allow a brand to develop a loyalty that will allow it to survive in hard times and flourish in good times.

Donald Trump over the years has built a brand identity based upon being brash, abrasive, in your face, decisive, and one who never backs down.  This identity has been built upon countless interviews, books, product lines, and of course Celebrity Apprentice.  It is why Americans felt that they knew him, the moment he announced his candidacy, while other candidates like Scott Walker, John Kasich, and even Ted Cruz were struggling to introduce themselves to the American public.  This familiarity with the Trump brand is why he was able to survive incidents that would have taken down another candidate (insulting John McCain, the Megyn Kelly episode, the Access Hollywood tape).  Millions of voters just saw these events as Trump being Trump and were neither shocked nor angered.  They saw it as Trump being consistent with his brand.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton.  Voters were never sure what her brand identity was.  She introduced more new Hillarys during the campaign, then Richard Nixon had new Nixons in his entire career.  First she was the mother and grandmother breaking the glass ceiling.  Next she was the most experienced candidate to ever seek the White House.  After that, she was the progressive Hillary in the mode of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  This shifted over time to the consensus candidate who would unite America.  Yet at the end voters were uncertain if she was any of these brands.

But it just isn’t in politics that we see this.  Recall the Duck Dynasty scandal several years ago when Phil Robertson made homophobic and racist remarks.  He and Duck Dynasty survived and continue to flourish because he was seen as being consistent with the brand.  Yet Paula Deen who was seen for years as a nice grandmotherly person saw her brand crumble when it was revealed she had used the ‘n’ word.  This went against her whole brand identity and she has yet to this day to recover.

The lesson that Trump and others serve is that by being consistent with a brand identity forged over the year will allow a brand to weather the worse of scandals and allow for even greater success.  Having no brand identity or going against an established brand identity is a recipe for disaster.