Want to make your brand meaningful? Share a story

There are monumental opportunities that can too easily slip by us during the formation of a story. Opportunities to express something game-changing. I was thinking about this recently in regards to past positioning exercises that I have observed. One came to mind.

The positioning exercise I was thinking about helped uncover the three most powerful attributes of the brand. And the combination of those attributes pointed to the central thesis or position that would be used to help convince prospects to engage with the organization. In other words, this would be at the core of their story.

It was all very logical. Very rational. Which is invaluable. But, it also felt very clinical. It felt as if something were missing.

Toward the end of the exercise, the folks from the organization offhandedly mentioned how the brand began – why it came into being and the noble cause it served. That little anecdote could have gone flying by, characterized as nothing more than a nice little story.

That would have been a big miss.


Uncovering the extraordinary story

Discovery is a key part of our Purpose Clarification Process. During this stage, we use a number of processes and techniques to uncover foundational insights about the brand. It is these insights that can point us to something that transcends the positioning. Here's what I mean. While positioning hopes to convince, the larger purpose aspires to inspire. Inspire team members, prospects, and anyone else we hope to serve.

Think about that for a second. Would you rather be convinced or inspired?

Okay, that's not a fair question. We still need the convincing (positioning). People will want to have the reasons why in order to rationalize a decision. But it is woefully inadequate if it lacks the inspiring element (the purpose). This inspiring element is what drives our decision-making. Unfortunately, an inordinate amount of positioning misses this crucial fact. Too many marketers will line up all the rational reasons, find a serviceable benefit that can be defended by those reasons, and then call it a day. Then they spend the ensuing months wondering why they can't get us prospects to pay attention, little alone care about their story.

Great stories are full of magic and wonder. I'm not talking about the Harry Potter-esque treatment. I'm talking about the kind of awe that we feel when we hear a story that helps us feel like we can be part of something larger than ourselves. Something that can make a difference for another person. Or something that can make the world around us a little bit better place. Those are the stories every brand should aspire to tell.

That's not the exclusive territory of darling brands. We all have the ability to embrace that transformative ideal – that purpose that will form the core of our story, turning what was previously serviceable into something that has the potential to inspire everyone we hope to serve.

There is just such a story waiting to emerge. But it may not present itself as such. We'll need to make a concerted effort to go looking for it. Or to stay vigilant so we don't miss the wonderful little anecdote that springs up in an offhand way.  After all, it could hold the key that unlocks that extraordinary story.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

ProcessDan Salva