Storytelling: Escaping the price war
Traditional brands are under growing pressure from copycats competing fiercely on price. Companies that want to maintain brand status in the future must justify what makes them so special. It's the moment of reckoning: does your company have an original story to tell? Ask Christian Budtz and Klaus Fog.
Way up high in the arid mountains of Provence, Southern France there is a mineral spring known for its health-giving properties. During the Roman Empire, Caesar's soldiers drank from it to quench their thirst and bathed in it for its healing powers. Millennia later, the Frenchman Dr Perrier re-discovered the spring, and was amazed to find the water sparkling due to its high content of volcanic underground gasses.
He was convinced that the water had therapeutic qualities and decided to bottle it. The little green bottle became his country's favourite mineral water: Perrier. By telling their story, the French company has over the years been able to explain what gives Perrier a uniqueness that cannot be copied. By appealing to our hearts as well as our heads, consumers have a good reason to pay more for a bottle of water that has a Perrier label on it. We buy not just the product, but the story.
Escaping the price war
Today's traditional brands are under growing pressure as cheaper alternatives and lookalike products invade the global marketplace. A brand is no longer just a matter of top quality or great design. Physical and rational attributes are easy targets for copycats. Companies that want to maintain brand status in the future must justify to consumers what makes them so special. It's the moment of reckoning: Does your company have an original story to tell? A story that is so honest, captivating and unique, that we are willing to pay a price premium to become part of it?
Consumers in the industrial world are exposed to a staggering 3,000 new commercial messages every day. Needless to say, the story needs to be utterly captivating if it is to cut through the clutter. And as consumers become increasingly informed and ever more critical, brands must build on an honest, authentic story that we can identify with and which appeals to our personal values.
According to US professor Roger Schank, a world-leading expert in narrative psychology and learning, storytelling is deeply rooted in human nature. This explains why stories are also becoming a tool for businesses to build an emotional bond with their customers.
"We understand our world through the stories that we have lived and the stories we have been told. Businesses are defined by their stories in the same way that individuals are defined by theirs; to get to know someone you need to hear their stories -- and to understand a business you need to hear their stories as well," he says.
In line with the basic principles of psychology, storytelling is a way for companies to create an understanding of its values and personality. The critical task however, is to identify the story that makes your company different from the competition. Without this unique story to build from, your company is exposed to copycats and risks being forced to compete fiercely on price alone.
The power of authentic stories
In the face of global competition, telling authentic stories is becoming an integral part of modern branding -- a strategic tool for communicating brand values. It is no coincidence that the anecdote of legendary track coach and Nike founder Bill Bowerman is written in large typeface across a wall in the middle of Nike Town.
He was on a mission to provide his athletes with the best possible equipment not just to perform, but to win. What happened was this: One morning in 1971 Bowerman's wife, Barbara, was making waffles. Suddenly it hit Bill: In the waffles' distinctively shaped pattern, he saw the basis for a new breed of strong, flexible running shoe sole. When he got home the next day, he took the waffle iron from the kitchen and locked himself in his study. Here, he experimented by pouring liquid rubber into the waffle iron and developed the magic formula for the new sole. Bill Bowerman's experiments paved the way for the characteristic Nike "waffle sole" that can be found on many of Nike's classic running shoes.
It's a simple story. But it shows that Bill Bowerman was in every sense of the word a winner. He had belief, vision and the courage to challenge convention. Not only does the message resonate strongly throughout the company giving employees a very clear idea of the Nike spirit. It shows consumers the depth of that uncompromising winning mentality that they become part of if they carry anything with a swoosh logo on it. "Just do it" is not something they made up at Nike... it's in their blood. And it is difficult for Reebok or Adidas to copy. Herein, lays the true power of storytelling.
It's the moment of reckoning: What's your original story?
Christian Budtz is strategic planner and Klaus Fog is CEO at Sigma.
They are authors of the new book Storytelling - Branding in Practice.
If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.
Latest jobs Jobs web feed
- Brand Manager Radisson Blu Edwardian, London Competitive , South Kensington, London
- Head of Media, Marketing & Communications PGA Competitive, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
- Account Director- Exciting Online Content Marketing Company- Up to £70,000 plus OTE Cedar Scott Up to £70,000 basic (up to £90,000 OTE) plus share options, Central London
- ACCOUNT DIRECTOR/SENIOR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR - BTL/SP/Brand Experience - London - £45 - £55k plus bonus Judi Patton £45K-55K plus bonus, London/Greater London
- Senior Planning Director, International Agency, London, to £120k Fill Recruitment Ltd to £120,000, Central London
- Head of Customer Analytics - Consultancy Harnham £90000 - £100000 per annum + benefits, London
Integrated digital marketing offers huge opportunities to engage, servic...
Mobile marketing is coming of age, and the pace of change is now exponen...
With UK consumers spending an average of £1,083 a year online, int...
Conversational Mobile Marketing: Engage Customers and Empower Advocates (Expert Reports) External website
The pressure is on for marketers and mobile operators to embrace a strat...
As a nation, the UK is media and technology obsessed with over half of t...
All customers have the potential to become your brand advocates, driving...