Branding loves buzzwords, and one of the current favourite is ‘storytelling’. This goes beyond creating content: it’s a complete narrative picture, bringing together facts, feelings, experiences and interpretations, drawn from every contact your customer has with you. Stories are what shift your brand from being a simple commodity to a presence people want to have as part of their own lives.
Every story, of course, needs a hero – and conventional brand thinking dictates that the brand itself is the hero, riding to the rescue and dispatching all the customer’s needs, wants, desires and pain points at a single, swashbuckling stroke.
But maybe that’s all wrong. A story is also a journey; and in a business transaction, who’s making that journey? It’s not your brand: it’s the customer. So really, shouldn’t they be the hero?
To flip this inherited wisdom round, we have to consider where the customer’s journey takes them. Put simply, it begins at Awareness, passes through Consideration, and ends up at Decision. And like the hero of any story, they need someone to help them on the way: think Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, or Dumbledore in Harry Potter. That’s what your brand has to be: a guide or mentor, showing giving them the information, advice and counsel they need to reach that final resolution.
What does this mean in practice? In essence, you need to demonstrate to your customer that you care more about their needs than you do about your own brand, image and sales. At the start of the journey, your brand has to provide the emotional connection, appeal and trust to make them want to take the first step down the road towards a purchase. While they’re considering, your brand needs to provide the information and advice they need to make an informed choice, and the reassurance that they’re heading in the right direction.
As with any good yarn, there will be obstacles on the way: they’ll look at other brands, they’ll lose interest, something else will demand their money and attention. Your brand has to stay with them, and steer them back on to the right path. And as they approach the denouement, you can use offers, free trials, discounts, tutorials and other added value content to get them safely over the line.
So think about the journey your customers when they buy products or service from you; then work out what your brand can do to make that process easier, smoother - and also more exciting. It could be the opening of a whole new chapter.