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Branding and the Importance of Stories

Iconic brands always have resonating stories that touch the hearts, minds, hopes, dreams and values of their customers. Throughout human history, stories are how we pass down critical information and lessons on life: how to be, who to be, how to live, which group to be part of, what to strive for. While it’s possible to transmit plain, unadulterated facts and data, without a compelling story woven around the details, messages get lost. The product remains utilitarian and interchangeable with other similar items or services.

Think about your best teachers in school. I remember hating history until a college class with a fantastic professor who brought French History to life. He’d walk around the room, gesturing and telling stories about what it was like to live in the court of Louis XIV. We were mesmerized imagining the dress, the etiquette, the social structure. I can still picture the long pinkie nail that was used to scratch on the door, requesting entry.

“For political reasons, it was very important for Louis XIV to keep control of the nobles in France. As has been noted earlier, he accomplished this task in a variety of ways. One of his more ingenious ways to limit the political activity of the nobility was to establish elaborate rules for behavior and dress. The rules for dancing were especially complicated. Many of the rules of court etiquette defined one’s prestige and superiority over others. As a result, the nobles were so busy mastering appropriate court etiquette, and competing for the prestige it gave, that they had no time to plot rebellions. Louis XIV’s elaborate rules of etiquette included the following: "People who wanted to speak to the king could not knock on his door. Instead, using the left pinkie finger, they had to gently scratch on the door, until they were granted permission to enter. As a result, many courtiers grew that fingernail longer than the others. . .”"

Stories create a memorable and emotional connection. They allow us to put ourselves in the picture. They bring the information to life, capturing attention, holding attention and delivering the lesson.

And, well-told brand stories can be such a powerful device for communication. Strong brand stories have a clear advantage over their competitors, giving people a reason to develop a sustainable, loyal relationship with the product because of how it consistently makes them feel about themselves.

Nike is another example of a brand with a powerful story that has been consistently told over 40 years. Phil Knight, a shoe salesman, created a waffle pattern for his sneakers which was designed to help runners go faster. The company was named after the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, and has been consistently associated with innovation and accomplishment through the years. Its famous tagline, “Just Do It,” concisely sums up the no-nonsense value of achievement associated with its heroic brand archetype.

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