December 15, 2015
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom.”
I’ve had interesting conversations with a CEO the past few weeks.
He reached out to me to talk about marketing because, as he puts it, “We create a lot of content but nothing seems to get better.”
“Nothing” of course, means revenue.
He’s right. They’d rebranded the company earlier in the year, which improved messaging from where it had been previously.
But despite all the effort, all the content they produced, webinars they hosted, emails they sent and analytics the looked at…things still weren’t moving. Revenue wasn’t growing.
Brand Platform vs Brand Story
When companies venture into the content-marketing world, conversations center around the audience, the delivery and the metrics. All important and worthwhile topics – which this CEO and his team had covered – yet there’s another, more crucial element that needs to be the foundation of every marketing effort – the brand story.
A brand story is different from a brand platform.
A brand platform includes essential elements:
- Vision or mission statement
- Core identity concepts
- Brand promise
- Value proposition
What’s missing? The brand story.
A brand story isn’t the stories you tell ABOUT your brand.
A brand story is the story OF your brand.
Let me give you an example.
I worked with a technology integration firm that, like the CEO I mention above, couldn’t get things to flow like they’d like, even though they clearly put in effort to create content. They understood branding and had their mission, vision, identity and proposition in place.
They were the leading organization in North American focused on marketing analytics, optimization and automation.
Alllrriiiigghhtttyyyy….that’s a story you want to tuck your kids into at night with.
Problem was that they were telling a story about their brand, not the story of their brand.
In working with them on discovering the difference they make in the lives of their customers, we heard amazing things from marketers who’d worked with this company.
We heard words like “flexible,” “trusted,” “visionary” and “empowerment.”
After going through interviews with customers, partners and the executive leadership, we had a true story that didn’t talk about analytics, optimization and automation.
We had a story of a company that empowers marketers to do their jobs better and with less effort.
Put the two next to each other and see what you think.
One is a story about the brand, which is important in a brand platform.
The other is a story of the brand, which is the difference the company makes in the lives of its customers.
Where All Marketing Begins
A brand story is what sets you apart from every other email, tweet, post, webinar and conversation. When done correctly, brand stories reflect what’s truly unique to your brand and what’s different and valuable that you bring to the marketplace.
Other brands can copy what you do but no one can copy your story. It’s what creates the emotional connection between what matters to your audience and what you deliver that’s meaningful and valuable to them. It’s how you build trust and earn the right to eventually talk about what you sell.
As Aristotle said, knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom. It’s also the place where all marketing should begin. After all, if we don’t know our organization well enough to tell the story of our business, rather than about our business, then we’re right back to old school marketing.
About Carla Johnson
Recognized as one of the top 20 influencers in content marketing and one of the top 25 in B2B marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA), and is an instructor for Rutgers University Executive MBA Program and the Content Marketing Institute, Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.