A Great Brand Story is Like a Boomerang

The Patagonia jacket story…

Great-Brand-StoriesEven those that eschew our modern brand culture have their favourite brands for various things, whether it’s mobile products or cars!  Android or Apple, BMW or VW?  We tell stories about our interactions with brands all of the time – we tell friends, family, and colleagues.  Rarely however do we tell the brands themselves about the stories they have given us, whether they are good or more especially if they are bad stories.

When you find your clients or customers telling you their stories about the experiences they have had with your brand, you are indeed in a revered place.  Either they are so engaged that they want to share their delight with you, or you have let them down to the point where they have got to tell you.  So how can you reach this reverential place and make sure that the stories you are hearing are all of delight and happy endings?  By doing everything you can to ensure that the experiences they have with your brand are positive ones.  And not only positive, they must also be inspiring.   That way, people will want to share their stories, with others and with you.

Let me give you an example of a brand that inspires great brand stories.  Patagonia outdoor wear has for over twenty years concerned itself not only with producing outdoor gear of the highest quality but also forensically identifying ways that they can run their business for a very long time, by making sure what they do harms our planet as little as possible and helps it wherever possible.  Now, this isn’t just a fly by night ‘green’ idea they’ve latched on to.  It started when they opened a store in Boston in 1998 and found that the staff all became ill within a few weeks.  It was caused by the ventilation system recycling bad air in the building.  So what could be in the air that was making everyone sick?  It was formaldehyde coming from the cotton clothing stored in their basement.  Formaldehyde!  Making people ill!  So what did Patagonia do about it?  Well, rather than fix the ventilation problem in that store to make the whole horrible incident go away, they found better ways to source better cotton, and encouraged farmers to farm cotton without using pesticides, and then they went through every step of their supply chain looking at ways in which they could make things better for themselves, their products, their staff, their customers and the planet.  They are still doing that, every day.

I know this story because it is one of the hundreds of stories told by Patagonia and their happy customers on their websites.  I sought out these stories because Patagonia gave me quite a few of my own stories down through the years.  From the first hapless purchase of some thermal gear for a great sailing adventure in my early twenties I have continued to be a Patagonia fan, because they care.  And they take the time and make the effort to tell me that they care.  Each time I visit their store their lovely people tell me about what they are doing to help the environment and they tell me how I can get my gear repaired rather than replace it if I need to, and where I can recycle it should it come to that.  (I still wear those ancient thermals, and love them, they’re the only thermals I’ve ever had or needed!).   Anything I hear or read about the brand bolsters my belief that they really do care.

I recently returned a jacket to Patagonia after three years of wear, because having washed it and tumble dried it as they suggested, a seam came apart.  It was a welded seam and the failure may well have been caused by the tumble dryer being too hot.  Regardless, Patagonia replaced my jacket, no quibbling, no hassle, just friendly, customer for life type service and I remain a very happy customer.  It was a fantastic experience and I have told so many people about it.

So, how can you create great stories through great brand experiences?  Make sure you stand by your beliefs and show that you are doing that.  Enthuse your staff to pass on those beliefs and tell your customers stories about what you are doing at every interaction.  Encourage your customers to tell you their own stories about you – Patagonia have a dedicated website for customers to do this.

Put stories at the heart of your organisation.  Think about what stories people will tell at every point through your customer interaction, and then all the good stories will become like boomerangs, and come back to you.