Genuine Brand Stories Are Possible And Highly Desired

Paddy Harrington, executive creative director for Bruce Mau Design, writing in Fast Company argues that that branding’s importance is overstated and that narrative is at the heart of creating consumer connections today.

“For corporations to survive, they need deeply compelling stories at their heart,” he writes.

It’s an interesting point, but there’s an even more interesting response to the article in the Fast Company comments.

The problem of branding is not that it is too superficial – the problem of branding is that it tries to be deep in an area where genuine depth is inherently rare and uncontrollable.

I do not want a company that desperately seeks depth of narrative – I want a company that is truthful and unashamed of its own superficiality. I do not want the manufacturer of my toilet paper, let alone the manufacturer of the ball bearings used in the machine that mixes the paint for my car, to “speak to my deepest questions about my own existence” – it does not know me, and there is no reason why it should care.

The problem with companies today is that they try make themselves be more important, more exciting, and more ‘cool’ than they can actually be.

So. Genuine – yes. Narrative – no.

The question is how best to connect with customers and prospects. Harrington believes in the power of story. Others just want a powerful product. The reality is the best companies get it all working together. When the product in question is genuinely beneficial, powerful stories emerge naturally and spread wide and far. Yet, even in these best case scenarios, the product needs a compelling brand identity, brand story and the kind of self-awareness that prevents it from drifting towards hyperbole.

1 Comment

  1. Colin O'Neill says:

    Nice post! I agree that great products stir powerful emotions that people like to share. This works best when the product IS the story. Apple is one of the biggest brands in the world, they do great advertising and good marketing, but they make exceptional products. There is a clear narrative from iMac to iPod to iPad. Its like the only trilogy I’ve ever seen where things got better! The products tell you more about their passion for creativity and engineering than anything else.

    Its no longer enough to have a brand promise, brands have to have proof—in from R&D all the way through to Twitter. The story they tell has to start at the core of their reason for being: to make great products.

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