I have an old picture on the wall in my house. It’s a blown up photograph of the house just after it was built at the turn of the last century. We have a lot of lovely paintings and photographs on the walls but people are always drawn to this one. There is something intriguing and wonderful about capturing a glimpse of the past. In a world of innovation, there is something reassuring about history.
It’s unusual for me to have specific project that I dive in to - the nature of my current job is that I oversee a lot of work and very rarely work specifically for one client.
But this project is different and one that I chose to get more involved with. I'm writing the story of global brand that’s been around for over 150 years - its a heritage project.
A lot of business are creating narratives for themselves, plundering Pandora’s Box and (re-) articulating their reason for being. It’s an impossibly difficult job. I’ve recently been writing the story for our agency as we re-structure part of the business: we need that outside perspective to sharpen, challenge and give the inexpressible a voice.
Heritage, vision and narrative is everything for a brand. Without a compelling story, brands don’t make sense.
So what is it you need to create a clear brand narrative? How do you ultimately create a story that makes your stakeholders fall in love with you?
Values are the un-articulated code that connects humanity. We click with certain people because we share a common set of values. It is no different to brands. I have spent my life in large international corporates and they each have their own personas. Whether you enter their office in Singapore or work with a team in London - the corporate persona comes to the surface.
What are the values you want to communicate?
People buy People - we know that. So make your story human. Why was Walt Disney such a phenomenal success… Why did his stories (characters) stand out when so many others collapsed? It’s the same reason Donald Duck wears a towel when he steps out of the shower. Anthropomorphism. Or put another way - giving every day animals and objects distinctive human attributes. People trust people. Make your story about people and it will come alive.
Who are the hero’s you can write about?
Every week we at school we did Comprehension in English lessons. You read a story an had to answer 10 questions (Why did Mildred’s uncle not leave her his entire estate? etc.), they contained information and knowledge. I read a lot of stories that are nothing more than sentiment, nice words and a bit of poetry. They sound great but say nothing.
What are you trying to say? Does your story actually say it?
Try it now… This is a story about…?
Over used word - under used reality. Say like it is. Be honest. Be who you are. With a handful of exceptions, making money and declaring a profit is a fact of business. You sit between the needs of customers and the needs of shareholder. You’ve made mistakes. You’ve screwed up. You’ve misjudged. You’ve learned your lessons. It’s called business. And with the exception of surgeons, you’re allowed to.
Plunder the past and go back to your roots. However old your company, however far you’ve come, however much success or failure you have had. Look back to your past, to the founders of your dream, to the napkin with the first sketches on it - and I promise you, you’ll find the route from there to here. From then to now. That is your story. That is where you begin.
Find your story. Write your story. Include the above and be open. Your story has to find the balance between facts (which are right or wrong) and poetry (which can only be liked or disliked).
The story I have been writing has been critiqued, tested on audiences, edited, embedded and read by mum. All in order to craft a set of words that are unique, poetic, on brand, correct and deliver both the content and the feeling that is totally unique for this particular organisation.
Photography: Jessica Mulley