A Brand's Awareness
My father ran a successful jewelry store in downtown Canton, Ohio in an era where malls had crushed downtown retailers. He ran a great operation – I see that now – but he also taught me and my sisters about the vital importance of being focused on customers. He reminded us to drop everything when they walked in the door and to engage and listen. He greeted everyone in life like that. Good lessons about putting customers – and people, not tasks – first.
Sol Stein, a great editor who wrote the classic Stein on Writing, taught that writing should be tight and crisp in order to make the experience free of distractions and enjoyable for the reader. Writing was about fighting the urge to seem smart with unnecessary language or detours not vital to the story. His advice guided me though hundreds of marketing projects, screenplays, and my first novel coming out this summer. It’s all about the reader/audience. I’ve never forgotten that.
Throughout my career – largely spent on the creative and strategic side of marketing – the thought of having the right perspective has always been central to my thinking. And, during this time, I’ve seen brands tell their stories in two ways. Some tout themselves and their impressive capabilities. Who can blame them? It’s not easy to build a strong company. And, while this can work and customers may find what’s in it for them, it is not ideal.
The ideal story of a brand should be told from the point of view of its customers. And that’s what social media does so well. It’s never been easier to hear and be influenced by their perspective. A brand story should be about how customers are empowered, enhanced, or made happier by their interaction with a brand and its products. Some brands get this perspective wrong. But, if I’m in the room, I always try to influence the story in the direction of its customers. It’s a mission. And, of course, many get it right. Yes, see Nike’s “Just Do It.” They’re talking about us. A good thing.
If you’re in the room when these conversations about brand and story take place, be sure to nudge the messaging in favor of the right perspective. Now, if the culture isn’t there yet, do your part on that front too. My father, Basil, and Sol Stein got it right. We can too.