I admit it: I’m a sucker for a good story. A genuine, heart-felt tale influences my purchasing in the moment of a shopping spree as well as affects deep loyalty bonds to brand and company for years.
I want to know the true inside scoop because I understand the impact slick advertising and public relations spin doctoring can have. In fact, I chose marketing as my career based on the power of influence demonstrated by Orson Well’s rendition of The War of Worlds, a radio drama that aired October 30, 1938. The broadcast presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins” that graphically told of an alien invasion by Martians as if it were currently in progress. The widespread panic that ensued solidified the weighty control that media had on a naïve, trusting audience. What can be done with this kind of power? It can make you think you are too fat, too thin, too poor, and mostly unhappy.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Transparency is key. The company willing to be genuine with me by telling their story rather than manipulate me by selling fear is the one to win my devotion. Of course, the story has to be compelling and it has to align with my interests and values. I’m not really interested in the company who develops a better bat for the baby seal. I want an authentic story that connects me, rather than separates me and makes me feel part of a community I can be proud to support.
The obvious place to find a company’s story typically appears on their website. If they don’t have a story easily accessible, I’m a little suspicious why they aren’t sharing who they are, what they stand for and how they impact their community. Or maybe they don’t care. So why should I care about them?
On the Clif Bar website under their Our Story bucket you can learn how founder Gary Erickson was on a 175 mile bike ride and munching on an energy bar that tasted a bit like cardboard. Inspired to make something better, he went to the place his trusted most: Mom’s kitchen. Right away you see the product is tested in house (by the owner even) and the company is community based. They also talk about local product sourcing and grassroots efforts. I’m feeling the love.
Most brands spend their print ad dollars trying to convince consumers their product is the hottest best thing on the market. Except New Belgium beer. They take out full color ads to explain about their employee-owned company that gives a bike to employees who have been with the company for a year and the number of different eco-friendly organizations that can receive a percentage of each purchase. And the consumer can choose from these varied organizations. Community engagement and by extension treating their people right, means they treat me right. I’ll be ordering a Flat Tire at the next Happy Hour.
I’m writing this article from my favorite coffee shop, Kean’s, founded by Martin Diedrich, former owner of Diedrich’s coffee. When he diversified his first company the board of directors and investors took issue with Martin’s insistence for freshness which meant a short shelf life for the coffee. After a few years of regrouping Martin opened Kean’s, named after his son. Kean’s coffee package reveals the name of the region where the coffee comes from and sometimes the name of the farmer. Martin doesn’t have Internet connection because he wants to encourage people to talk to each other. Rain or shine, morning or afternoon, the place is packed and so difficult to find a seat, often strangers end up sharing a table – which is also how it turned into a pick up place.
Stories communicate the heartbeat of a culture. I want to be moved by the story of the company so that I understand the community that I am supporting with my dollars and passive advertising whether I’m eating an energy bar or slinging back a beer.