I’m excited to share with you our first guest post at TheCareerStylist.com written by the talented branding expert Cara Bendon. Cara explains why it’s important to create a compelling story for your business and gives some quick and easy practical steps to help you get clear on the story that will make your business shine.
I’ve worked with a lot of businesses from start ups to household names, and an insight I can give you is this: it starts with a story.
All successful brands have a story – from Facebook’s playful beginning in Harvard to ASOS, which started as AsSeenOnScreen.com, selling quickly made affordable copies of red carpet and celebrity dresses leading to a much wider fashion range. A story like this gives a business roots and makes them more interesting, and the same is true for new businesses.
With my private clients, before I can work with them on their brand, I need to fully understand what they are about so I can think of innovative ways they could position their business. So I ask them to write their story for me. Often what I get back sounds very rehearsed – people say what they think you want to hear (and by doing this they don’t reveal what makes them different). So, I get clients to write me two things: their ‘About’ page intro, and then, their personal story of how they came to be in business.
I generally notice quite a difference between the stories – the first can have a tendency to want to appear very professional, and in doing so can get bogged down in using corporate language and even clichés. This is incredibly common, especially for small business owners who don’t want to be perceived as small or inconsequential. Here’s an example:
“Here at Romantic Engagements we pride ourselves on offering you premium support, décor and wedding planning for your big day. We work with BridalDirectory to scout the most beautiful and unique venues and we work with the finest caterers, cake makers and florists in the area to provide an excellent quality for you and all your guests”.
(Please note company names have been made up for this example).
So, why do I dislike this kind of writing so much? It’s because it’s ubiquitous, and because it’s so impersonal and long-winded it means very little. I’d be surprised if you even managed to read the whole example quote, and it is actually only 58 words. And that’s the problem, by striving to seem professional, small businesses can be at risk of stiffing their own natural tone of voice. It’s understandable too, as they’re trying to appeal to customers and master a professional and experienced tone of voice.
But some brands absolutely make themselves with a good story. Who doesn’t like to recall that Innocent famously launched their business at a festival, asking festival goers to vote whether they should quit their day jobs to make smoothies by putting their empty bottles either in a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ bin? Some of my favourite examples of storytelling are from companies who pay homage to their humble beginnings to illustrate their business brand.
Stella & Dot
For me it is the story of how Jessica Herrin juggled being a new mother with creating a work-from-home business model; now the globally successful Stella & Dot, that gives the brand soul and depth. Check out Stella & Dot’s story here
Bumble & Bumble
Likewise, Bumble & Bumble’s time line illustrates their journey from a single store in 1970’s New York to their current day status, running a hairdresser’s academy and hosting Fashion Week shows in their HQ. Check out Bumble & Bumble’s story here
eBay knew the benefit of a good story too when in 1997 their PR manager put out a story that the auction site was created to find Pez Dispensers for the founder’s wife (which was later put right in the founder Adam Cohen’s 2002 book).
Pepperberry say it best when they describe themselves frankly on their about page ‘Pepperberry launched in March 2011, selling a range of clothes designed with boobs in mind’. The brand’s direct and informal tone of voice wouldn’t suit ever business, but their philosophy that ‘there should be no compromise when it comes to the styles you love and really want! If you love it, then you should be able to buy it – getting it to fit over your boobs and actually go in at the waist should be no issue whatsoever.’ is made very well, leaving the reader with no doubts what the company are about. Check out Pepperberry’s story here
And, an all time favourite of mine has always been Benefit Cosmetics, whose About page includes a section with the brand’s story, beginning with the first sale of Rosetint (now Benetint) to an exotic dancer. Check out Benefit’s story here
In all these cases, these businesses reveal a personal story about how the business came about, and it enhances rather than detracts from their brand appeal. After all, customers are people and people love to hear stories from other people. So instead of writing what you think you should write and ending up with a dry and generic story, why not think about your own personal brand story?
Take action: Without looking at what you have written on your current website About page (or CV etc.) pick up a pen and start writing your own personal story why you are doing what you are doing in life and how you got here.
TIP: write it as if you’re writing your autobiography, let all the personal stories and anecdotes roll in as it’s easier to go back and edit something honest to ensure it’s professional, but far harder to inject authenticity into something written to sound professional.
Cara is a branding expert, specialising in branding for luxury businesses and director of Cara Bendon Branding Consultancy. An ex advertising agency gal with experience working with businesses from start ups through to national newspapers, Cara claims she can’t walk down the street without finding inspiration. Cara’s website is currently undergoing development work but you can follow Cara on her facebook page here.
Want to hear more inspiring stories like this, including my tips to help you style a career, business- and life- you love? Join my growing tribe here