Big Stories, Little Stories

While developing a recent presentation to an industry group, I had a revelatory thought about storytelling strategy. Much like the “house of brands/branded house” analogy, there are Macro Stories and Micro Stories. Viewing storytelling through this lens made immediate sense to me as I worked on a client’s strategic plan over the past few days.

Macro Stories

These are what you typically think of in storytelling. The big story that makes sense of the brand or product family. Some excellent examples include Dyson, IBM, Airbnb, Warby Parker, and more. They tell a story of a brand – the problem it was created to solve, it’s quirky founder, or how much its users love it.

A brand I’m currently working on offers an extremely high-quality manufacturing product that’s truly not for everyone. While explaining it to a media partner during a brainstorming session he commented, “Wow, that’s a big story to tell…”.  I took this as a very solid clue that I need to sharpen the point of the spear. This type of dialogue will ultimately lead me to a clear, concise story that helps prospect quickly grasp why sometimes paying 5-10x the price you’re used to is money well-spent.

Micro Stories

During the development of this presentation, I thought about some brands I like who tell a different sort of story. In these cases, the brand is really comprised of a collection smaller of Micro Stories.

An excellent example of this is grocery retailer Trader Joe’s. The company’s printed “Fearless Flyer” is full of stories about a unique Canadian bacon they discovered in Saskatoon, or unique dates from Arkansas, or other oddities. All these stories deliver the brand promise of a unique, special product, but also contribute to the brand footprint of Trader Joe’s. Brilliant.

Does this suggest the master band doesn’t have a story? Not at all. Rather that a collection of carefully crafted micro stories add up to an overall brand impression. Think Legos that comprise a complete structure.

How Do I Put this to Work?

Consider your brand strategy. And your product mix. For several years, I worked with a leading supplier of tooling solutions in the plastics industry. This company was founded on the premise of creating products that solved problems toolmakers faced. We worked together to create a unique story for each new product that helped buyers understand the problems it addressed, while keeping each story aligned to the overall company brand values. By contrast, when working with a technology solution to harness the power of an emerging technology platform, the product became the story – both as a solution and as an overall brand.

In short, storytelling (like other elements of the marketing mix) demands a clear, documented strategy to stay on-brand and impactful. I hope this framework gives you a new perspective to consider your stories.

Sean

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