What's More Important, the Story or the Book?

Delivery Mechanisms Should Never Overshadow the Brand

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Sometimes we ad makers get so caught up in the latest delivery techniques we overlook the importance of the brand story we're communicating. Delivery is technical. A story is emotional. For a brand to stick, you must connect emotionally. Utilizing the latest mobile-phone technology must not cause us to take our eye off of the branding ball. As an advertising agency, creating a brand's story is the most important and valuable capability we offer. When we replace that story with delivery techniques we endanger our very existence. I'm not suggesting our knowledge and utilization of all communication channels is not important. It's imperative. However, it's what takes priority that we need to be cognizant of if we are to remain useful to our clients.

I remember reading a story in Fast Company several years ago written by Seth Godin. It was about a French baker, Lionel Poilane, who used 300-year-old recipes for his French bread -- not those long loafs we think of, (they are not originally from France) but the original French bread. It is big and round and dark. Poilane was such an amazing story; Godin included him as an example of being remarkable in his book, "Purple Cow." In fact, he dedicated the book to the memory of Lionel Poilane.

Poilane did an incredible amount of research about bread. He made bread that wasn't popular at the time, but became popular due to his dedication and craftsmanship. It was so unique that people from all over the world were buying it. I even bought a loaf of this bread and had it FedExed from France for a meeting with a client. Why? That bread was about something I knew my client had, but wasn't using to its potential: a story. I wanted my client to experience the way a brand story can be experienced first hand. I wanted them to understand how important it was for them to tell their story in such a way to their own customers.

For better or worse, brands are as much about the customer as they are the product. Brands tell others about an individual's personality and priorities. Brands help make friends and repel adversaries. Sure, advertising can be annoying, but it is also a handy little gadget to communicate quickly to others who we are, while at the same time, helping us feel good in our skin. Starbucks makes me feel good about my day, that's why I pay $3.50 for a cup of its coffee. I like to go to Target because I can get a bargain but feel like I'm not compromising style. Apple computers give me confidence that I can do my job being a geek. These are not products but brand stories that are lived. Before they are lived they must be defined, created and communicated. That's why we who get to do the creating have such a great job.

The growing varieties of delivery options offer more opportunities than ever to make brand stories relevant to the consumer. Yet we must not forget that it is the story that must be our first priority. Otherwise, what difference does it make how people experience it?
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