Falling down the Rabbit Hole — Discovering a delightful storyland

The most important business tool in the 21st century is the ability to tell the best story. One that will translate information for consumers into accessible emotional terms.

“And what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversation." — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865

“And what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversation." — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865

With so much product parity these days, where every watch tells the same time, or every Blue Jean fits equally well, companies of the future have to differentiate themselves by creating stories about who they are and what they stand for. Stories that appeal to the heart of the consumer. Future products will have to appeal to our hearts not just our heads.

a turning point where consumers are beginning to prefer products for emotional and non-materialistic reasons

I think we are just seeing the first signs of a turning point where consumers are beginning to prefer products for emotional and non-materialistic reasons. Only a few companies across the globe I observe have seen this opportunity and are willing to redefine their product stories. Stories like arrows to the heart sounds like hype, but think again when you look at the success of Patek Phillipe’s story of inter-generational ownership between father and son. They’re deftly marketing an heirloom to ease the cost guilt with a touching story – 'You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation'.

Stories of Provenance in food, Manufacturing excellence, design devotion and more exist across the whole business spectrum, yet so few are successfully visible, why? I have observed countless vision and purpose workshops in companies which invariably end with the same cliche whiteboard words. 'Integrity', always the big one, followed by 'Customer satisfaction' and the like. Then crafted into slick statements and nailed to the wall in the foyer and very seldom revisted. There are so few storytellers in the upper echelons of companies and virtually no organised way of collecting and shaping stories.

I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We seldom think of a company as a person like Johnnie Walker, whisky with a tale to tell. And yet we as human beings thrive on telling our own story which distinguishes us as a special individual.

Whiskey with a tale to tell

Whiskey with a tale to tell

The traditional for-profit only company is on its way to becoming a thing of the past. Companies these days whose only objectives are reflected on the bottom line will no longer be attractive as we head into the future, facing climate change, social tolerance, health and safety challenges and all manner of public responsibilities.

Consumers are now much more politically aware, choosing products from companies that exhibit attitudes similar to their own.

Consumers are now much more politically aware, choosing products from companies that exhibit attitudes similar to their own. The political consumer will play a major part from now on. Companies through their stories and deeds need to create more political capital around reputation and public confidence. The stories have to be truthful and often arm's-length accreditation may well be necessary to underpin whatever's being said.

Benetton’s unique political brand capital

Benetton’s unique political brand capital

The story most frequently used in modern products is the myth of rural romanticism. There’s industrial romanticism, those grease and grinding origins, and more if one has the imagination to find it. But so many of the stories concerning the past don't really offer us peace of mind. They are myths and often we are looking for more than that. These days we want peace of mind and permanence.

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Instead of nostalgia, modern companies might find offering these turn-key sentiments resonate better. Stories about outcomes, product clarity and simplicity in an overloaded world. The financial sector is desperate to unravel its mysteries of money and now with technology is becoming increasingly possible to deliver a simple story almost tailor-made for the individual. There is a growing market for stories, which exemplify convictions although many companies are uneasy about making a stand on certain issues. Ecology, human rights, ethics, animal welfare, there are many burning issues.

Aljazerra’s distinctive cause related brand stories

Aljazerra’s distinctive cause related brand stories

Your stories need to be not only relevant and engaging, they must be simple and digestible – whatever format they take. Consider the share ability of the content too. Consumers don’t go sharing the technical spec of your product or listing your business services to their friends. Instead they tell the stories of the benefits; the impact your product or service has on real lives. Make your stories easy to share across multiple channels and good stories will speak for themselves. 

Exotica’s brilliant stories spreading awareness and love

Exotica’s brilliant stories spreading awareness and love

Whatever the format, it is important to use experts who have the different skill sets required for each platform, including the ability to make the content consumable and shareable, and the knowledge of the media to get your stories across.

First published in 1865, Alice in Wonderland is a book that remains as enchanting as ever, no matter how many times we
re-read it.