I find that most people who use the word “brand” often don’t know what it is. It has become a buzz word that is arbitrarily thrown about. Allow me to break it down (cough). Essentially, brand is the gut response people have about something. It’s actually a rather ethereal concept to explain, kind of like The Force. Just when you think you understand it, you don’t. I serve as a Brand Strategist, which means I help organizations take a degree of control over the gut response people have toward a product, idea or cause. This process is called “branding.”
There’s a question I ask my clients during the branding process that often feels impossible for them to answer: Why does what you do or offer even matter? Drawing out that answer is probably the most important part of my job. The question seems odd to most clients, because it’s not a question they often hear from creative professionals, especially those who wish to be paid. So, why would I ask a question that makes my clients uncomfortable, and may even lead to losing them? Because I want to feel like the work I do actually means something.
I want to share with you the story of Mary.
Mary was starting a new solo career as a Holistic Nutritionist, and she hired me to help develop a business name, as well as a logo design. That’s about as deep as I went at the time. When we had our first creative briefing I asked her, “Mary, what led you to go into holistic nutrition?” She told me a story that changed everything for me as a creative professional.
After college, Mary had become very ill. Her energy disappeared, leaving her lethargic. She felt sickly and weak. And her hair eventually started to fall out. She was examined by several physicians, they ran endless tests, prescribed her several medications, and directed her to simply rest. Unfortunately, she failed to recover and was becoming more and more frightened about her condition. Finally, a close friend suggested that she visit a holistic physician in the next city. Holistic medicine is a form of healing that integrates body, soul, spirit and emotions, focusing on the wellness of the whole person. This practice highly values nutrition as the primary medicine.
(Mary’s eyes welled up with tears as she shared this with me.)
At the end of her rope, Mary took her friend’s advice and visited this physician. Under his care and direction, she became healthy again. She got her energy back, her hair stopped falling out, and she not only felt normal again—she felt amazing.
“It changed my life. I want to help change the lives of others,” she said.
After she finished her story, I looked at her and said, “Mary, you need to tell this story. In fact, it needs to be on the very forefront of your communication. This story would mean so much to others who are facing the same thing in their lives.”
Mary’s story was one worth telling in her business. It was true. It was real. It was human. Most businesses have these stories to tell, but they are buried at the very bottom of what they do. Therefore, they default to convincing arguments and information that lack inspiration and empathy. As a Brand Strategist, it’s my job to recover those stories, and put them at the forefront of their communication. And once I convince a client of this, even they become inspired about their own business.
One mission I have is to prove that true stories actually reach people, even in business. Unfortunately, many marketers take advantage of the tugging of our heart strings, telling lies and selling stupidity. On the contrary, I believe that the stories we tell need to be true stories. Otherwise, what we do likely doesn’t matter.
I hope to share more stories worth telling from clients I’ve encountered.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Jean Henrique Wichinoski