Your Brand Story: 10 Events That Trigger a Review

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Change begets more change and oftentimes people in the middle (aka your team) are caught in no-man’s land wondering what is the new company story. Here are 10 events that trigger it’s time to review and rewrite your brand story.

1)        You’re targeting new industries or audiences

Companies in growth mode often look to new industries or vertical markets to target. Having a solution for customer needs in those markets is important, but equally important is how a company communicates its brand story to break through the messaging din with a content mission that aligns with growth strategy and business imperatives. Complete Merchant Services (CMS) moved from Payment-as-a-Solution platform for the health care industry to the direct sales companies and then to franchisees.

2)    Your business changes focus

Perhaps you’ve hired or acquired a team that fills a critical void. Maybe it even creates an additional profit center. With expanded offerings, your DNA changes. Sometimes this means a name change or sometimes it just means a fresh look at the solutions you’re bringing to the table. Case in point: Before the totally retro Chicago-based Build This entered the scene in 2018, it was strictly a web design firm. Then it adopted app development and, out of its trendy offices in the Chicago Board of Trade building, changed its focus – and its brand story. A fresh new website with technology imagery, an expanded offering including one-day websites, and a “We’re More Than An Agency” headline on the company’s about page was a successful brand story rewrite.

3)    Merger or acquisition

This is a biggie. We have witnessed first-hand the impact a merger has on a company’s brand. It’s understandable that company executives focus on the financial and tax implications when entering an M&A. However, a common brand story has to be developed and then introduced to clients, prospects and, most importantly, the people who work there. Reston, Va.-based Hinge Marketing offers a downloadable rebranding kit. In addition to a new name and look, changes also occur in business practices and employee training.

4)    Your business model changes to bring a fuller solution through strategic partnerships

Sometimes, it makes sense to form strategic partnerships to offer clients fuller solutions. Chicago-based Fortress Consulting, for example, pulls in marketing and creative experts as needed to show a more complete story. (Check out the new “life after pro football” branding project they did for Matt Forte. Cool stuff!). As your solution expands, so does your brand story.

5)    The customer journey changes (does life ever stand still?)

How does your customer see you? How do you view your company and what it does? Is how your customer buys products or services in your market changing? Customer journeys shift and companies that can stay ahead of the wave will thrive. The ones that don’t rewrite their brand story – Blockbuster, Sears, Montgomery Ward, American Motors Corp. – often find themselves out of business or a target for an acquisition.

6)    You choose to break away from companies in your industry and how business has “always been” done

Let’s say your industry is one based on price. It’s transactional, your product a commodity. But you don’t want to do business that way. You choose to step apart from the pack. We call this your unfair advantage, also known as your differentiator. When your company understands its unfair advantage, your story will set you apart from everyone else in your industry. It often is not what you think. Silver Spoon Desserts, for example, has an unfair advantage of employing single moms from Chicago’s distressed neighborhoods. Why? Because owner Tamara Turner was a single mom, and she understands women in that situation don’t need a handout, they need a paycheck. When customers hear her story, they become believers. What’s your unfair advantage?

7)    The last time you reviewed your brand story was when “Frozen” was the highest-grossing film of the year.

That was 2013. Six years is a long time in business. Technologies change. The customer journey changes. Global markets change. How has your company changed? How has your brand story reflected that change? Is it frozen in time?

8)    Digital transformation

This is the business buzz phrase, which really means the Internet of Things (IoT). From cloud-based computing to shopping online to software as a service (SasS). Digital transformation is designed to improve the customer experience, but it’s more than technology. Great piece in Harvard Business Review that talks about what needs to be done internally prior to and during implementation of digital platforms.

9)    The dynamics of the industry have changed

Industry change is often a result of several of the points made above – digital transformation, the fluid customer-buying journey, new technologies, etc. Again, staying in front of the wave, through professional development, attending seminars, reading forward-thinking publications and listening to industry podcasts can help you stay aligned with industry trends. Ask: how is your brand story adapting to the shifting sands?

10)  Your company’s vision goggles need replacement

If our vision in life stayed the same, there would be a lot more professional football players, fire personnel and professional singers in the world. These were my children’s visions when they were really little. Guess what? None of them are going into these fields. When a company’s vision – that altruistic destination that is not yet, but oh so desirable – changes, the brand story changes too. Because it’s not just about internal stakeholders. Your customers and other champions need to be part of your vision too.

 

3 Questions to Turn Values into Palpable Energy

Values fuel our lives. They are our uniques — for us as individuals and as companies. Our flags, planted firmly in the ground, show red with vibrant love for others, pure white for honesty in all matters, green for our respect of the earth, and rough hewn browns for the value of being approachable and down-to-earth.

What are your colors and how are you changing the world of your customers and work-mates with them? Let’s explore together.

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Impact Brands: 3 Stories to Snack On

By Roderick Kelly

Co-founder, K+L Storytellers

I recently walked the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, trying the many varieties of beef jerky, hot pickles and health bars. Yes, health bars. I could hear my wife Michele whisper in my ear from 40 miles away: “Pass on the beef jerky and eat healthier.” And so I did. Well, kind of. LOL.

As I sauntered the aisles and talked to people, I came across three companies that really impressed me because of their impact brand stories.

Story #1: Kiwa

This Ecuadorian-based manufacturer of premium vegetable chips has a great story about working directly with regional farmers to provide them with an improved way of life.

Kiwa sales manager Maria Jose Guillen.

Kiwa sales manager Maria Jose Guillen.

Through its direct trade with farmers, Kiwa provides self-sustaining economic success to small, impoverished farmers, many of whom farm unique vegetables that are only native to South America. “We work with development organizations to help farmers get out of poverty,” said Maria Jose Guillen, sales manager for Kiwa, whose chips can be found in more than 30 countries. In the Chicago area, the many variety of chips many varieties of chips include plantain, beetroot, cassava and native potatoes share shelf space with more recognizably-named chips at Mariano’s and Pete’s Fresh Markets.

“Think about the many men and women working in remote fields and villages, left behind and oftentimes forgotten by a world that continues to move faster and faster. We proudly connect small farmers in Ecuador and Peru with world markets. Every time someone enjoys a Kiwa product, the collective heart of humanity beats a little louder,” says Kiwa co-founder Martin Acosta. That’s impressive, and the chips are delicious. Never thought I’d eat a beetroot chip. (Full disclosure: Kiwa is a client of K+L Storytellers).

 Story #2: This Bar Saves Lives

Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist.

Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist.

If this company name doesn’t scream: “Listen to my story,” I’m not sure what does. And listen I did. With each bar sold, this Los Angeles-based company provides a portion of the proceeds to nutrient packets, which are delivered to malnourished children around the world.

“Every time you buy a bar, we give life-saving nutrition to a child in need. We eat together,” is the company’s mantra said Emily Baker, social media and retail marketing specialist for the company. This Bar Saves Lives has provided millions of nutrient packets saving thousands of children around the globe, she said.

That’s a feel good for everyone.

Story #3: Fresh Toys

At first glance, I thought Fresh Toys was like a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Inside each box of gummy candies, there is a miniature toy from one of eight collection themes: fairies, pirates, ponies, kitties, puppies, warships, ivy schools and homes. The packages and toys are all designed by 20 young moms and dads whose intent it is to “make kids smile, and give a boost to their imagination, good heartedness and happiness,” according to co-founder Alex Polanski.

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Being a creative myself, I marveled at how the company’s goal is to have children use these toys to create stories and to fantasize, much like our generation did by playing with green plastic US Army men or doll houses with miniature rooms and furniture. “Our ultimate mission is to provide affordable, safe, and fun novelty toys. And that’s what we do," according to Polanski.

Even the company’s title focuses on the toys rather than the candy. Founded in Europe, the company has only recently distributed in the United States, although to find them in stores, you will have to travel to Pennsylvania or Wyoming until distribution ramps up.

 Great stories, cool products and impactful brands. Now, where did I put my stash of beef jerky?