What makes your brand special?
If you answered by talking about your brand’s unique advantages and consumer benefits, you own a house, not a home.
Don’t feel lonely. There are plenty of companies doing the same thing. And they all have lessons to share.
Take Xerox for instance. At one time, having a Xerox machine in the office had become a necessity. Instead of asking, “Can I get a copy of that?” it was commonplace for people to ask, “Can you make me a Xerox?” Having achieved a great deal of success, the company decided to cultivate other ambitions. For one, Xerox wanted to get into computer technology and data processing. They spent many years and millions of dollars before finally throwing in the towel. Why? Because they couldn’t get buyers to believe that a copy machine company could make a good computer. In effect, Xerox found out that it was a house, not a home.
Chiquita is another example. Chiquita had to admit defeat after trying to convince us that they make a good frozen juice bar. Country Time Lemonade was forced to stop trying to sell Country Time Apple Cider. Ponds barely got out of the starting gates with Ponds toothpaste before it quit. And Smith and Wesson (yes, the maker of guns) tried to sell a bicycle of all things. Thousands of stories like these exist.
But then many brands tell a different story. Apple has gone from selling computers to phones, to tablets to who knows what’s next. Nike started out selling waffle-soled running shoes but is now the leading brand of athletic equipment, gadgets, and apparel. Perhaps a more extreme example is Virgin with its long list of unrelated products and services: phones, records, airplanes, casinos, satellites. In case you’re sick and in jail, Virgin even provides a prison health service. Add Harley Davidson, Disney, Starbucks, and anything that Oprah labels to the list. See any similarities? These are brands that grew by creating homes, not houses.
When we think of these brands, we don’t just think of a single products or service. We think of the ideas, values and beliefs their names represent. To their buyers, they offer something more important than functional benefits. They provide a sense of belonging. In fact, their buyers aren’t really buyers. They are more like members of the same household who share similar beliefs. Virgin could sell mud flaps if it wanted to. No doubt, they’d become the best selling mud flaps available. ( Hey Branson, you heard it here first!).
How To Turn Your House Into A Home
If you’re interested in turning your house into a home, here are 5 simple brand storytelling rules to follow:
- Check out your brand’s foundation. Does it provide a solid base that will support any additions, or is will it only hold up your house as is?
- Improve its curb appeal. When people see it from the outside, will they think ” Looks nice” or will they think “This could become a good representation of me and what I stand for?”
- Get rid of the clutter. Throw out everything that distracts away from the one simple but important truth that your home represents.
- Hire the right agent. Anyone can help you find renters or even buyers. Hire someone who can tell your story in a way that will attract followers.
- Conduct a permanent Open House. Stay real, authentic and open to transparency.
Making a distinction between a house and a home has many advantages. Just remember, a house functions as a place to shelter you from the elements, provide you with ample closet space and a place to park your automotive status symbol. Homes serve a very different purpose. They provide belonging, and support for values you can identify with.
The extent to which your brand can offer customers a home instead of a house will determine the size of your family.
Jim Signorelli is the Brand Development Director at Stevens & Tate Marketing where he utilizes his 30+ of experience in building brands through proven storytelling techniques. Jim is the award-winning author of StoryBranding 2.0: Creating Standout Brands Through the Power of Story.