Stories are an essential part of our day-to-day lives. A story told well can turn a brand into a legacy and an entrepreneur into a legend.
For me, I turned storytelling into a career, I perhaps didn’t know that’s what I was doing when I left university and entered the world of Public Relations. But when you break it down that’s exactly what PR is – creating and sharing a narrative that tells the journey of a product, a business or brand.
But it’s not just about words. Stories are told on the page, on Twitter, in a photo, a film. The art of storytelling is in fact quite a skill (even if I do say so myself).
Which brings me back to the title of my blog, why every business needs a good storyteller.
Consumers love a story – positive or negative. The latter can turn a customer off, the former can make them an advocate for life.
My favourite business story isn’t that of grumpy billionaire Sir Alan Sugar who set up Amstrad in the back of a van he bought for £50 with £40 of car aerials to flog – he sold that same business to Sky in 2007 for £125m and is estimated to be worth billions. He also enters Twitter spats with ego maniac Piers Morgan so for that alone he gets a mention.
It’s not James Dyson either who created the first bag less vacuum cleaner in his garden shed. Did you know he created a staggering 5,127 prototypes before he created one he was happy with – then spent two years trying to find someone to licence the product? The licence eventually came from Japan and the profits he made from this allowed him to buy his own licence to trade under his own name in the UK.
No, the business story I love is that of cult ice cream brand, Ben and Jerry’s, which started with two hippies and a dream to sell bagels from an old gas station – until they realised the equipment was too expensive and turned their attention to ice-cream.
And so, the story began, with flavours named after their rock heroes – Cherry Garcia after Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead – and a growing reputation that caught the attention of Haagen Dazs, who tried to quash the competition by limiting distribution.
A ‘What’s the doughboy afraid of’ campaign aimed at Haagen Dazs owners, Pillsbury, prompted angry customer calls to head office and they promptly backed off.
I defy anyone not to admire those two now you know their business journey, values and principles. It’s such a strong story that even Unilever didn’t want to mess with it – and that’s saying something.
Storytelling conveys purpose, and businesses with purpose are the ones that ultimately capture consumer’s hearts.
When I want an ice cream fix I have plenty of choice in the supermarket. But now I know the Ben and Jerry’s story I admit I buy their ice-cream – Phish Food – everytime, just in case you were wondering. Strangely I never buy Haagen Dazs…
Your story is your reputation and your legacy – that’s why every business needs a good storyteller. Who’s telling yours?