What are the different ways to manage a brand story for growth?

This topic requires a whole book worth of exploration and explanation, but since most business books are usually extended into a book from a short thesis, I’ll skip the book this time.

Stephen Walker of Headmint and I wrote a tool called “The Growth Tool” that helps marketers systematically explore different possible sources of growth by looking through different usages, different users and a combination of both (Blue Oceans for you business book fans).  The tool is useful and some of our clients use it a lot.  It’s hard (imaging creative growth strategies is hard) and some clients don’t like to do that kind of heavy lifting.

So I’ve been interested in developing another tool to help clients use brands as a device to earn new business.

I don’t have it all figured out just yet but I have made some strides recently.  I’m posting here with the hopes that readers will comment, respond and share what you think.

Before we get into it there are a couple of things that need explanation.

The way I look at this

Customers categorize the world with the use of stories.  Products and services are woven into those stories as enabling devices.

People have an expectation in their head about how things work. As they think about what comes next, they tell themselves stories and place themselves as the protagonist in those stories.  They imagine things and experiences as part of those stories.  I include products, services and marketing experiences as some of those “things” and “experiences” (see GPERS to read more).

This all means that, as a marketer, your brand has been attached to customer stories (if you like it or not).

Those stories have a certain amount of business “built into” the story.  Some stories happen more. Some stories have more people “living” them.  Some stories require lots of products or services to happen.  Some stories have more business “built into” them.

Conversely some stories have less business built into them.  Stories that happen less frequently or have less people who “live them” or don’t have a lot of stuff associated with them have less business built into those stories.

So to grow, a marketer needs to be thinking about…

1) Do I like the story that my brand is associated with?  Am I happy about the business built into that story?

2) If I like the brand story, how can I leverage that story to earn more money?

3) If I don’t, how can I change/evolve the brand story so that I can earn even more money?

What follows are the 9 ways I’ve been thinking about managing brand stories for growth. Each has a visual to help explain it.  Here’s how to read the visual.

 

Here are the nine…

 

Situation:

  • You like the brand story that you are associated with
  • You are confident that your product/service is the enabling product or service that customers will choose to “live” that story

Opportunity for growth:

  • You think more people would participate in that story and buy your brand if they just knew about it
  • You’ve got to promote your story

How you’ll grow:

  • More people will participate “in” your story and pick your brand.  This happens either because you are growing the number of people in the category or because customers are picking your story over another story in the category.

Examples:

  • Method – Grew the story of “non-toxic cleaning”

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Situation:

  • You like the story with which your brand is associated
  • You are confident that your product/service is the enabling product or service that customers will choose to “live” that story

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can offer additional products/services so that people can “live that story” with more stuff/experiences from your brand

How you’ll grow:

  • You’ll earn more purchases per person

Examples:

  • Nike “for people who push past personal boundaries” is a story that can now be “lived” with lots of different kinds of Nike products.

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Situation:

  • You’ve built a strong positive reputation based on a product/service with certain characteristics in one particular story.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You think that if you “export” that reputation into other other stories for other people you can be a great story enabler in multiple categories simultaneously.

How you’ll grow:

  • You’ll go from being the preferred story enabler in one category to being the preferred story enabler in multiple categories.  More customer groups in more categories will prefer “living the story” with your brand.

Examples:

  • GE – Eco-imagination applied in home appliances, jet engines and emerging energy manufacturing.

___________________

Situation:

  • You’ve tapped out the business built into your brand story or you haven’t had much success growing using an existing brand story.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can imagine your product/service enabling a new story with more business built into it.

How you’ll grow:

  • You’ll create a more attractive story for customers to participate in so they will switch from other brands in the same category.
  • You’ll offer an attractive story for people to participate in who aren’t normally interested in the category.  So you’ll be growing the category.
  • Your new story can re-attract people who have just lost interest or those who have actively rejected the old story and/or old product/services they had to “live” that story.

Examples:

  • Apple – productivity-focused computing (e.g. work) to “life”-focused computing (music, photos).

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Situation:

  • Product/services have an expected dollar amount attached to them within your brand story and that is limiting.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can imagine a new story that frames more expensive product/services from your brand as a good value even at a higher price.

How you’ll grow:

  • You’ll earn more dollars per unit of product or service.

Examples:

  • Patron tequila.
  • Starbucks.

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Situation:

  • Product/services have an expected usage amount attached to them within your brand story and that is limiting.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can imagine a new or evolved brand story that drives more product/services usage per occasion.

How you’ll grow:

  • People will finish what’s in your package sooner and will restock sooner.  Your repurchase cycle time with shorten.

Examples:

___________________

 

 

 

 

 

Situation:

  • Your story has a defined occasion/frequency embedded in it and it is limiting.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can imagine a new or evolved brand story that has more frequent uses built into it.

How you’ll grow:

  • People will buy more times per cycle.

Examples:

  • Dunkin Donuts.  From breakfast to other times of the day too.
  • Corona.  “Your beach can be anywhere, any time of the year.”

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Situation:

  • Your brand story has a finite amount of business built into it and it is limiting.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can envision an entirely new “way to live” and, as part of that, envision an entirely new product/service to offer to enable that story. (Blue Ocean)

How you’ll grow:

  • You will be adding a new story for people to “live” and you will be the only enabler of that story.

Examples:

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Situation:

  • The brand story within which you are associated is increasingly expensive to operate in.

Opportunity for growth:

  • You can envision evolving your brand story so that you operate in a less expensive category with more business built into it.

How you’ll grow:

  • You’ll be investing resources into a brand story with increasing returns rather than decreasing returns.

Examples:

  • IBM – From hardware to consulting.

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Real world strategies aren’t as distinct as these but we’ve found for explanation and when designing tools it is better to err this way.

What do you think?  What did we miss?  Other good examples?

 

"What are the different ways to manage a brand story for growth?" by Scott
Posted in Questions Collaborators Answer on Monday, June 6th, 2011