On the Origin of Brands
You’re launching a new venture. You’ve built your product, you’ve found investors, you’ve navigated the treacherous waters of developing a name and you’ve even got a $50 logo your niece made you because her degree in post-modern art has yet to become a cash positive investment.
What more could you possibly need?
Everyone who’s poured their blood, sweat and tears into this new brand are estaticly ready to launch it from obscurity to household name. But you’re balking. Because deep down it feels like something is missing. No- not a branded Powerpoint template. You’re missing an origin story.
Those chronicles explaining how heroes and legends are born. The tales that recount pulling swords from stones or getting bit by a radioactive spider. The narrative piece adds myth and panache to reality and helps your brand story stand the test of time.
You want a brand story to rouse recognition and inspire intrigue. But, all you have to talk about is the countless late nights you face planted at your desk in exhaustion from fiddling and tinkering with your product and the number of slot machines you’d need to rig for the debt you’d owe if this doesn’t work out.
You have a brand, but you’re missing a story. What do you do?
You read me right. Nothing.
Humans crave origin stories. We love seeing where things started and the reason they exist. We desire more than mere functionality. We desperately want meaning attached to that function. But the fact of the matter is, we rarely write our own origin stories. Much more often, they’re written by those surrounding us. Those coming into contact with us daily. So perhaps there is something you can do in order to kickstart that origin story, stop talking and start serving.
Serve those surrounding you. Serve them well. Let them write the story for you.
Focus on serving your customers and audiences to the very best of your ability. Make the story about them, not you. Have a consistent voice. Talk about what matters most to you and your brand. Find the people the messages resonate with, then take it a step beyond words and act on what you say.
Instead of penning rigid scripts with the flexibility of an arthritic giraffe, at Capsule, we build messaging strategies capable of being dynamic and flexible. Because targeted messages that mean something to an audience and have the ability to flex to their changing needs are infinitely more valuable than a script set on repeat. Even the most iconic story adds little value to your brand if you haven’t engaged your audience. As you begin your new venture, messaging should be focused on serving and promoting those audiences, not yourself.
At the end of the day, our origin stories aren’t our own. They’re the value and meaning ascribed to us by others. They’re a way for others to find relatable and purposeful terms to explain you. Allow your audiences to become faithful editors in your brand story. They might not stick exactly to the script you envisioned, but a loyal audience is less likely to lie about what they value about you.
As your consumers’ understanding of you evolves, so will your story. Instead of pouring energy and resources into fleshing out a detailed brand origin story from day one, relax. There’s time for your brand to step into what it will be. Serve those you’re meant to serve, and watch with wonder as they begin filling in the blanks and writing your origin story with you. One that rivals that of any caped crusader. Enjoy your brand’s journey. Make the most of what you learn from point A to point B, and understand that, oftentimes, becoming beats being.
Don’t sacrifice a real legacy for a catchy anecdote. Sure Levis had the Gold Rush and Apple had a garage, but these became parts of the narrative after the brand had established loyalty by serving its customers well.
The lesson here, don’t be so quick to define yourself. It’s good to know who you are, but if your customers aren’t afforded the opportunity to weigh in on what your brand means to them you’ll miss telling a better story.
At best, you’ll be monologuing.