If Brands Could Speak, What Stories They Could Tell

Years ago when I worked with Herb Pharm, we would set up the dry herb table at one end of our trade show booth. Invariably, passersby would amble past, barely focusing on the booth’s backdrop that prominently featured our benefits. They had that classic unfocused, dazed look that most trade show attendees sport as they walk up and own aisles.

But when they reached the actual herbs, everything changed. They became engaged in the rich orange chamomile, the gnarly kava root, the waxen reishi mushroom, the licorice smell of the fennel seeds and more. They touched, smelled and, most importantly, engaged with us. They wanted to know about these herbs and our relationship to them. We assailed them with tales of Herbal Ed visiting the tribes of Vanuatu and partaking of the kava bowl. We spoke to how he ventured to the Andean villages in Peru and their Maca festivals. We did not have to spell out our authenticity, transparency and science. The stories conveyed those attributes in a way that stuck with those who heard them.

In the end it’s not the facts that leave an impact, but the story behind the brand or product.

People love stories. Yes, they want to know the facts about products — what they are for, how they are made. But at some point, they get tired of hearing about the same attributes: highest quality, purest ingredients, backed by science and research, mission driven, and so on.

What has lasting and differentiating impact in the end are not the facts, but the story behind the brand or product.

Even Commodities Have Stories

But stories are essential even for companies that are not selling directly to consumers. In the natural products business, there are those companies that supply ingredients to brands who then sell that ingredient in one form or other to the consumer. These “supply-side” companies often market in terms of the science behind their ingredients, the quantity they can offer and the price. Rarely do we ever hear anything about the story.

So what is to prevent the brand from going to another supplier who sells the same commodity ingredient and try to get a better price?

We know of several suppliers who actually sell the story as well as the science. They talk about the village where they get the ingredient. They talk about how they are supporting the local infrastructure. They often bring up anecdotes about their last visit there.

The results are impressive:

  • Trust. Their transparency tells their customer that they can trust them.
  • Loyalty. They get repeat buyers who like the story and feel that they can use that story when they market their branded products.
  • Price. The story differentiates these suppliers’ commodities to the point that price is not the main bargaining chip.

There Are No “New” Stories

There is the old aphorism that there are no new stories. But that does not prevent the publishing world from coming out with tens of thousands of new books a year.

It’s how you tell your story and whether it resonates with the reader that really matters. In the natural products world, truth and authenticity go a long way to make a story compelling.

For example, here’s a story that never gets old in the natural products business: Person has disease and western medicine can’t cure it. Person discovers the wonders of a good whole food diet and exercise regimen. This changes person’s life. Person is such a believer, person starts own natural company to spread the news and offer this wonderful solution. More people benefit and pretty soon millions are following this path.

People never tire of this story. And, what’s more, they want to continue to believe in this company.

So think about what stories your brand can tell. Think about your origin story. Tap into what excites you about your company. Use tried and true storytelling structure — like a beginning, middle and end. Test your stories on others. Keep in mind, while short and succinct is always good, it’s not about the length of the story, but keeping your participants engaged.