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Don't lose the plot

The Sex Pistols, despite being around for only a couple of years, changed the music industry forever. They brought punk to the fore and inspired a generation of musicians. 

The thing about Sex Pistols is that even if you don’t like them you knew what they believed in. Everything about them told the same story: their name (I mean, they were pistols made of sex, that’s pretty punchy); their songs (apparently played on instruments they had stolen); their live shows; the way they dressed; the way they conducted themselves on TV (check out their Bill Grundy interview). They were anti-establishment, rebellious, irreverent, fearless. And there wasn’t a moment that any of that was ever in doubt; they never went off-script, never wavered, never deviated from their beliefs.

Looking at it another way, they told a consistent, engaging story… a story that people could understand, could believe in (or not, there were plenty of haters out there), and a story that - according to Wikipedia - helped them become regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.

When Apple came onto the scene it firmly positioned itself as a disruptor brand with its 1984 advert. The advert itself suggested that Apple would save the world from conformity, and the brand continued that narrative through everything they did. Their iconic logo hinted at something different. Their strapline was “think different”. Their hardware looked different (okay, not initially but by the time the iMac was born the face of personal computing changed forever). The way they presented was different. Just like Sex Pistols, they had a consistent story that they were telling and they didn’t deviate from their narrative. 

Nike is another good example of a brand that has stuck to its story. Nike is energy, passion drive, commitment, striving to be the best. From the logo marque itself - a simple, energetic tick - to the bright orange boxes your shoes come in… everything tells the same story. 

Industry jargon talks about ‘touchpoint’ and ‘user experience’. I think an easier way to think about it is that your brand is a story. It’s a story that is being told - rather than just in words - through numerous methods. It starts with your beliefs (or the beliefs of your brand) and weaves its way through your name, logo, visual identity, tone of voice, website, and marketing. But it doesn’t stop there; it is also being told by the way that your people conduct themselves, by the physical space that you inhabit (or maybe you are all working from home because you’re a young, agile, flexible business), the way you dress, right down to the way you answer the phone. 

Everything that your client experiences (much of it on a subconscious level) helps to build up the narrative in their minds of your brand. 

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ story; there is only your story. If you want to build up a narrative of an established, experienced business then smart suits, a prestigious address and a leather-bound company brochure might be the right way to go. On the other hand, if you want people to understand that you are a young, dynamic, progressive outfit then a strong social presence, hot-desking environment and bright, funky logo could work.

The important thing is to find your story and tell it. Tell it through everything you do; whether it’s brand, marketing, or any other element of your brand. 

So what story is your brand telling? Is it authentic and powerful? Or is it inconsistent and unappealing?

Author Al Mitchell