A few years ago, I was headed over to the Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia to run a few errands before my dance class at the gym. It would normally be a quick trip, but the street I needed was blocked off to traffic.
This happens a lot in Philly, usually for construction. But this time, the word was out: “The Clydesdales are coming!”
Sure enough, at the very hour where dinner time and happy hours come together, the big brown horses came marching down Walnut Street, looking as if they’d rather be back on the farm.
And even though I’m not much of a beer drinker, I knew exactly what was going on. I’ve watched the doggy Superbowl commercials.
Budweiser’s branding is legendary. As soon as we saw the word “Clydesdales,” we Philadelphians knew just what was going on.
Budweiser’s famous“adopted dog” story isn’t about beer. But it reinforces the Clydesdale association and the company’s desire to evoke wholesome, happy emotions. Those emotions become associated with the brand. So you go to the beer store. You see Bud cans. You consciously or unconsciously think, “Lost dog.”
The Clydesdales have been associated with Budweiser since 1933. The company’s events contribute to the brand story, as they tour the country’s major cities.
When they came to Philly, they even brought their signature Dalmation dog. He seemed to be having a blast.
So can a small service-based business learn from a big product-brand like Budweiser?
Stories tend to be especially powerful for branding in any business because
— they’re unique: nobody else can call your story
— they’re memorable: who doesn’t want to share a good story (and remember enough to re-tell it)?
— they grab attention in a crowded world
But ultimately, what is Budweiser is selling?
Liquid chemicals. Beer doesn’t come with a personality so the job of the brand has an added dimension: create a personality, as well as recognition and memorability.
That’s why a lot of consumer products tell stories that evoke emotions, rather than demonstrate or explain benefits. There’s nothing inherently emotional about a mixture of barley, water, hops, and yeast. Beer doesn’t taste like a party or a family gathering, any more than soft drinks taste like sentimental scenes in the ads.
The advertiser uses emotion to build associations, using the theories of learning you probably studied in Psychology 101. You watch an emotional, heart-wrenching story about a dog who doesn’t want to leave the farm…and then when you see a beer can with the Budweiser logo, you might find yourself with that same warm and fuzzy feeling.
“But I’m a solo service business!”
When you’re a solo service-based business owner, your business brand and personal brand overlap. You are selling yourself. You’re a person with a style of service delivery and marketing.
Budweiser creates stories. You already have one.
A small service business brand begins with a story.
You probably have a story tucked away on your website. Or you’ve told that story many times to your prospects on webinars and podcast guest gigs. Maybe you even shared your story with friends.
Depending on your brand promise and personality, your story might be:
…a journey story of how you achieved success. Your message is, “If I can do it, you can too.”
A business coach invited a friend to come visit her.
He said, “ We’re retired. We don’t have money for travel and we can’t do anything.”
She said, “A few years ago I was exactly where you were. I knew nothing about online marketing. Now I’m earning a very comfortable living.”
“Could my wife and I do that?”
“If I can, you can. I’ll show you how.”
Several months later, the business coach repeated the invitation. This time her friends were too busy: their business was growing and they planned a long-overdue vacation.
… a story of how you helped a customer reach success by working way beyond what you’d be expected to do. Your message is, “I go the extra mile for my clients.”
“This woman was frantic because her son had been picked up by the authorities and disappeared into the system. We tracked him down to a prison three states away. I got there on Friday. The hearing was scheduled for Monda. I negotiated with the warden so I could meet with the young man and spent the weekend on the phone, getting witnesses and documents. It turned out the young man was in the US legally and we were able to get him released and returned home to a very happy mom in California.”
… a story that explains a concept that puzzles most clients. Your message is, “I make things simple. When I share my knowledge with you, you’ll achieve success.”
“A young handyman agreed to clean our gutters for $35. We took a chance on him because the opening offer was so low. When he finished that task, he offered to do some yard work. Then he painted the guest room
“What started as a $35 job with a stranger led to a 4-figure project with someone who’s on our list to call when we need help.
“This is exactly how a marketing funnel works.”
Branding by story gives you three big advantages.
Your story illustrates not just what you do but how and why.
You demonstrate your brilliance without boasting.
Your story will be unique as well as authentic, because nobody else can tell your story.
How To Use These Stories
You can have more than one story; in fact, you’ll probably use many stories as you begin to see the power of storytelling.
Your story can change.
One marketing consultant shared early stories of living in a small rental unit where she worked off the kitchen table. As she grew her business, she began to share stories of her luxury vacations and home buying. She was no longer the girl next door saying, “If I can do it, you can.” She was a star who attracted fans.
Your story serves as a container for your brand.
Some marketers build their brand entirely by telling stories. Some do this so subtly you wonder, “Is there a brand in there?”
Once you’ve got your story nailed, you’ve got the premise for all your marketing communications. Your marketing supports your story, and vice versa. As a result, you write your copy more easily, and you communicate what’s important clearly, without boasting or bragging.
To learn more, download this free report. Discover why your mentor’s communication style may not work for you … and why the stories you chose may actually be working against you. Click here to sign up and download.
Free online training: How To Use Stories To Brand Your Small Service Business. Click here for more information and access.
And if you’d like to talk about the best story for your business, let’s set up a consultation. You set the agenda. We can talk about any business obstacle, find your story, review or start your content creation…or even have a lightning round of questions. Click here to learn more and set up a time.
Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on July 1, 2020.