If brands are stories, then whose stories are you telling?
It was a beautiful morning in the peaceful Central Park of New York City. A typical day for any aspiring human being to drop by the place without any specific purpose, just to feel transcended by its breathtaking tranquility.
There appeared a beggar sitting by the road, whose only interest lay in the rattling sounds from his small cup. The cup that he would move close to his ear every once in a while. The cup he held while wearing a sign around his neck that wrote,
“I Am Blind.”
From the look of his nearly empty cup, the man didn’t seem to be doing very well. That sight came into a gentleman’s notice, who stopped by and dropped a contribution into the cup. He then introduced himself and asked if he could make some changes to the sign. Upon receiving consent, the gentleman added a few words to the paper board and left.
To the blind man’s surprise, his cup had been overflowing ever since that gentleman wrote on the sign. As the sun came down, the gentleman came back, happy to see the now gleeful beggar. Bewildered by his success, the blind man asked what was added to the sign, to which the gentleman replied,
“It Is Spring And I Am Blind.”
By changing the prop of a scene, the gentleman transformed a story. A story of a poor blind man who couldn’t see, and thus couldn’t feel the seemingly ordinary happiness stemming from the beauty of a spring day. A story that provoked empathy and compassion by conveying a message that was so powerful and persuasive no one could ignore.
Yet, what was transcending about that very construction of a story was not its provocation of relatability and strong emotions, but its ability to enhance the story creation of its audience. Those seven words fostered self-worth in every passerby, speaking to their inner desire to become a better human being.
What the gentleman managed to achieve with a few words is also what great brands do. Most of the time, we perceive “branding” as telling our interesting stories in an interesting way, but its value goes much deeper than that.
There’s a declarative power in the brand choices made by consumers. People nowadays no longer dress where they are, they dress where they want to be. The brands they choose to live with, thus, become statements about who they desire to be. So whether it’s making them look better, doing a task better, or giving them the opportunity to do good in the world, great brands enhance people’s lives and help them feel better about themselves.
If you want your audience to fall in love with your brand, ask yourself and your team this question,
“Whose stories have we enhanced lately?”
Because at the end of the day, building a brand is about bringing someone’s story to life and make them the hero of their own stories.
If you haven’t known, the gentleman that made the beggar’s day was David Ogilvy, “the First Mad Man” who revolutionized the face of advertising. But that doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to be a world-class copywriter to make a difference.
- The Shape of Design (2012) – Frank Chimero
- Brand Thinking & Other Noble Pursuits (2013) – Debbie Millman