Why having a saleable brand story is a true test for retailers
What’s the true acid test of whether you’re a ‘passion brand’?
Being able to sell your customers your brand story.
You’ve probably already been told that you should be sharing your brand story. And if it’s a good one then you certainly should be. But few retail brands can actually write a book about that story that customers want to buy and read.
After all how many of us are really captivated by the idea of reading a book about our local cut-price beauty product store? Or supermarket even? It’s a special kind of brand and story that we connect with enough to warrant reading a whole book about.
So how do you know if your brand story meets that criteria? And why should you care?
Brands with fans
If you’re a retail brand that has fans, rather than just customers, like Apple, Nike, Lush and Burberry for example, then you’re already one step ahead. Those fans are already going to be invested and want to know more about you. They want to incorporate your brand principles into their lives. If you can tell them the story of what you do and why in a way that they find interesting then they’re likely to want to buy that, as a way of buying into the brand more.
Not only that, but they’ll help with the promotion. They probably already recommend you to others, but a book about your brand story is a great tool for them to point people to. Fans are much more involved than regular customers, which gives you a ready-made group of people to sell your story to.
London department store Liberty is one example of a brand with fans. The brand is well-known for its design influences, and so makes for a more compelling story than your average high street store. Add to that a single retail location, built using timber from a ship, that fans travel from all over the world to visit and you have a real story. Customers want to know more. They want to take a piece of that exclusive Liberty magic home with them.
The ‘Liberty of London’ book gives them both the store history and the brand history in one, while its branded sewing and craft books leverage that design expertise. They also help make for a tidy sales loop – customers buy the book to learn how to create the items, but they then buy the fabric and other materials needed to complete them from the store. And once they’ve started they’ll likely be hooked.
Having a ready and waiting army of fans to tap into is one piece of the brand story puzzle. The other is producing a book that gives them something extra and something to share with others.
Brands connected to culture
Our hobbies and interests are one of the things we hold most dear. After all they’re how we spend our spare time. Brands that are culturally connected to these can forge strong bonds with fellow fans, especially if they give the impression that they will make you better at doing them.
Shoe company Vans is one brand with ardent followers. The brand has long been associated with skate, bike and surf culture, and by extension of that – music and art. The Vans ‘Off The Wall’ book tells this story, but by talking about the people wearing Vans, and what they do, rather than just the brand itself.
As such, the largely visual book has captivating photographs from throughout Vans history showing all sorts of different people in action, but all wearing Vans trainers. The impression is that you can do any of these things if you own a pair of the brand’s shoes. There are also anecdotes and stories from leading names within sports like skating which help to underline that Vans is the choice of the professional.
The cultural angle makes for a more interesting read, especially when a brand’s own story isn’t so interesting or doesn’t have an obvious strong sales hook. As human beings we never get tired of culture, of being part of that experience, and hearing about leaders in our area of interest.
Brands with unique selling points
Some brands are finding ways to leverage their unique selling points, even if it’s not their brand story as such. A number of retail brands are producing books that bring their brand principles to life and keep customers connected to them even when at home.
New York department store Bergdorf Goodman released ‘The Bergdorf Goodman Cookbook’, which featured more than 100 recipes from the brand’s restaurant. It also offered buyers recipes from top fashion and beauty names. Each recipe is introduced by an anecdote, which helps cement its connection to the brand. For fans it’s a way to feel part of the luxury crowd – even if they can’t afford to regularly shop in-store or visit the restaurant for lunch every day, they can recreate that experience at home.
Legendary US clothing brand Brooks Brothershas also created a series of books inspired by its brand ideals. ‘How To Be A Gentleman’ is just one title, but a great example of how they tie into the brand as Brooks Brothers is well-known for its heritage designs. Again it’s about taking a piece of the brand home, about bringing those ideals into your everyday life. It’s about having a way to connect with the brand outside of going to the store or buying its products.
If your brand principles have a transferable element, such as cooking or how to dress, then packaging that up in a book can be a great way of attracting new customers. They also make for great presents for your existing fans and help establish your brand as more than just a commodity to be bought. You are a font of expertise and knowledge.
Why having a story you can sell is so valuable
The obvious benefits of having a saleable story is making sales. We all know that retail is a competitive industry, so having another string to your bow can be a good way to help ensure you remain top of mind for customers.
But it also means that your retail brand stands for something.
Whether it’s a unique selling point, cultural relevance or that special covetable element that wins fans, if your brand story can work as a book then it’s pretty safe to say that you’re doing something right. You stand out in the market. Customers are passionate about you.
And that’s worth more than any single sale.