Why you need to behave
Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti (the guys on the picture above) are the founders of a boutique branding agency based in New York, called Partners & Spade. They were recently named "The Brand Artists" by the famous design magazine Inc.
In this article, one of them revealed the essence of what storytelling is:
"How a brand behaves, looks and feels is as important as what it says. The best way to sell a product is NOT to tell your customers what they should think about it. The brand should speak for itself through its interactions with customers. These interactions must, in turn, be driven by an authentic and clear brand vision.
The general idea is, no matter the size of the company, the brand should act small."
In 2008, fashion brand J. Crew wanted to reboot their image from preppy style to refined menswear and asked Partners & Spade for their help. Out of their brainstorming session came, not a classic advertising campaign, but a liquor store.
The idea was to create a standalone store in an old bar in downtown Manhattan, only identified by the outdoor sign "Liquor store" (not J. Crew) and where you would find a mix of premium J. Crew clothes as well as other menswear brands like Harbour or Alden. "It would be the kind of boutique that stylish men dream about, says Andy Spade, a hidden gem that might be written up in Monocle, only this one would sell the wares of a mass-market brand."
Here is the magic trick: instead of telling or showing the message - "this brand is cool, you should wear it!" -, they felt it would be much more effective to create an experience where users would FEEL the coolness of the brand... and love it for this.
How to live up the promise of your brand
In October 2012, New York was blown away by hurricane Katrina. Many New Yorkers found themselves without a home for a few days.
For years, Airbnb's very explicit mission was that anyone should feel a sense of belonging wherever they travel. So this event was for them a great - even though tragic - opportunity to demonstrate that they really meant it. And so they decided to remove the fees for shelters and let hosts offer their home for free to anyone in need.
Of course, you don't have to wait for such a dramatic event to live your mission. You should do it in every way, anytime, anywhere.
It means, for example, paying attention to your customer support: how do you treat people once they already bought your product but encounter a problem: sincerely? rapidly? beautifully? generously? with a bit of humor or with extra care? How easy is it to contact you, how quickly do they get an answer?
How about your on-boarding process: do you welcome new visitors on your website with simplicity? elegance? quirky features? a premium level of service?
Basically, you should always think about the dream, in your users' head, that you want to address and the kind of personality, as a mentor, you want to embody, to imagine all the creative ways you can make your mission come true in the eyes of your customers.
Little Big Details (website)
A blog to find inspiration in UX and design details used by famous websites and apps.
Telling stories online (47-min video) - by Jon Setzen, creative director at Media Temple
Lots of inspirational examples to use stories on your website.
How to Create a Cool Brand (7-min article) - by Tom Foster, Inc Magazine
A feature article on the innovative approach of branding of the "Brand Artists" Partners & Spade.
How to “Know” What Your Customers Really Want? (3-min article) - by Pandith Jantakahalli, product manager.
This article will tell you how to create a product that doesn't target a customer but addresses a situation, when the customer finds himself in specific constraints (like time, capability to handle complexity) and emotions (like excitement, anxiety, frustration).
Why Being Human Matters in Marketing? (3-min article) - by Hubspot, inbound marketing software.
These tricks to humanize a brand are not all to be taken literally, but they're a good way to find some inspiration.