Category

BRAND STORYTELLING

Category

The very first question to ask yourself.

If you own a business.

Is this:

“What category am I in?”

The First Question. 

The reason this is the very first question you ask yourself.

Is because it’s the very first question your customer asks themselves.

And after they have answered it.

They build pictures.

Assumptions.

And stories.

So answer the question first.

Crisply.

Then build and communicate your brand and business accordingly.

And that way.

What your customer imagines you are.

Will be accurate.

Example.

Here’s an example of how the answer to the question you ask yourself.

The one about what category you’re in.

Should influence your behaviour as a brand and a business.

And as a consequence.

How customers react to you.

Trains.

I recently contacted a company that ran sleeper trains.

Straight forward enough.

No fuss.

‘A train you can sleep on’.

And in my own mind.

Because I couldn’t quite fathom any more detail than, ‘A train you can sleep on’ from the business communications.

I chose their category myself.

I positioned this company firmly in the ‘Leisure Experience’ category.

Because I wanted to go on a sleeper train and experience an Agatha Christie Murder.

Someone bludgeoned to death as I sipped tea.

And I wanted some bloke in a hat.

With a curled moustache.

Calling me ‘Sir’.

And calling my little Izobel madam.

To serve me.

(And Izobel).

With posh, brightly coloured drinks on a silver tray.

(Mine had an olive in it for some reason).

Through the sliding door of our neat, private cabin.

Before shuffling off.

Leaving me to read The Daily Telegraph.

(‘Never read it in my life).

Leaving Izobel to dance and chatter to two plush toys.

One in each hand.

On the fold-down table in front of her.

The Other Category.

I got the category wrong, though.

Because the fast-talking call handler didn’t plug into my self-storytelling at all.

Instead they did this.

The call handler spoke of looking to minimise my sleep-time between place of departure and destination.

When I wanted to maximise it in order to snooze to the clicker-clack of the tracks.

(And maybe listen in as some Lord or Lady was murdered a couple of carriages along).

The call handler spoke of ‘having to sleep on a train’ as an unfortunate yet necessary part of through-the-night journeying.

When I wanted it to be the focal point.

And as they chattered.

The walnut panelled carriage in my mind turned to formica.

The cocktails on a silver tray turned to paper cups of weak coffee.

And my place on the pages of the next Murder Mystery to flow from the pen of the next great writer of such things turned to shit.

Categories. 

The very first question to ask yourself.

If you own a business.

Is this:

“What category am I in?”

Because when this train company put themselves in the ‘A-to-B Commute’ category.

Everything they did from that point forward matched their reality of what they thought a customer wanting A-to-B Commuting  would want.

But that’s only fine if the business communications at the first touchpoint are clear.

Remember this bit:

…build and communicate your brand and business accordingly. 

And that way. 

What your customer imagines you are. 

Will be accurate.

Because if you don’t.

Your business resources will be wasted on inappropriate phonecalls.

Your front-line staff will grow tutty and exasperated.

And your reputation will turn to shite.

Because of the lack of clarity.

And resultant confusion.

And frustration.

Around categories.

So.

So…

What category are you in?

When you run a business.

It is entirely natural to seek out triggers.

Things ‘they’ do.

To help inform things ‘you’ do.

Especially the successful businesses.

(Whatever ‘successful’ means).

Because after all.

Successful businesses know what they’re doing.

Don’t they?

Karen.

Karen came to stay in one of our holiday studios.

Today.

Karen booked direct through our website.

Paid full price.

Turned up with her son Leon.

And inwardly and outwardly congratulated herself.

Dewy eyed and open mouthed.

To have chosen somewhere, ‘Just lovely’ for her and her 11 year old boy.

Karen.

Was happy.

Money. 

After I’d shown Karen around.

I asked her a question I already knew the answer to.

I asked her how much she’d paid.

To stay with us, I mean.

Karen looked slightly concerned.

So I explained.

I explained that on the same day Karen booked to stay with us.

An article about our holiday studios had appeared in a local magazine.

Front cover, as it goes.

Karen hadn’t seen the magazine.

Or the article.

So Karen also hadn’t seen the voucher code we published inside.

The voucher code that would have saved her £85 on her stay.

Lisa. 

As I told Karen that Lisa would be dropping £85 cash in to her on her way back from the shops.

Karen looked a little shocked.

And confused.

I was happy, though.

Because Karen was happy.

Hospitality.

Hospitality is a funny business.

Some bits come easy to me.

Innovation.

Ideas.

Surprises.

Creating spaces that welcome you in and make you feel special and cared for.

Immediately.

And over and over.

But this also makes me quite angry in many ways, too.

Because I’ve never been entirely happy with anywhere I’ve stayed.

Ever.

Because I always see so many opportunities for innovation.

Better ideas.

And surprises.

Opportunity that the busy owners or the busy people they employ either don’t care enough to want to do.

Or don’t have the time to do.

But either way.

It’s not good enough.

Because it’s boring.

And it’s samey.

And my life.

And your life.

Is far, far too short for boring and samey.

Do The Opposite.

The decision to give Karen £85 was easy.

Because I asked myself a simple question.

I asked myself what I thought every hotel, holiday let, cottage and caravan park I’d ever stayed with over the entire 50 years or so that I’ve been alive would do.

In the exact same circumstance.

Then.

I did the opposite.

Triggers. 

When you run a business.

It is entirely natural to seek out triggers.

Things ‘they’ do.

To help inform things ‘you’ do.

Especially the successful businesses.

(Whatever ‘successful’ means).

Because after all.

Successful businesses know what they’re doing.

Don’t they?

Here’s a simple story.

Of a simple conversation.

About simplicity.

Simplicity.

HIM:

That thing you came up with for that client.

It looks so simple.

It looks like you haven’t even thought about it.

ME:

There’s a really simple reason.

Why it looks so simple.

So simple that it looks like I haven’t even thought about it.

It’s because I have.

The End.

There is another world.

If you choose to visit.

And it is amazing.

Accident. 

I visited quite recently.

By accident.

I hadn’t planned to go.

It just happened.

And you could visit too.

You could visit as soon as tomorrow.

3.45am. 

I awoke at 3.45am.

I don’t know why.

I just did.

Izobel was clinging onto my arm.

And it is of course amazing when your children do that.

But after a few moments I got up.

And that’s when I discovered it.

Another world.

Just Me.

Silent.

Dark.

Cool.

Slow.

I broke the silence with the click…hiss of a kettle.

The rustle of some packaging or other.

And the snap-snap of the toaster.

Then.

It was silent again.

With heavy butter melting on sourdough toast.

With a huge mug of tea and its curling steam tail.

With the opportunity to think.

Without my computer.

Without my phone.

Just me.

Another World.

There is another world.

If you choose to visit.

And it is amazing.

I still find it so, so flattering.

When anybody.

Anytime.

Buys anything from any brand I’ve ever built.

Humbling.

The feeling I had with that very last sale.

Just a moment ago.

It’s the exact same feeling I had with the very first sale.

Humbling.

I help six business a year.

As a brand consultant.

I like working with businesses I like.

Businesses that are focussed on making change that they.

And I.

Believe in.

And about six businesses each year does me just fine.

Brand Consultant.

I’m very good at being a brand consultant, actually.

I’ve been helping businesses for 25 years.

I’ve built ten meaningful brands of my own.

I’ve worked with some of the greatest brand brains around.

But that doesn’t mean I’m great for everyone, of course.

Because just like there’s more than one way for a football team to win a football match.

There’s more than one way for a business leader to win at business.

Taking a brand-driven approach is just one way.

And narrower still.

Taking my brand-driven approach is different again.

Brand Consultants and Football Teams. 

I’ll always tell you what I think you should do.

And why.

But whether you do it or not.

And exactly how you do it.

That’s up to you.

Klopp’s Liverpool.

Fergusson’s Manchester United.

Mourinho’s Chelsea.

They all played football.

They all won the Premiership.

But they all won it in their own way.

Bravely.

The way that I choose to build brand is clear.

In a word, it’s:

Bravely.

Because braver brands are much more likely to be noticed.

They are much more likely to be remembered.

And they are much more likely to be chosen.

Boring, Boring Business.

Business is largely boring, to me.

Businesses colour their logos in the same way as the businesses around them.

Businesses name themselves in the same way as the businesses around them.

Businesses speak in the same way as the businesses around them.

Then they wonder why they’re neither noticed.

Remembered.

Or chosen.

Hmmm.

Building Braver Brands.

Of course, if you are going to be different.

(And you should be different.

That’s not negotiable).

You need to know how to be different.

And that’s where I come in.

But just like there’s more than one way for a football team to win a football match.

There’s more than one way for a business leader to win at business.

Taking a brand-driven approach is just one way.

And narrower still.

Taking my brand-driven approach is different again.

Anyhow.

Whether you work with me or just listen to me and take my advice.

Be braver.

Build a braver brand.

Plan from tomorrow.

And start soon.

You’ll be glad you did.

A few weeks ago.

I wrote  this story.

Called, ‘Dreaming of ASDA’.

Give it a click for a reminder:

DREAMING OF ASDA.

It’s a nice little story about my 4 year old daughter Izobel.

And the hero of the story.

Was ASDA.

ASDA.

I posted the original story on Linkedin.

Initially, 5,000 people had a read.

And one nice chap suggested tagging ASDA in the story.

To see if they were listening.

To see if they’d do something nice for Izobel.

Because Izobel had said something nice about them.

Lovely Idea.

What a lovely idea!

A chance for ASDA to listen.

A chance for Izobel to get a nice thing.

A chance for 5,000 to 10,000 people to read about ASDA listening to an ASDA customer.

A chance for 5,000 to 10,000 people to read about ASDA doing a nice thing for Izobel.

A 4 year old ASDA customer.

What a lovely idea!

Huge.

ASDA is huge.

Their annual sales are about 22 billion pounds.

The supermarket category in the UK is huge.

Annual sales for the category are about 200 billion pounds.

And it’s so competitive!

Small margins.

Gigantic volume.

Little things can make a big difference.

I don’t envy all of that hard work.

But I still don’t think it’s an excuse for brands not to listen.

Listen.

This is not about Izobel.

It’s about listening.

And a reminder to all brands.

Big and small.

That of course communication and connection is important.

Of course advertising and strategising is important.

But it’s not as important as listening.

Because ASDA not taking the time to listen to the story if one little girl.

Means that instead of (now about) 20,000 people reading about how ASDA have a great ear for their customers.

Instead of that.

About 20,000 people are reading about how they don’t.

There are very many things that you really should know in business.

If you’re in the business of running a business.

And one of the most important things that you really should know.

Is what you really shouldn’t bother trying to know.

Pay Someone. 

I am neither patient enough.

Nor accurate enough.

To do my own books and accounts.

So I pay someone to do it.

And if I tried to do plumbing or electrical things.

I would kill me.

Or the nearest person to me.

Or both of us.

So.

Again.

I pay someone to do it.

Dangerous. 

It is fucking dangerous for me to poke around with blue and brown wires.

But is just as dangerous.

Albeit a different kind of dangerous.

For me to bugger about with balancing books.

Because I’d be neglecting what I really should be doing.

And fucking up my records at the same time.

Know. 

Think about what you’re best at.

And have the intelligence to do that.

Then think about what you’re shit at.

And have the intelligence not to do that.

There are very many things that you really should know in business.

If you’re in the business of running a business.

And one of the most important things that you really should know.

Is what you really shouldn’t bother trying to know.