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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Creation Stories

Once upon a time.... These are the magic words of storytelling that capture the beginnings of a story, how the story came to be, in other words -- the creation story. Creation stories capture the imagination and engage the emotions. It's the 'what's your story?' of a brand or retail experience.

Patrick Hanlon, author of "Primal Branding" [see Recommended Reading/Business & Marketing Trends], describes in the July/August 2006 issue of Advertising Age's Point in an article titled "The Code of a Brand Community" the 7 elements necessary to building a primal brand. The first element is a creation story.

Hanlon explains in the article that a primal brand is one that is so powerful that it creates brand zealots. Think of the passion that Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and New York City have created in people. According to Hanlon, primal branding is necessary because of the competitive choices that companies face to succeed in today's world: "Companies today have two choices. They can be the low-cost provider (which almost no American company can achieve faced with foreign competition) or they can create sustained differentiation by surrounding themselves with a community of enthusiasts who flock to the brand and stick to it no matter what. The result is a powerful brand community that resonates outward and becomes a part of the culture at large. " He provides other fabulous examples of primal brands [e.g., the Rolling Stones, the World Cup, the Marines...] at his blog,Thinktopia.

Brand creation stories surround us. Some are made more explicit than others. La-Z-Boy, for example, has made a point to include its creation story not only on its website, but also visually within its La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery stores. Its story captures a rich heritage and everyone buying a La-Z-Boy product be it a recliner or a stationary piece of furniture purchases some of that history. So why not explicitly share it with consumers?

Here is the Wear-Dated creation story - going back to a very different retail world in New York City:

In 1962, the Arnold Constable Department Store in New York City was going out of business. The store had a long and proud history - Eleanor Roosevelt had been one of the many rich and famous who bought her clothes there.

The store sold men's shirts with an interesting label in the collar area: if the shirt wore out before the date stamped on the label, a customer could return it and receive a full refund. The store referred to the label as its "wear-dated" guarantee. Bob Born, from Chemstrand [Monsanto's/Solutia's first wholly owned subsidiary],liked the label idea and bought the rights to it.

Thus began the Wear-Dated franchise. From apparel, it was expanded to include upholstery fabrics and carpet. Today, it is a strong carpet fiber brand known for durability.

You have a creation story. How do you share that with your customers?

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