Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research's weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
Does every brand actually have a story? My immediate answer would be "Yes!" But a recent discussion on Retail Paradox around brand storytelling led to a debate on whether retailer brands known only for low price or retailers that don't focus on their own brand at all (but rather focus on the major product brands they sell) actually have a story.
I still maintain every brand has an opportunity to tell a story. But in order for that story to be accepted by consumers, the brand needs to do two simple things:
1) Stand for something.
This is usually some kind of value proposition that is wrapped up in the concept of "brand." Some examples (these are my perspectives as a shopper/industry observer):
If you stand for something, you essentially have the "setting" for your story. Once you stand for something, you need to...
2) Prove it.
It's one thing to stand for something; it's another thing entirely to devote resources and time to supporting it. For example, let's say I was a hypothetical very large, efficient retailer building my brand on the idea of lowest price. The story I would want to tell is, perhaps, "We help you afford the things you need."
But in order to tell a genuine story, that philosophy would have to be embraced at all levels. That means it would be very difficult to get away with promoting "affordability" when, say, a portion of my workforce received state welfare benefits. Or, say, my negotiating power with suppliers forced some to go under.
My "affordability" claims could be bolstered by offering low cost health care clinics and other typically expensive services in my stores — such as vision, hearing, and maybe even dental services — beyond the basics of food, clothing and general merchandise. Clinics on budgeting and financial planning, and maybe even day care services, could be explored.
In other words, I would need to demonstrate that I care about affordability to the point where my company lives it top to bottom, and that my company needs to represent affordable living. And that I care whether my customers are achieving that goal — that I'm taking steps to help my customers achieve that goal.
So, yes, every brand can tell a story. But only if they're willing to do what it takes to mean it and to live it. Especially in this connected era of customer control and digital media, a sense of sincerity and authenticity is vital to being able to tell a brand story. It's so vital, it's a prerequisite.
How well do most retailers tell a story?