Burgers, Chillie Sauce and being real

I am quite selective about the amount of TV I watch these days, as most channels are blighted by the inevitable “repeat” syndrome. I did though make a point of watching BBC1’s “High Street Dreams” with Jo Malone last night.
The premise of the programme was that two small scale entrepreneurs were selected and given the opportunity to pitch their products to 2 major supermarket chains, with some marketing assistance along the way. The two selected were an Asian family who made a chillie sauce from their fathers 20 year old recipe, in their garden shed, and a young couple who had given up their jobs in the city to re-define the burger using high quality beef from Angus cattle on their family farm.

A few things struck me

– The starting point was that both the burgers and the chillie sauce were good quality products. But this as we know is only a start.
to focus on the “back story” behind the products, and particularly their authenticity and provenance. What was key was that in both cases they had a real story worth telling, rather than one than one crafted or spun around their product.

– One could be pernickety about how well this was approached by the so-called experts advising them. In both instances it seemed like the solution was to overlay what one might call the ‘Innocent template’ to the positioning of both brands – purity of ingredients + ‘we have a dream’. This has been done for many products, more often than not, with limited success. One hopes that over time their stories becomes more interesting and nuanced than those developed for a one hour TV programme.

– What seemed less authentic was the reaction of the supermarket buyers. From all the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from new brands trying to get supermarket distribution, they just aren’t that nice. And I wonder to what extent they saw this as an opportunity to show us that they were interested in things “local” and “small scale”, and that they were real nice people.

There has been much written about how the new transparent relationship between brands and consumers demands that the former become more real, and one of a couple of specific references I like is from recent post on the PSFK blog by Michael Margolis the author of Believe Me, a storytelling manifesto for “change-makers and innovators”. You can download it for free here.
Margolis points out that one of the keys to success for brands in the new world in which we find ourselves is for brands to find their (genuine) brand voice, and he gives some pointers for consideration:

“1. Brands are like people. They are a character for us to have a relationship with. Audiences project all sorts of expectations onto your brand, based on the various dimensions of that implied relationship. When your brand talks, what does it sound like?

2. Find your point of view. Many DIY Web 2.0 services promote the perspective that anybody can do it. They demystify the process and inspire folks to take the leap forward into their dreams. Every brand needs to find its ethos, its larger reason for being, and channel that passion into a message and voice. What’s your bigger story?

3. Reflect who you really are. Are you snarky? Nerdy? Provocative? Don’t try to be something you’re not. The more your voice reflects truth, the easier it will be to embody the brand story effortlessly across everything you do. Go back to your origins, and look at the back story. There’s a mythic thread that motivates you. Are you ready to tell it?

4. Focus on what your audience cares about. The best storytellers realize they are forever at the mercy of their audience. Because it’s the audience that decided whether they accept, reject, or choose to interpret your story as they see fit. So share content, ideas, and resources that others will greatly appreciate. Or just make people smile and laugh on a regular basis like Mailchimp with its hilarious mascot. The key is to establish a connection. The more your story can become their story, the less you need to sell anything. What do people respond to? Find out.

5. Create a conversational tone. DIY/Web 2.0 brands play with an irreverent yet accessible voice. And they talk in a direct first person narrative. The art of this is learning to talk to strangers like they are your Best Friend’s Friend. You’re creating an invitation into more familiar relationship. Think of how honest, real, and fun you are with closest friends? In this era of social media storytelling, brands need to socialize the same communication habits. Can you talk, like for real?

6. Nobody knows who to trust and what to believe. People do business with the people they know and respect. That’s why familiarity is key to a strong brand and business development platform. The more your audience feels that they “know” you, the lower the perceived risk in doing business with you. The goal is to make yourself more approachable, relatable, and accessible. How can you better reveal who you really are?”

The obvious (and, OK, much overused) example of this is Zappos. The company is very clear about how and why it uses Social Media. They believe they have a strategic advantage in their culture, and they use social media as a way to project that culture out into the world.

On the same theme, Brains on Fire have an interesting post on the subject of being real , the key phrase for me being a quote from Ira Glass of This American Life US fame.

“Everything is more compelling when you talk like a human being, when you talk like yourself.”

Going back to High Street Dreams, and trying to be less cynical, that may have been one of the factors that charmed and disarmed the Waitrose and Asda buyers…though I can’t stop myself thinking, it was not.

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5 Responses to Burgers, Chillie Sauce and being real

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