Antony glanced up with a questioning look that shone so innocently on his face.
Even with the language barrier between us, I understood his question. “Can I turn the page yet?” he asked with raised eyebrows that highlighted the intelligence in his eyes. This child I held in my arms, this boy I read a story to, seemed so full of love and so void of hatred. It was a hard reality to come to grips with, considering how much hurt and pain he had experienced; much of his short life had involved living in the streets. His story and those like his are what drove me to come to the Philippines in the first place. It is why I partnered with an organization to help raise funds for orphanages like the one Antony is in.
Antony’s story is one in a million of those born into poverty, abuse, trafficking, and starvation… and yet it is his story that can compel us to move and take action. Stories are the connection between us and the subject. They show a path between a listener’s own experiences, morals, and opinions to that of the story’s.
Each of us has a drive for our personal growth and enrichment; your company should, too! Why are you in business? What are you bringing to the world to make it a better place? Why is your product, your social agenda, or your viewpoint something to take note of? Any remotely successful company has asked these questions in one form or another, but not all of them have created a credo around the answers.
In today’s age, customers aren’t interested in being a consumer; they are interested in being a part of a community. They are interested in purchasing the products and services they use on the premise and belief they are taking a stand and making a statement with each purchase. Imagine a customer who isn’t a consumer, but a believer in your cause. Imagine the effect they could have vying for a common interest alongside you and with your company’s help. Your customers expect more from you than just your product; they require a purpose to align themselves with.
This is where the power of a story, your story, can blur the gap between company and consumer. Not only can it affect your customer for the better and radically change the shape of how your company operates, but your story could help bring a positive change to the outlook of your customers. You could stand for a common cause and be the support a community needs to help change the world around them and inside themselves.
Human beings share stories, to remind each other of who they are and how they should act. These tales are deeply engrained in our DNA, and no matter when or where you were born, certain patterns of stories will influence you enormously.
One very important point surrounding your story is this– If you create a story around your company, you must live that story. When British Petroleum decided to change their image, they rebranded themselves as the green oil company. They committed to researching renewable energy and reducing emissions. BP won over the public, even winning green initiative awards and taking the lead from their competitor, Exxon. BP’s successful story branding came to a tragic end with back-to-back oil spills in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. While BP had been talking green and sustainability, they had cut costs by firing hundreds of employees, many of whom were in charge of safety and risk management. They'd also been charged with over 700 safety and environmental violations (compared to Exxon’s one violation) while continuing to expand their oil wells and drilling efforts.
Iconic stories create iconic expectations, and in our new era of profound transparency, brands must actually live out the stories they tell and apply the moral of their story, not just to their audiences, but to themselves. The pressure to live up to your story can also be seen as a transformational positive force.
Your company, your brand, and your product are all important to you for a reason; they have a story behind their existence and people they have influenced. Your customers are looking for that reason to be loyal, and they are looking for a common story to build a community around. Remember, a story can drive a person to action, connect them to the message, and create a memory they would be willing to share; facts alone rarely accomplish this.
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