Supply Chain: Where the brand story hangs

Supply Chain Excellence plays a major role in determining a brand's future

In this day and age, the tussle over gaining more customers is between storytelling brands rather than the ones that tend to be mute. In the era of the empowered consumer with a wide array of choice and fierce competition among brands, it is no longer rational nor possible for a brand to communicate merely the functional benefits and the quality of their products and services. Nowadays brands differentiate themselves in the eyes of customers by telling compelling stories.

Imagine that your customers are seated in a sophisticated theatre equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual technologies, looking at the curtain which hides the blank screen, as they are waiting for your brand’s story to begin. What will it have for them? How will it affect them? What impact will it have on their personal and social life?

Will they feel touched — satisfied, inspired, or unhappy and appalled?

Will they feel connected and respected or undervalued?

Your brand story speaks before you do.

Running a business without brand storytelling is like running aimlessly through a dark, quiet forest road with no signs of human life except for the occasional passing trucks and the winter howling wind. Soon or late you will fall prey to the wolves of the market.

I feel, therefore I buy. This means consumers follow their hearts more than their heads. How consumers feel about the brand and what sort of emotional connection they tend to establish with it, is the actual hidden strong driver to purchase. This hidden driver is effectively stimulated by good storytelling. Brands who embed purpose and storytelling in their branding and marketing activities, will observe more customer engagement. Those who neglect to do so, will be doomed to failure.

Brand story is simply the story behind a brand. It cohesively depicts everything from founding the brand to the purpose it serves and where it aspires to be in the future.

Brand storytelling then walks a few steps further; it deploys the art of storytelling to motivate and engage teams, persuade supply chain partners, attract customers, gain media exposure and maintain the existing investors and win new ones.

Storytelling in branding is not a case of telling stories for the sake of telling stories. It is to weave your message and purpose in such a way that customers are compelled to listen.

Not only does brand storytelling recount the past, present and future of a brand, it also unfolds the conflict between the brand and the hurdles that make its customers feel pain or discomfort in achieving their needs and dreams, and reports the failures experienced, and the victories tasted by the brand. These inspire emotional reactions from the customers making them feel intimately connected to their brand.

Let’s take a brief gander at what steps you should take for an effective brand storytelling:

We suppose you already do have a decent brand book which defines your target customers, your unique selling proposition (USP), the tone of voice and the visual style of your brand communications. You offer a high quality product or service that solves people’s problems or adds value to their lives.

A good brand storytelling consists of four Ps: Purpose, People, Place and Plot. Your brand story should have these four basic elements. The following hints, though not complete solutions, are a stimulus to a more lively approach to brand storytelling.

Define your purpose

The first step in brand storytelling is to define your brand purpose. Like when you are with your marriage partner, you need to be hand in hand from upstream to downstream of your supply chain and vice versa. Brand purpose is the moral reason for your brand to exist beyond making profit for your company. It portrays how you intend to change the world for the better. For example, if you’re in the fashion sector manufacturing women’s underwear; lingerie, bra and panties. Your purpose might be empowering women of any race and body type, helping them to accept their bodies and zero in on their physical and mental capabilities to create an overall positive body image experience.

Know your supply chain as the “place” where your brand story evolves

Supply chain on the other hand is where your brand story hangs. It is the sum of all your corporate behaviours and communications which affect your customers’ experiences with whatever product or service you offer. It is where your brand story emerges and expands, flows and reaches your customer. In actual fact, your supply chain the stage on which your actors appear one after the other in your story and serve your brand purpose.

Know your brand story’s people, i.e. know the actors of your supply chain

Your employees, your supply chain partners and your customers are the actors of your story. Your main task is to learn about your actors and their needs and concerns by observing how they interact with the world around your brand. Your supply chain partners and employees from upstream to downstream, are the heroes and heroines of your brand story in that they have truly come to realise your brand purpose.

For example, if you are in the fashion industry, you can bring into spotlight those underreported and unrecognised women and men who make the fabrics and raw materials of your products in farms and factories, and introduce them as the heroes and heroines of your story, that without them your brand will not be where it is today.

In order to be perceived and believed by the customers, you and the actors of your supply chain should live your brand story or in other words your brand purpose heartily. By the good performance of your supply chain actors, they guarantee the authenticity and credibility of your story till it reaches your customers. If an actor seems to be faking it, your story will seem fake. Try to respect, coach and unite your employees and supply chain partners around your brand purpose and your brand story.

Reassure your employees and supply chain partners that you’re there for them every step of the way. Be a visionary leader not a dictator boss. Dictatorship creates emotional detachment from your brand that is not conducive to authenticity and brand story.

The relationship between brand and its supply chain partners is like the one between director and actors on the stage which is one of the most sacred in brand storytelling. The director and actors are both, artists serving customers as an audience, and together they collaborate on a purpose which is bigger than either one of them. 

Define the plot and the conflict within your supply chain in your storytelling

A story happens because a conflict happens. In a brand story the conflict is between the pains and the gains. Pains are the shortage, the negative experiences, emotions and risks that the customer experiences in the process of getting the job done. Gains on the other hand are what you offer to your customer(s) as pain reliefs; the benefits which the customer expects and needs, and the purpose you pursue in making the world a better place. The characters (your supply chain partners) must act to confront those pains and offer the gains and that is where conflict is born. If there is nothing to overcome, there is no story. Defining customers’ pains and concerns and confronting them with gains (unique value proposition) in a story, creates and then drives the plot forward. Your job as a storyteller is to give an effective account of this conflict and the efforts of those heroes and heroines who fight to lessen the customers’ pains and concerns.

This article has been authored by: Alireza Khanderoo, UAE based business journalist and branded supply chain strategist

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