Design Attracts, Story Connects

Maybe you've heard this tagline: Story Matters Here. It’s day 2 of Private Brand Movement, a conference being held at the Sheraton Towers in Chicago. Although I have a lot on my mind, for example my youngest daughter is getting married this weekend, I was drawn in to the presentations and conversations. I’ve been to a few conferences sponsored by IIR USA and they always seem to land the best and brightest when it comes to speakers. This appears to be no exception.

The title summarizes nicely what I heard today. Each presentation seemed to reinforce it: Design Attracts, Story Connects. Said another way, excellent design is very, very necessary… but not really sufficient. Story, the story of your brand, connects consumers… hopefully sufficient enough to bring emotion to an otherwise dull, uninspiring and likely price-driven transaction.

Harry Pearce, Partner at Pentagram, had three words (principles, really) to say it in his own way: Truth, Clarity and Emotion drive excellent design. Then he gave examples of how design became the way to tell a new private brand story to consumers at three different retailers: Halfords, The Cooperative and Budgens. And each of these saw dramatic increases in their results.

Carla Cooper, CEO at Damon Worldwide had three different (but sort of similar) words to build timeless brands: Simple, Better, Different. She then led us through similar success stories in her experience working on iconic brands such as Coca Cola and Kellogg’s. CPG’s like these, she says, have something many private brands lack: a brand building mentality fully focused on the consumer (i.e., telling the brand story).

Maybe you heard a similar theme if you sat in on Koen de Jong’s presentation that spoke of the private brand advantage over CPG’s in innovating and time to market. Or perhaps you heard Carol Best of Anthem explain how private brands need to go from emulating to innovating. One of my favorites of the afternoon was Jeff Fagel, Director of Brand Development at Sears Holdings, explain Kmart’s journey to meet three challenges: 1) How to get people to pay attention; 2) How to get people to care; and 3) How to get people to act. They’ve focused on design (did you know Kmart has a design team of over 250 people in Soho and Chicago?) for sure. But they also spent an enormous amount of time and energy recreating and retelling the story of the Kmart brand.

Through these presentations and the stories behind them, the private brand challenge became clearer today than it was before the conference began. It’s not only about creating design that attracts, it’s also about creating content that has emotion and connects. Yes, design attracts and therefore needs to be excellent. But story communicates emotionally and therefore connects. If you’re a private brand, or any brand really, what’s your story? I’m headed back to focus on preparations for my daughter’s wedding this weekend. Share your story by commenting or send me an email. If you don’t have my email address, go to my website and connect with me there. I really want to hear your story. Story matters. It’s what enables us to connect.

Larry McManis, President & CEO
ThinkWay Strategies

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