Don't tell stories, be a story worth telling.

Recently I had a post from 2015 become viral after someone reposted it, it was translated in several countries, friends shared it with me without realising it was mine and even some people edited it but the basic idea that millions of people saw was still true to the original post.

If you can pay $7.99 for Netflix, you are ad-free. If you can pay $10 for YouTube, you are ad-free. If you can pay $4.99 for Spotify, you are ad-free. If you can pay $8.99 for Twitch, you are ad-free. Major newspapers are already exploring ad-free digital subscriptions. Won’t be long until Facebook offers ad-free. People are willing to pay to stop advertising from interrupting them. The problem is the content though, not the medium… etc. etc.

After seeing this, many people started writing me saying “…but you can’t stop adverting, brands need to do that to survive.” They are right, brands need to advertise but what they can do instead of telling stories or selling stories is they can become a story worth telling.

Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Gary V. and all those marketing gurus are correct in what they say works, but they are incorrect in what they say doesn’t work. Example; Sinek says all the time “It is not the “what” that people buy, people buy the “why”. Of course, people buy the “what”. You probably bought butter this month, did you buy because of why the brand exists? Of course not.


Many people like to point to Apple as a case study for why Purpose marketing works but in 1997 Apple, HP and Dell each came out with their own purposes. So, why did Apple take off while the other two brands took a more traditional route?

Apple created what we at NYLON. call a Point of View. We believe religion, Gandhi, MLK, Steve Jobs all had a unique point of view we were drawn to and wanted to follow. This is how we build a Point of View: Purpose | Originality | Values ™

P = Purpose = creates brand love = builds loyalty = increases market share

O = Originality = fulfils unique needs & wants of people = generates new sales

V = Values = creates social currency = adds value to product = increases profit per unit

What differentiated Apple and why they became the story is because Steve Jobs on his return launched a product that had 5x the capacity of any other MP3. It was virtually the only info on the packaging, 5GB. It is what got people excited. They offered something no one else offered. This became the story. It is the same for Starbucks, it wasn’t their coffee or purpose that first made them the story. It was that you could sit there for hours and work with free wifi. Starbucks wanted to be your “Second Livingroom”. People told each other about it. Nowadays the younger generation don’t even know that story but because we feel good about the brand, they feel good about the brand.

This is basically their USB (unique selling benefit). People don’t mind seeing ads if it is offering a new benefit. They mind seeing thousands of ads in a day that are like 7up saying “Refreshingggggg”. We know it is refreshing, it is a carbonated drink. In the summer of 2015 in the USA over 30 brands had this “Refreshing..” message. It is just noise pollution and a waste of shareholders money.

Within 18 months or so, other MP3 players were offering 5GB. So, APPLE needed to either find a new benefit or invest more money to be louder than other MP3 players (This is typically the route many brands take today.). Apple took a different route, they started brand campaigns and used the point of sales to communicate the product.

Great brands have a purpose or value badge. Iconic brands have both. You don’t need a social cause/purpose as many brands have done, you need a reason for us to love your brand. For it to be believable, it must be connected to the product.

Apple already had a purpose that Steve Jobs talked about on his first week back to Apple “We believe people with passion can change the world for the better, that is why we do what we do.”

Brand purpose creates brand love which creates loyalty which contributes to higher market share.

Then came the values. Brand values either supports tribes or create symbols of that tribe. When brands sponsor music festivals, that festival should have something to do with the core target market. The other way to activate values is through a symbol. The white headphones everyone had on showed people that they believe in the Apple vision, they were part of that tribe. This adds value to the product. It is the reason people are willing to pay $100 for a Gucci T-shirt but a $30 T-shirt of the same material from Walmart would be too expensive. Values increase in profit per unit.

Picture the back of two guys that look identical, the only difference is one has white headphones and the other has black ones. If you had to bet which one was better looking, which one would you pick? Brand symbols communicate a lot about who we are without saying a word. We don’t understand how much we judge people by the brands they associate with. People are willing to pay more for the added benefit of associating themselves to a certain brand.

Storytelling tactics do not typically work on the POV strategy, it works on FEAR. It screams as loud as possible, buying up the most media space possible, trying to outspend and out scream the competition. People subconsciously think “I don’t want to look dumb by buying a bad product or making a bad decision. If it is popular, if they advertise a lot more then the other brand, it is a safe choice.” This is why when we see wines in a restaurant priced at $7, $14 and $22 a majority of the times people pick the $14 one because it is the safest choice. We are driven by survival and fear more than we think.

Using FEAR to drive your marketing works, but it is expensive, very expensive. The majority of brands still use this traditional way of advertising, even many brands that now have a “purpose”.

A lot has changed though, campaigns in the mind of consumers don’t exist anymore. Brands are always talking through social media, they are never turned off. What people feel about the brand is no longer created in a TV ad. It is created in the 100s of touch points people have with the brand, including TV, packaging your 1000 posts, your coupon. All of it has equal weight to a consumer about how they feel about you. Brands that are always using hot topics and switching their communication message seem like that have schizophrenia. They become really confusing to consumers as to how to feel about them.

You can correct this by becoming the story, through a POV™. Some might say, “This is Apple, try making a commodity a story worth talking about.” I think soap is as boring as it gets, who would ever get excited about soap and even that became the story instead of telling stories when I used this strategy for Dove. Link:

One day I will actually make that billboard in the image, till then, day by day we will help more brands make the world better and help them understand how it is a win-win for both to become the story. I will make sure marketing stops wasting stakeholders money and every penny invested is to impact the bottom line though being significant in people lives. That is not a story, it is a promise.

Love, Joah.

About NYLON.