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Is Your Business Doing Better than Your Brand?

A couple of months ago, we were preparing for Character Camp on one of the world’s most visible brands. One of the executives responsible for briefing us summarized the problem in a very interesting way. He said, “The situation here is that for fiveyears the business has been doing better than the brand.”

Over the preceding five years the company had cleaned up its operations, strengthened its product offerings and significantly improved its advertising. These efforts were driving traffic and growing revenue, but they were not building the kind of relationship between the brand and its audience that feels authentic and generates loyalty. In the absence of such arelationship, business success seems fragile.

People frequently ask me how to know when it’s time to bring abrand to Character Camp. I think that answering this question—is our business doing better than your brand?—might provide helpful insights. If the business is doing well, then presumably you have the competitive situation figured out (the war metaphor). And you probably also have good insight into your consumer (the science metaphor). But unless you have also looked at your brand through the lens of story, it is difficult to make progress in building the kind relationship that lowers your selling costs and raises your pricing leverage in a sustainable way.

This is, of course, just a theory. It would be really helpful to know if it rings true for you with regard to a brand that you are currently responsible for or one that you have managed in the past.

I would love to hear what you think.

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Since articulating our story framework, Gallo has had its best year. We’re up 10% and we’re outpacing the category. From a creative standpoint it’s been great because we’re all in alignment. Now that we have the articulation of our story, our social media, our partnerships, our programs, our packaging—it all makes sense.”

—Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer, E&J Gallo Winery