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Tony Rogers and Kurt Kane on Courage and Storytelling

Two of my favorite marketers recently did an episode of the CMO Moves podcast together. Among other things, they do a great job of describing the strategic value of story. Kurt Kane recently moved from CMO to President at Wendy’s, and Tony Rogers went from CMO at Walmart to Chief Member Officer for Sam’s Club.

Early in the conversation, Tony describes Wendy’s approach as courageous because, he says, “It feels like you guys have decided on a personality for the brand and you really stick to it.” He asks if that is the key to all the earned media that Wendy’s has been enjoying.

Kurt responds that it all comes back to storytelling. He points out that being really direct and behaving as a challenger to the QSR category has been an authentic part of the Wendy’s story going back at least as far as the iconic “Where’s the beef?” commercial in 1984. He explains how understanding that story dynamic, and using it to embrace the conflict inherent in the brand, gives them the confidence to double down on the story, especially in social media.

Here’s the link to the podcast.

Both Tony and Kurt have been through Character Camp a number of times over the past 14 years. Each time I go through the story framework process with them, I get new perspective on ways that effective and experienced leaders can leverage the stories of their brands.

I hope you find their conversation as interesting as I did.

“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