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A brand narrative can potentially increase product value by over 20X.
Significantobjects.com was a study done to quantify the impact of a story on a brand's bottom line.
Researchers bought thrift store items at $1.25 per piece.
They then fabricated stories for each of them.
Check out this monster toy:
Story: "Long ago, Flakumas, a stegosaurus, lay with Bardouf, a basset hound, and they begat Glumphakel, a bulbous-beaked baby, their first and only child."
These thrift store items sold on eBay for a total of $8,000.
Your brand narrative is everything from copy to customer service.
The study was a simple exercise in showing what a little copy and a cute thumbnail can do for an insignificant item. Fortunately, eCommerce entrepreneurs have many more tools to compose a compelling brand narrative - website design, an About page, merchandise, blog content, and press are just some of them.
Whichever tools you employ, you have to project a consistent, coherent, and compelling personality to your visitors. In this post, we feature 8 successful eCommerce brands and the ways they distinguished themselves in established categories.
1. Beardbrand - the Beardsmen’s uprising
You could sell beard products, or you could assemble a beardsmen’s revolution.
Beardbrand wrote an epic and humorous (if melodramatic) tale about the underserved community of beardsmen. Founder Eric Bandholz starts with how he came out as a beardman, to become an activist of sorts "to unite beardsmen and build a community".
From its brand story alone, you can really tell Bandholz is a frustrated and dedicated beardsman. Some choice quotes:
- "The shaving fad is ending now, and Beardbrand will be leading the charge."
- "We were tired of beards being left to kitschy, cheap products."
- "There is negative terminology used towards beardsmen that still lingers in our culture. For instance, the term "clean-shaven" should be "completely-shaven" or "beardless."
- "We can't do this alone, and we need you to help us change society. Connect with us by joining the mailing list below, and most importantly - beard on!" (Nice link to their call to action!)
2. Bevel - grooming for people of color
“That entire second-class citizen experience needs to go.”
Tristan Walker founded Bevel, a five-part shaving kit for men with coarse hair, but like Bandholz, he has a larger, defined mission to serve a neglected community.
Bevel's site itself doesn’t use Bandholz's fighting words, but Walker is candid with the press about his experience as a black man looking for grooming products:
“I’m in aisle 14, the ethnic aisle — it’s not even really an aisle, it’s a shelf — then I have to reach to the bottom of that shelf for a package that’s dirty, and then there’s a photo of a 65-year-old bald black guy with a towel on drinking a Cognac. And they assumed I should buy that product. That entire second-class citizen experience needs to go, especially considering how much money we spend on that stuff, how culturally influential we are, and, along with Latinos and Asians, we’re going to be the majority of the country in the next 20 or 30 years.” (Source: pandodaily)
It’s not a shaving system - it's a first-class experience for customers who are used to experiencing otherwise.
3. Warby Parker - rebels against eyewear giants
Warby Parker couldn’t just be another “affordable eyewear” line - it's been done, with little success. Co-founder Blumenthal commented that the team took more than a year and a half to figure out exactly what they wanted to be - a fashion brand with a social mission to revolutionize eyewear.
Blumenthal emphasized that their brand story was an essential part of their success:
“Slick designs is just one component. Fifty percent of people come from word-of-mouth. They’re telling their friends about the service because of their connection to it.”
Warby Parker doesn’t simply sell a price point or sleek eyewear. Warby Parker shares a frustration and solidarity with its customers, that they’ve never tasted from the eyewear incumbents.
Read next: Warby Parker marketing strategy
4. Bellroy - pioneers of minimalist travel
The brand is best known for its tagline “slim your wallet”. But Bellroy is clearly more than minimalist wallets - they position themselves as the scientists of lean travel.
Bellroy’s blog content demonstrates that they’ve agonized over bulkiness, and devised solutions for all of us - whether or not we’ve even heard about their product. In this travel guide, they let you in on some lesser-known boarding tips, and walk you through a compact suitcase.
Then, and only at the end, they suggest you use a Bellroy if you’d like to seriously commit to traveling smart. If there’s any hard sell coming from Bellroy, it’s not a wallet - just a conviction in living efficiently.
5. Wildfang - a family of androgynous misfits
Wildfang was born out of an experience many androgynous (“andro”) women can relate to. Co-founders Julia Parsley and Emma McIlroy recount their story:
“We were shopping one day in Nike’s men’s department and I picked up a T-shirt with a provocative picture of Kate Moss on the front. And Julia picked up a men’s blazer with patches on the elbows. She saw me take a look at it and try to figure out if I could fit in it and she said, ‘Why don’t they make this shit for us?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good question, I don’t know.’”
Wildfang celebrates an underserved community of women that they call “family”. And this “family” includes only some of the coolest androgynous women in pop culture - Ellen Page, Janelle Monae, Katherine Moennig, Tegan, and Sara Quin, Megan Rapinoe, and the co-founders themselves.
6. MailChimp - monkey swag made an impression in a boring field
With a healthy dose of mischief, MailChimp has drawn attention to a product category not exactly known for anything. The brand’s image is a monkey in a mailer outfit because co-founder Chestnut would tell customers, "You've got a business to run; don't code stuff that you could hire a monkey to do."
In line with its “mail monkey” personality, Mailchimp incorporated mischief into its brand, obsessing over the little things that delight customers. It made its customers stuffed monkeys, knitted caps for both people and cats, and this game “fast fingers”, which you played after sending out your campaign and high-fiving a monkey paw.
“We think of them as gifts. There’s no way to directly measure the impact of giving away shirts and hats, and that’s OK with us. We go over the top to make people feel special. We take the quality of our merch really seriously.” - Marketing Director Mark DiCristina
7. Goldieblox - building a generation of girl engineers
This is not another girls’ Lego. This is a movement to change the gender ratio in engineering, by showing girls and their parents that engineers can come in the form of princesses, too.
Their viral ad aired at the Superbowl was a perfect summary of what Goldieblox is about - girls are bored and tired of their options, so they take their “girl toys”, disrupt a beauty pageant, and build a rocket together to fly their girl toys to the moon.
The toy itself is in the video - but only as a part of a larger conversation about doing justice by girls, their options, and our expectations. “Buy Goldieblox, because your daughter is so much more than a princess” - who can disagree with that?
Read next: Goldieblox's referral program
Your brand needs to be a part of a broader narrative.
We are all storytellers, whether we realize it or not. Everything we do, everything we buy, everything we consume (and everything we don't!) ends up becoming a part of the stories we tell ourselves. This is who we are, this is what we believe in, this is the kind of person I am, this is the cause that I stand for.
If you want your brand to really stick, you'll need to clearly define what its role is in the broader scheme of things.
How will you change your customer's life?