The received wisdom du jour in the marketing community is the power of story-telling. I’ve been to numerous conferences, seen TED talks, and been repeatedly reminded over the past year that a brand must have an authentic story, that there must be a narrative arc, and that without a story, a brand is doomed.
As a practical matter, though, I have found that when you’re in the trenches of creating an ad campaign or new brand collateral, story-telling can just get in the way. Too many nuances, too much explaining – no one has the time or interest to sit still for some of this stuff unless they are employed by the brand.
At the cold face, what matters more than anything is clarity and simplicity.
My litmus test? If you cannot describe a luxury brand’s personality in one word, then it’s not strong enough.
Versace = Sex
Dior = Elegance
Fendi = Insouciance
Louis Vuitton = Exploration
On the other hand, what one word could you use to describe these brands:
Bally? Ferragamo? Montblanc? Escada? You see what I mean?
Throughout my career working around luxury brands, I’ve spent weeks with teams debating what the “one word” should be. We talk about the brand’s back story, its core consumers, its target audience, what music best represents it, if it was an animal what it would be, what images capture its essence, what colors best convey it. By the end, we had not only a brand story, we had a feature film with the accompanying score.
However, if at the end of this process we couldn’t wrestle one word to the ground that captured everything we were trying to communicate about the brand, it was an accurate predictor of future sales for that brand – and it meant that we had a real problem.
Story-telling matters. But at the end of the day, a great luxury brand needs just one word.