Most of us go through life accepting the ‘noise’ around us and only tune in when we need something. Or that is how I like to think it works.


In reality there are teams and departments of people working endlessly in marketing trying to figure out ways to cut through the clutter and connect with us, their audience.

This week I’ve been cramming for the launch of TinyOffice, another of the family businesses. We were all ready to show the world until I remember there was a book I was going to read before I helped launch another company.

The book is Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller. I have been recommended this book by so many of my admired internet stars that I promised myself I’d read it before launching TinyOffice. 

Boy, am I glad I did.

We, much like the majority of businesses where focusing on how awesome we think we are. It’s easy to come up with a whole list of reasons why you think someone should buy your product over the competition. We are faster, greener, smarter, nicer, more energy efficient; the list goes on.

What Building a Storybrand makes clear from the very beginning is that no one cares about how awesome you think you have. What people are really interested in is how you can help them be a better person; what can you offer that will help them survive and thrive. It’s not about you, it’s always about them.

In order to position yourself into your audience's life in a meaningful way, Donald Miller uses the 7 elements of great storytelling. You need to frame your business or product in such a way that people will want to engage with you. 

People can’t ignore a good story so we need to tell them one. The ingredients are:

A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in SUCCESS.

This framework is familiar to us because every great story follows it. Think of all the movies that use the same formula. Take Star Wars for example - Luke (character) must defeat the Empire (problem), he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi (guide) who tells him to trust the force (plan). He goes and defeats the empire (call to action) which means the rebellion isn’t crushed (failure) so avoids defeat thus making them victorious (success).

The aim is to create a story that centres around your customer as the lead character. They must be the hero, not us. It's our job to be the guide that helps them solve their problems and ultimately lead to success. 

We also need a villain - every great story has a villain.

Depending on what you are selling, you are solving a problem for your customer. Most companies focus on external problems - like a shoe company selling shoes to cover our feet for example. However most consumers buy solutions to internal problems.  If your company can take it one step further and solve a philosophical problem for the consumer as well then you’ve hit gold.

Think of Tesla Motor Cars

The Villain: Gas guzzling, inferior technology.

The External problem: I need a car.

The Internal problem: I want to be an early adopter of new technology.

The Philosophical: My choice of car ought to help save the environment.

My WIP for TinyOffice

The Villain: Distractions (family).

The External problem: I need a workspace.

The Internal problem: I want to appear professional in online meetings.

The Philosophical: I shouldn’t have to sacrifice professionalism because I’m working from home.

You start to see that none of these stories are bragging about how awesome your product features are.

A brilliant example of this and my last for the day is Apple. In 1983, Steve Jobs put a 9 page ad in the New York Times for the release of computer ‘Lisa’ - it talked about all of the technical features that only the super geeks understood. The computer bombed.

Jobs returned to Apple a few years later after starting Pixar and helped launch the next computer. The campaign this time consisted of two words ‘Think Different’.

Apple started to see their customer as the hero. 

"They did this by (1) identifying what their customers wanted (to be seen and heard), (2) defining their customers’ challenge (that people didn’t recognise their hidden genius), and (3) offering their customers a tool they could use to express themselves (computers and smartphones)."

Having storytelling at the heart of your brand is the ultimate competitive advantage. 

I’m SO glad I remembered this book. Going through this exercise is going to delay the TinyOffice launch by a few weeks but we only get to do this once so it's worth the wait!

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Video of the Week
"Building a Storybrand" by Donald Miller - Storytelling - BOOK SUMMARY
Podcast of the week
How I Built Resilience: Brian Chesky of Airbnb
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Bimbo: Typeface of the week by Francesco Canovaro

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