Clark’s Brand Audit – Great Brand Story or Franken-brand?

Clark’s Brand Audit – Great Brand Story or Franken-brand?

This is the first in a series of Brand Exploration articles focused on unpacking a brand’s essence and how customers experience their brand in various formats.

Have you ever experienced a love for a brand and you didn’t know why?  The phenomenon of brand love can be observed in the public’s penchant for loyalty to brands like Starbucks, Nike, and Apple.  We are willing to sacrifice standing in long lines and paying our hard-earned money to have the latest, add to our collection, or get our morning fix.  We have an emotional connection or desire to purchase that goes well beyond a utilitarian need and demonstrates a demand that is more psychological in nature.  As a brand, this is the ideal state – where a customer loves your brand to the point of loyalty, it is part of his or her identity and or aspiration well before the purchase is even made.

Simply put, by telling our customers WHO WE ARE, it tells them WHO THEY ARE.

But when we are not clear on WHO we are, then our customers are confused, our brand does not have that instant recognition, emotional connection, and will most likely struggle with achieving desired profits.

To illustrate these points let’s look at Clark’s shoes.  Clark’s is an iconic shoe manufacturer that was founded in 1825. That’s a long time ago!   Headquartered in Britain, it is probably one of the most iconic and famous boot designs in all of America and the world.

For the longest time, I wanted a pair of the desert boots.  With a simple aesthetic, what some would describe as quite plain or beige, I could not understand why I had this strong liking for the khaki colored boot.  After giving it some thought, I realized the desire goes back to a memory and time in my life about 10 years ago and my trip to Africa.  At the time, all the Safari guides were wearing the suede version of the style. The Clark’s desert boot was something that I coveted and always wanted because they symbolize the ultimate in living an adventurous lifestyle.  In my mind at the time, it didn’t get much riskier or authentically cool than being a Safari Guide in Africa (think Robert Redford in out of Africa).

So, I decided I was going to go ahead and purchase a pair of Clark’s. I ventured into the store at my local mall in Colorado and what follows is my experience:

First of all, as soon as I walk in I am not even sure I am even in a Clark’s store because it doesn’t look or feel like an adventure company inside the store at all.  There are images of Clark’s shoes displayed, but beyond that it could have been any store – The Walking Company, for example, or any other comfort shoe store.  I was completely flabbergasted by the experience (or lack thereof).  After my visit, the image of who Clark’s is as a brand completely changed and really burst my bubble of Clark’s being this cool, iconic, adventurous brand.  After the store visit, I wasn’t sure if they were for me after all.

What we always like to say here at WILDSTORY is that as a brand we like to tell the world who we are, so our customers know who they are and as I experienced this brand at the retail destination, I questioned my purchase decision and devalued the brand in my heart and mind.   

Later I returned to the store, purchased a pair of boots, and snapped some photos of the store entrance with the window advertisements containing the Clark’s branding and the tagline “The World is Ours to Explore”, which I found interesting.  So, there is a sense that this is an explorer brand, and that maybe they are attempting to portray a sense of transporting them to an idealized location. But the problem with this is that the imagery in the store – and even the online store – does not line up with this same theme.

For instance, on the homepage of the website the models are wearing silk and Burberry and performing acrobatic art with silk cloths.  There is also a tie in with the Black Panther movie which seems to be way off brand.   So, I’m like thinking “what?”, I just don’t know who Clark’s is.

We also like to say, “a confused customer never buys.”  So, I’m not sure who this brand is & what they are all about.   I’m getting really confused which is not a positive experience as a customer.

I arrive home and I’m excited to wear my Clark’s because they’re still a simple cool, classic boot which I am excited about.  As I unwrap the box, I find there is this little folded piece of paper that says “The Story Unfolds” at the very bottom of the box.  As I open it up I am thinking “Wow, what a cool artifact”- this old yellowed paper feels like an old treasure map or something you would find while excavating an archaeological site.

On one side, there is some cool artwork and on the back there is the original letter from the founder of Clark’s where he describes the origin of the desert boot concept.   He says, “While I was still in Burma on the staff of a West African Brigade I was asked to think of any useful shoes which might have origins in the area.”  So instantly I’m able to insert myself into this story and for the first time this brand feels authentic.  I’m able to connect and put myself in this story and begin to think of this explorer who was in Burma in the West African Brigade and the exciting adventures that go along with it.  By hearing the backstory and origin of the brand, I am finding my desire for the brand is getting renewed.

If you have followed me at all on social media or been to any of my speaking events, you know that at WILDSTORY we talk a lot about how you do something as being a critical part of your story.

The WILDSTORY process starts with the backstory – the origin of your business.  The backstory has different relevance weights in terms of how much it’s going to play into your brand story.  Brands really need to harness what made them great to compete in today’s marketplace.  For Clark’s, the brand’s essence is about innovation and originality but first and foremost the backstory and core value is about being an adventure brand.  

Based on this, here is my recommendation to Clark’s to tell a more cohesive brand story

  1. The brand would benefit greatly from aligning with an explorer/adventure lifestyle –  not just in the marketing materials and content –  but also sponsoring events and collaborating with companies that stand for adventure.
  2. Clark’s should further instill their beliefs about adventure by becoming a patron of adventure, publishing adventure type articles and being a publishing house of sorts through aligning with adventure TV shows as well as online & offline content.
  3. They could really harness this idea of innovation originality by aligning their beliefs about adventure about protecting the global environment with their brand.  Patagonia does an excellent job of this, really wearing their values on their sleeve so to speak and making a strong statement about their beliefs and values.

In this case of Clark’s you can see how they inserted their process into their story and thus into the brand experience itself with the artifact found inside the shoe box.  They get soul to soul in this letter and start breaking down the original concept –  from the materials to the inventor himself –  Nathan Clark.  So, we are finding that this brand is all about being an original – yet when you go to their retail experience, they’re all about following.  This is causing a disconnect in the brand identity because the brand essence is lost in their store and on their website.  However, when I purchased the shoe I really enjoyed experiencing the purity of the brand and opening the box for the first time – smelling the leather, unfolding the old artifact and experiencing the story of the inventor and his explorations in the Africa Brigade.

I found that Clark’s is an explorer type brand after all, it is just that they have lost their essence on the website and at the retail destination.

From a Brand Story perspective, what I would say to this incongruence is that everything we experience about this brand should take us to a faraway place.

Instead, right now Clark’s is a bit of a what I call a “Franken Brand”. Clark’s has a great backstory, product, and process but they don’t have a consistent expression of the story and instead try to appeal to too many audiences.  Clark’s has a real opportunity to keep this brand going and revive it. But unfortunately, right now they are missing the mark.  I would urge them that the secret is all right here in this artifact and they are a prime candidate of a brand that needs to be taken through the WILDSTORY process.

Another brand that I will talk about later that does this well is Warby Parker.   Stay tuned for my exploration and brand analysis of this famous eyewear brand.  If there are any brands that you would like me to discuss or if you have or any questions around brand storytelling please leave your comments below.

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The Path to Happiness – Stay Grounded Podcast

The Path to Happiness – Stay Grounded Podcast

Recently I was able to sit down with an incredible entrepreneur and owner of JavaPresse Coffee, Raj Jana, for his “Stay Grounded” Podcast. What I loved most was that we didn’t discuss the normal story stuff.

Raj’s podcast is focussed on happiness and what it takes to be happy. I would never claim to be an expert when it comes to happiness. Heck, I struggle most days to remember that I am happy. But this interview reminded me of what does make me happy and what I do to regain alignment with happiness.

I’m not sure of the title “Walking Away from Millions” as I’m not claiming I ever walked away from millions but hey, the podcast has to sell tickets — and everything else is spot on.

I do share my story in a way that I haven’t before and some of the things I do in my morning routine as well as what I do in the pursuit of happiness.

 

The Main Reason Stories Fall Flat … and What You Can Do About It

The Main Reason Stories Fall Flat … and What You Can Do About It

Kevin Rogers is a guy that gets Story. As a stand-up comic turned copywriter, he has worked with some of the most successful marketers in the world and now focuses his efforts on connecting business owners with copywriters through his company Copy Chief.

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Kevin on his Podcast The Truth About Marketing where we exchanged notes about our separate Hollywood journeys, as well as going deep on some story writing and storytelling tactics. We start sharing about my time as a story editor in Hollywood with Disney and Oliver Stone.

While this may sound like a dream job with endless perks, keep in mind the biggest moment up until that time was when they gave me an LL Bean tote bag to carry around the 20 scripts I had to read every week before defending the most production-worthy stories to Oliver Stone’s team.

My biggest takeaway during that time is that the best stories aren’t always the ones that are most technically accurate regarding the grammar and pros, but the stories with the best ideas that lay underneath.

Before my time defending scripts to Oliver Stone, I thought the best movies were identified by how big the explosions were and how dramatic the actual story was. But in actuality, the more specific the story is, the more universal it becomes. When it comes to story, many people are afraid to be specific because they want to relate to as many people as possible. But in effect, this dilutes the story and makes it impactful to no one. As the saying goes, you can’t be everything to everybody.

In that vein, the power of Story comes from the specificity of the story, and that’s where the universality comes from as well.  We cover the topic of specificity and more on this episode. As well as…

  • The ONE thing likely missing from your tale that’s killing your connection with your ideal customer.
  • The single biggest question you absolutely must answer before you even think about writing your story… and it’s got nothing to do with your “hook” or “writing chops.”
  • The “something’s gotta happen” tactic to catapulting your story from “dull n’ dreary” to rolicking tale your audience never forgets —even if you’ve never told a story before.
  • Why I bolted from the Hollywood life despite working with big time players… and the ONE thing I wish I did different. (If you’re feeling “out of place” at your current gig… you’ll want to hear this.)
  • The “locksmith” trick to getting your client so invested in your work they’ll even fight for you when someone wants to change it… even if you barely know your client right now.

Listen to Episode 131: Marc Gutman - Better Storytelling..

https://copychief.com/ep-131-marc-gutman/

Just like the Hollywood story editor with 20 scripts to read through weekly, your story has many filters to get through before grabbing the attention of your customer.  The market is fragmented and it is harder than ever to resonate with a reader across the numerous mediums, platforms, and devices now at our fingertips.

I would love to learn more about your Story and help you make it amazing as well as accomplish the goals that you have in mind.  There is no bad story, but learning to tell it with authenticity and in a way that captivates your audience is where the magic happens.

Let’s set up a time to chat!

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Your Business…The Hero?

Your Business…The Hero?

I just had the chance to get interviewed on the Digital Agency Show Podcast by my good friend Brent Weaver and talk about two of my favorite things – adventure & storytelling.

 

My philosophy has always been to get in the middle of where you want to be and then figure it out.  Through persistence and hustle delivering films on the Disney lot, I eventually found my way to my dream job, working for Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone.

As a story editor, I experienced a crash course on story and I learned an important lesson on authenticity.  A big lesson was learned during the success of the movie American Pie (written by a classmate of mine) and I couldn’t understand how a “cheesy movie” had become the darling of Hollywood when I was striving to write what I thought was powerful and meaningful work.  But what I realized was, the storyteller was writing about what he knew, his life experiences and this created a clear path to success. **So, the movie isn’t “cheesy”, it’s authentic and universal. Much cooler than my so called “important topics”.

If you remember, Oliver Stone became famous for his amazing movie, Platoon. Platoon is based on his own personal experience serving the military in Vietnam.

Translating this to business we are in an incredible time.  People, your customers and prospects can easily find the ideal partner for whatever problem they may have. “Ideal” immediately implies you can do the job, but going deeper than that it means we can find people to work with that are like us. That have the same values. That have a story that supports our needs. No longer do we just have to work with the company that has the biggest ad budget or best name recognition. We are in the age of niche and specialization. We are in the age of personalization.  Our customers and prospects crave this connection. They expect it.  To meet their expectations, we need to have a true and authentic story.  Universally, we all want to work with real people who can be bigger than themselves and together we can create a story that is bigger than the sum of the parts.

I love to serve entrepreneurs who are stuck by showing them the power of story to transform their business. If you’ve ever wanted to understand the art of storytelling and how it affects your business you’ll want to check out this episode.  I give some practical tips on how to get started or improve your story, brand, and your business.

Here’s what we cover in this episode.

  • What it means to “write what you know” and why it’s so important to be specific when describing your life experience.
  • Thoughts on how to create an ongoing relationship with people to get them coming back again and again.
  • Where a story should show up in your business and how you can leverage the power of storytelling in your marketing and sales.
  • The form (not formula) that you can use to put your story together.
  • Tips on connecting with the right audience.
  • Why journaling from your customer’s point of view can be an enlightening exercise.
  • The importance of developing a “move to action” as the first step toward creating your story.

I’d love to learn your story and help you get new clients by telling it.  

Let’s set up a time to chat!

 

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What Do Your Business, Your Employees, and Your Customers Believe In? – Business Belief Statement

What Do Your Business, Your Employees, and Your Customers Believe In? – Business Belief Statement

“Are you beige or are you someone or a company I can some of myself in? Is this for me?”

 

That is the first, subconscious question your customers and prospects are trying to answer in the moment it takes to draw in a breath.  It’s the question we all try to answer for just about everything in our lives.

The simple fact is that people across this globe want something to believe in. Brett Michaels was right about that for sure! Look at our thirst for sports in this country. We want, no we need to believe in something. The Detroit Lions (I’m afflicted), the UM Wolverines, and whatever your favorite team is. We need to be in a stadium of 70,000 other people who believe in what we believe. It inherently feels right — because it’s a basic human need.

Look at our recent political climate. No matter what your belief system you’ve most likely taken a side and will fight vehemently for your point of view.  The list goes on an on.

 

Genetically as human beings we need to believe. We need to cherish, watch, love, and hope whatever it is we believe in.

If this is such a dominant force in our genetic make up, doesn’t it make sense that this should apply to our businesses, products, and services too? Doesn’t it make sense that our customers and prospects want to believe in us? Who we are? What we stand for? So they can see some of themselves in us, our products, and services and make the decision to join our tribe. To vote for our mutual beliefs with their budget? With their precious dollars?

In our WILDSTORY intensive we have a module called Plant Your Flag and what Plant Your Flag is all about is really declaring who you are and who you aren’t  – as both a company and a leader.  A  great way to do this is to write and record a belief statement.

It’s a very simple exercise. Start with the prompt “I believe…”, The idea is to really make a stand, let us know who you are and who you aren’t.  Let us know who you are fighting for and who you are fighting against.

In our previous manifesto post, we talked about how if you want to stand for something you can’t stand for everything.

The best way to build a story that matters, a story that spreads and leaves an impact that your customers remember is to commit to this simple but so difficult trade off. The notion that anyone can be our customer and we will get you whatever you want is always a road to nowhere. No customers, no growth, no business.

So, the trick is to start writing out what you believe.  You can even use your iPhone, hit record, and just start riffing. Inevitably what’s going to happen is the more and more you say  “I believe…” the more you’re going to scratch past the surface, get deeper and really find out what you do stand for. Don’t edit yourself. Let it fly unfiltered.  You can always go back and edit the recording.

The way I did mine was to write first, then read and record via quicktime and then imported it into Garage Band to lay some music on it.

You can post the recording to your employees and this Belief Statement works equally well for either your own personal stance or internally. Whenever I listen to this, it gets me all fired up. The bounce in my step returns and I really believe in what I’m hearing.

 

Tell me what you believe. I want to hear your belief statement. Go ahead and send me any of your ideas or your belief statements to marc@wildstory.com and I’d love to post them on the blog with your permission. So please go ahead and share your belief statements.

What do you stand for? What do you believe?

 

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Am I Telling a Narrative or a Business Story?

Am I Telling a Narrative or a Business Story?

A common mistake is to assume everything is a story.  A story is a series of episodic, influential, connected events that changes a person’s life.  More simply put, a story is a journey.  And a journey has conflict and energy and obstacles and stakes and things that create a struggle between the dynamic positive and negative changes of life! We will break down this definition in a later post but let’s assume for the sake of our discussion here this definition is in deed accurate. The key point to understand here is that a story revolves around change. Positive change and negative change. If there’s no change, there’s no story. If you’re not telling or hearing a story then you are most likely experiencing a narrative. All stories have narratives but all narratives are not a story.

If you’re not telling or hearing a story then you are most likely experiencing a narrative. All stories have narratives but all narratives are not a story.

A story follows a very specific form and structure and so a lot of times when someone says, “tell me the story of your company” the other person begin to immediately throw-up and rattle off a lot of different things. Reciting your org chart to someone who asks that question is a narrative. “Well, we have a CEO. He oversees the CMO, the CTO, the CIO, the CFO.” Describing how your assembly line process and works is a narrative. Story is not a list of things in you life. Here’s another example. Imagine someone asked me to tell them the story of the United States of America.  I start off by telling them about our Presidents. “We started the country with our first President George Washington then there was John Adams, then Thomas Jefferson, moved into JFK, then we there was George Bush, moved into Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and then we finished with Donald Trump”.   That is not a story.   That is a list. That’s not the story of America. That’s a narrative. It’s very common to mistake chronology as a story but instead is a narrative. A good way to spot a “chronology narrative” is when someone is consistently saying, “and then”, in their story. So for example today I got up, and then I had coffee, and then I went to yoga and then I came home and then I wrote this blog post and then I took the kids out to the Boulder Creek Fest. That is not a story. That is a narrative. Your resume is also a narrative and not a story. “Hey, I worked at this tech company. Then I worked for Oliver Stone. Then I worked for 20th Century Fox. Then I worked over at WILDSTORY. Then I started WILDSTORY. “ Again, that’s a narrative and not a story.

Remember, a story is a journey. And a journey has conflict and energy and obstacles and stakes and things that create a struggle between the dynamic positive and negative changes in life.

Do any of these narrative examples fit that description? No they do not. One of the problems with story is we all think we can tell great stories. And here’s the conundrum. We can. We have the ability. Most of us were amazing storytellers as children but have lost the skill of storytelling as we move into business communications and marketing jargon. We all have the ability to tell electric, life changing stories but it is also important to understand the craft and form of storytelling to maximize its effect in our businesses. When I was working for Oliver Stone, as a story editor we used to get hundreds of scripts a week submitted for consideration. Turns out  everyone who has seen a movie in their life assumes that they can write a movie. 99% of these scripts and stories were no good. And the simple reason is not the story they chose to tell, but how they told it.  First rule in storytelling is to tell something personal, something you know — and they all did this. Usually some sort of life story. But…these aspiring storytellers never studied the craft and the skill and the structure of a great story. So ultimately their script would fall flat and be rejected. I’ve had the experience of reading thousands of bad stories as well as hundreds of great ones. I hope that now you’ll notice the differentiation between story and narrative in your business storytelling. Some tips to make sure your business story isn’t turning into a narrative:

  1. Story has a beginning, middle, and end.
  2. Make sure there’s a protagonist or hero.  And often it’s you when it should be your customer.
  3. Create empathy by developing a human connection.  Empathy means “like me”.
  4. There’s no drama.  Everything is connected in a causal sequence.
  5. Create suspense by not summarizing everything. Let it unfold naturally.
  6. Create clear stakes. What happens if this plan doesn’t work out? What happens if it does?
  7. Create emotion by understanding your audience and what matters to them.
  8. Create a “move to action”, what do you want your audience to do after hearing your story? What is your story about?

Have questions about narrative vs story? Let’s start the conversation by leaving your comments below.

Looking to Transform Your Business?

 

The Power of Your Business Story Can Add More Profit to Your Bottom Line Than Any Other Asset...

Download Our
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Use the same framework Hollywood uses to create BILLIONS in revenue (BE CAUTIONED - You'll never watch movies the same again)