A dangerous canyon often arises between business model strategy and marketing. Separate roles, meetings, deliverables, timetables, personalities and consultancies exist on each side of the divide. When business strategy and marketing execution move forward independently – as they often do – spin, distrust, poor customer experiences and commoditization result.
A classic case of this problem was the latest branding of Plymouth as “Not your father’s Plymouth,” when the new model was in fact just like the dated car. Needless to say, the brand now belongs to history books.
Ty Montague offers a needed bridge across this canyon in True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business. Montague is co-founder of co:collective, a consultancy that helps its clients develop their strategy and brand story using the principles of Storydoing™.
Montague’s premise – and it is a terrific one – is that you know a company by its actions and customer experiences, not by the story it tells in its marketing communications. The actions and experiences create what Montague calls your company’s Metastory: the observed truth in the minds of customers, prospects, employees and other stakeholders. Your Metastory is what your company wants to become, if it is not already.
Case in point. Red Bull is more than an energy drink – its purpose is “giving wings to people and ideas.” The company created its own flight-related sporting event, supports professional athletes, produced a movie about flight, has its own magazine and owns Formula 1 racing teams. The company is more than a manufacturer of energy drinks – it is an experience company whose actions for the Red Bull tribe reinforce its brand promise.
So who is in the tribe? Because we each have a personal Metastory, we’ll be drawn to Red Bull if our Metastories align. My metastory includes being health and environmentally conscious. Needless to say, I drink organic skin milk coffee lattes as my pick-me-up drink, not Red Bull.
The benefits of Storydoing™ are many. Customers become fans who then tell your story, reducing marketing communication expenses. Because a Metastory captures a purpose beyond shareholder value, the company garners greater loyalty and therefore greater pricing power, lower salary demands and higher employee morale. These benefits drive a more favorable bottom line.
Montague came to Storydoing™ as he observed the proliferation of brands. Registered trademarks (brands) rose from 2.5 million in 1997 to 10 million by 2011, a truly staggering statistic. Concurrently, measures of brand health plummeted – “with differentiation down a staggering 90 percent,” according to Montague. A better way to brand was clearly needed.
There are four components to a Metastory and Montague does a great job offering “how to” advice.
- Participants – Who you are for.
- Protagonist – Your story today, encompassing unique capabilities, attributes and cultural elements.
- Quest – Your driving ambition and contribution to the world.
- Stage – The salient cultural, technology, competitive and business contexts of the world in which you are doing business.
One of the many case studies in the book is start-up Grind, a shared workspace company. Grind’s competitors would be described as temporary office space companies whose quest is simply attractive profits. Grind is living a much more powerful Metastory: building a 22nd century global physical and digital platform to support and inspire its participants – which Grind names the Free Radical community – as they collaborate to create the future of work. Grind’s quest is “… to catalyze the revolution taking place in the nature of work and help as many people as possible to escape corporate life to work in a new way – outside the system.”
This Metastory then shapes all Grind’s actions – what it offers, its visual identity, its culture and its capabilities. For example:
- Grind designed the space for hipsters, not Fortune 500 sales representatives.
- It created an on-line portal for its members to barter and learn about each others services, an action consistent with the “new way of working.”
- Grind sponsors #rethink talks by revolutionary thinkers in business, creating learning and networking opportunities.
Montague draws an excellent distinction between one-way story telling (old-fashioned communication of differentiation framed in story elements) and true Storydoing™, which encompasses business model strategy, branding and their execution. Done right, Storydoing™ creates a company aligned around a Metastory in which actions and customer experiences, not words alone, create differentiation. Effective communication is the result, not the key activity.
In today’s connected world, where communications are two way and inauthentic actions are as immediately noticeable as a skunk’s scent, Montague offers us needed wisdom.
What’s your company’s Metastory?