Brian Scudamore is founder and CEO of O2E Brands Inc.
It’s no coincidence that we all love a good story: our brains are wired to communicate in a narrative format. Whether we’re having coffee with friends or sharing gossip around the water cooler, telling a story is by far the best way to make the message stick.
Ad execs have long since figured out the power of storytelling, and the most successful businesses use it to establish culture and generate brand awareness. Take Coca-Cola or Nike: they’ve leveraged the power of shared experience to bring the world together over things as ubiquitous as soft drinks and running shoes.
Stories have been the foundation of our company since day one. We’ve shared our “rags-to-riches” story so many times it’s become legend at our company: at 18 years old, I was sitting in a drive-thru line up, trying to figure out a way to pay my college tuition. Waiting for a cheeseburger, I noticed a loaded-up junk truck in front of me — and suddenly, my future was clear. The next day, I bought my own truck with my savings (about $700) and launched 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.
This isn’t just a story of how a business started; it’s the inspiration behind our ambitious, go-getter culture. It’s a reminder of what anyone can do if they trust their gut. With that in mind, here are three reasons every entrepreneur should develop (and share) their own story.
It sets you apart
Seth Godin said the only way to stand out in a competitive marketplace is to be the “purple cow” in a sea of Holsteins. That’s a theory we take to heart at O2E Brands, and by providing exceptional customer service in industries that are traditionally fragmented, we think we’re pretty purple.
But just because we know we’re different doesn’t guarantee our customers and employees do, too. That’s why storytelling is so important to us: it allows us to construct a narrative that showcases our company values in action. By using specific, personal experiences, stories help us humanize our brand and create a deep corporate history that is easier to convey to our people and customers.
Airbnb has devoted an entire section of their website to telling the stories of their hosts and the people who stay with them. Dove set a new standard for beauty brands by sharing real stories from real people. The best brand stories are intriguing, emotive and make a point that resonates. People don’t like to feel like they’re being sold to — they want genuineness and connection.
It strengthens your organization
In 1999, we decided to franchise 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and opened up shop in Toronto. Paul Guy, our fearless trailblazer and first franchise partner, borrowed $25,000 from his brother, bought a junk truck and drove across Canada. Within the first two weeks, he was profitable; now he’s a multi-millionaire.
Paul’s epic road trip combines the best aspects of storytelling – someone with a bold vision taking a chance to realize the impossible.
Everyone in our system recognizes this story as a milestone in our history. There’s much more to this narrative, though. It’s built a sense of community amongst first-time franchise partners, scared of starting out alone. It’s inspired entry-level employees to reach for more in our organization, and it’s an example of what you can accomplish with hard work and dedication. Perhaps most impressively, this story has inspired action in others. Last summer, 25-year-old Myles Reville followed in Paul’s footsteps with a road trip of his own to launch Shack Shine in Toronto.
Every business needs a great story to engage both customers and employees. A story is a concrete example of a your corporate values, and it creates a sense of history and consistency for your brand.
It’s straight-up science
Finally, the art of storytelling isn’t a soft subject — it’s a science.
Sharing compelling stories triggers empathy in others by releasing oxytocin (also called the ‘trust hormone’). It helps people relate to each other and feel more connected.
Listening to stories also activates the same parts of our brain, as if we were experiencing the events for ourselves. Sensory activation improves recall and will make your brand more memorable than companies without stories. In short, stories are the easiest, most effective way to build trust with your audience.
So find your story, share it and harness the power of storytelling for your business.
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