Starting-up a start-up from the eyes of a starter-upper.
As storytellers by instinct, but public relations (PR) purists by trade, the allure of the underdog has always appealed to us. Not everyone loves the underdog, and in fact, betting odds are usually on the champion. But, the truth is that hard work beats talent when talent isn’t working hard – and heroes and underdogs are separated by the narrowest of margins.
And those margins make for a thin, thin line.
We favour the underdog, because, well… we are the underdog. It’s part and parcel about what this blog is even about – it’s the firm belief that the underdog does occasionally become champion. We were shaped by a culture of the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, and witnessed his wins – and his losses.
We get the fact that you earn the underdog moniker because of bumps and bruises. But you also know what? We are also brave enough to take the opportunity and call it our moment. That’s why we’re here – to share the underdog story from a hero lens. And to share the hero journey in an underdog frame.
Underdogs are true grinders. And it’s not even for the fact that we fight above our weight class – it is the fact that we don’t even consider weight classes in the first place. And, truth be told, this is not about us – it’s about creating purposeful work for clients who have purpose. Our clients are the underdogs – from the director fighting for your right to breathe, to the founder fighting for your right to communicate.
We are here for the lightning rods of this generation.
So, how do we raise social capital in terms of striking an emotional connection with their communities and persona groups? Story branding. We scale campaigns on tried and true principles – and with minimal media or social advertising spend. Story branding is based on more than a want or need. It’s more an impulse, and it has to be – for a good reason. The story has to leave more than a watermark – it has to scale the actual wall. And the only reason it scales the wall and tips over to the other side is the community behind it – pushing us up and over that same obstacle.
Story branding is a process, and we use it as a guide for the underdog – not so much a rule. Bit by bit, stage by stage, the early steps of the story branding process begin with as wide a scope as possible. It follows best practices to connect branding (in its widest sense) and brand identity (in its visual sense). We look at how the brand balances its basket of values, behaviours, and how it personifies its voice. Then, we balance the tires for a long journey on the road – and learn if the established brand perception lags behind the audited visual and verbal results.
You can choose to have your brand defined by your communities, or you can choose to try and define it yourself. If you’re smart, you can define and control the ‘functional’ or ‘doing stuff’ aspects of your product or service. But, you also need to carefully define the emotional bits as well. It’s here, in that sweet-spot of functional and emotional, that your communities not only use your product or service – but they share why they care.
You might call us a special kind of stupid, but… we see story branding as more than marketing. Honestly, we actually cringe at the term marketing, and you really won’t see it here that often. Only because marketing is ephemeral, short-term and the same-old-same-old scene. Does marketing have its place? Of course, but that’s more in how you sell your product or service. Marketing is the epitome of a grunt test – did we communicate our offering? Did the story connect the reader at an emotional level? Did they request a demo or book an appointment? Grunt once for yes and two for no.
Marketing is channel copy and delivery for the story branding – not the actual strategy and narrative. Story is timeless and evergreen. It removes clutter from your message so your community will hear it, listen to it – and share it. To remove the idea of marketing, and replace it with story branding, is to first understand that branding wields immense power when properly used. In the right hands, and done well, branding can align the underdog and raise millions in donated funds or investment capital. It can transform the fate of a dying zombie brand and make it relevant, wanted and understood again.
A recent Hootsuite survey indicates that there are more than 3.5 billion active social media users. Think about that for a second. That’s a lot, and we mean a lot of brands using social media as a communication vehicle. Without a unified story brand strategy, your mix of different social and messaging services only add to the same clutter you are trying to remove. If your ‘why’ or ‘core purpose’ is not clearly defined, then how will you identify the hard choices that your community stands for? Define it, identify it, and they will follow.
Underdog or hero, it’s not easy selling to your audience if the audience is blissfully unaware you even exist. Straight up. We live in an age of noise and walls of information. Even worse, people are losing trust in social media. Security breaches and data hacking only ups the ante for more than credible content – it ups the ante for more context. This shift presents its own unique challenges – and opportunities for more meaningful interactions within communities. In an era of fake news, an underdog brand that is unique and genuinely different in what it says is more likely to get in the front door.
When it comes to social media, we make a case for being reckless because it pays to take a risk. Social media gives you the platform to be cool and smart with your storytelling. Even something as simple as adding a Stories format to any story strategy makes dollars and sense. As a more visual micro feed, it positions an underdog to be in the same ring in terms of a local or global scale.
So, on that note, in terms of starting-up a start-up from the eyes of a starter-upper, we figured this was an excellent platform to share trade secrets and talk shop. We are storytellers by instinct and see everything as strategic. Our copy is short, crisp and informative, and it informs creative design that is quick, fast and shareable. Our goal is to share our ins-and-outs as a start-up story branding studio without start-up funds. And detail what worked and didn’t work as a creative incubator – and how it worked for our underdog clients. We will share files freely and write articles on best practices and share our own micro copy and advertising in the process. We will also test and experiment with some well-publicized social media strategies and how it translated into successful client case studies.
Hopefully, I have not borrowed your attention for too long, and in return for that time, you will leave with something more valuable. And since we make the case for being reckless, well… next on the docket will be how to strike an emotional connection through story and tips on how to avoid disaster. We are well-versed in the fact that depending on who you speak with, and the time you speak with them, they might agree or disagree on the validity of having a messaging strategy for social media policy. Don’t know about you, but if we are dropping out of a perfectly-good-airplane – then we at least better bring a parachute.
Interested in learning
more about story branding?