Branding is not what you think

A woman ordered a pair of boots on Zappos as a surprise gift for her husband. Unfortunately her husband was killed in a car accident shortly after.


Sun Yi
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Sun Yi wearing Night Owls Merch

When she called customer service to return the item, they not only issued a refund, but sent flowers to the widow.

Zappos is known for their exceptional customer service. Their brand was built on keeping that promise.

Your brand isn’t your logo, colors, or taglines. It’s the promises you keep.

I learned from working with over 100 clients that most brands are oblivious to what makes them great.

They usually hire us thinking we’ll make their brand “better” using beautiful design or writing a story. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every company already has a brand whether they know it or not. My job is to find out what that is.

With every new client, I meet with their customer service and sales team WITHOUT the boss. The boss usually tells me one thing, and their employees tell me something different. Employees are more likely to be influenced if the boss is in the room.

After a long discovery session, it’s pretty clear what their strengths and weaknesses are. All I have to do is create a story around the strengths.

The process is simple:

1. I ask the sales people what customers love the most.

2. I ask the customer service team what customers complain about the most.

Then I go back to the boss and tell them what I’ve found.

Usually they’re proud of what customers love, and they’ll tell me their personal values and philosophies around the topic. Then they tell me stories around what causes the complaints. Usually their weakness is directly correlated with their strengths.

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For example, our clients complain that we don’t have a strict process with a strict deadline. That’s because our plans evolve throughout the projects as the best ideas come forward. This helps us create the best possible outcome by not sacrificing quality for a deadline.

I tell a story about a time when a corporate client wanted us to meet a strict deadline. Even though we came up with better ideas halfway through the project, we couldn’t make the change and ended up launching a mediocre website. We were disappointed and decided to never do that again.

We’re able to maintain flexibility and care for each project by keeping our team small. Scaling will require a strict process. Hence our tagline “Small In A Big Way.” We’re able to keep that promise and build trust as a brand.

The best way to tell a brand story is by telling the truth.

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