8 Things a Good Brand Story Needs

Before the dawn of social media (I’m talking Instagram and Facebook, not Tom from MySpace), the concept of a ‘brand’ was limited to a business or company. Even now, as you read the word ‘brand’, images of products are likely popping into your head.

For me, the Nike swoosh is one of the most iconic logos of all time. It’s simple but memorable. So simple, in fact, that you can see that swoosh upside down, sideways, backwards, and any other way and still associate it with Nike.

Photo by Rafa De on Pexels.com

But unlike its logo, the Nike brand story is anything but simple. It’s one that’s been built over time. As a result, since its founding in 1964, the company has maintained its rank as the largest sportswear brand in the industry, synonymous with determination and athleticism.

But today, thanks to social media, a brand is much more than corporate consumerism. A brand can be a small business, an identity, even a person. All it takes is a compelling story. Don’t know what that means? Or where to start?

Here are 8 things a good brand story needs.

Vision

Ralph Lauren (the person) started his line with ties, but his vision was always greater. He wanted to design a lifestyle, not merely a fashion brand. In taking a page out of the RL book, vision not only defines a brand but carries it.

Before you can create your brand story you need to have a clear vision of how that story will read from beginning to end, even if you make up the chapters in between.

Value

The Wing provides flexible workspaces, but the value is much greater. You don’t just get a place to work from. You’re provided with an inspiring atmosphere with a library, complimentary coffee, and even networking opportunities.

A successful brand story provides value beyond the dollar sign. It offers the audience something they can take away with them, or even share with others.

Purpose

Environmental activism is the thread that keeps the Patagonia brand story together. As a result, the clothing company continues to make headlines as it pursues its purpose.

Once you have your vision and value, a good brand story needs to have a purpose beyond itself. It’s not only about what you are or what you provide, but rather how you hope to make an impact. One that resonates with your audience.

Patience
Photo by Sagar Soneji on Pexels.com

Would you trust an Instagram account with 10 posts and 100k followers? Unlikely. It takes countless hours of hard work and months (even years) to build an organic following. No one is an overnight success (even Amazon.com didn’t see its first quarterly profit until over five years later).

Brand stories, like everything else, take time to build. No matter what your vision, value, or purpose is you need to invest in your brand story before it sees real growth. Have patience. When that first domino falls the rest will follow.

Community
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

What do Starbucks and AirBnB have in common? They create communities. From loyalty programs to personalized experiences, the two brands have built multi billion dollar companies placing people first.

Once a brand story begins to catch on it needs a community to keep it alive. Those with a shared interest or vision that find continued value in the brand itself.

Connection

Disney, from its iconic characters to theme parks, has created a world that resonates across multiple generations on a global scale. And that’s because it connects with its community.

For a brand story to be successful it needs to connect to its audience on a deeper level. Without a heartfelt connection the brand is nothing more than a sales pitch.

Stickiness
Photo by Florian Doppler on Pexels.com

Stickiness can be hard to define. At the most basic level it refers to how memorable or contagious a brand is. Apple is a sticky brand. Its integrative approach (watch, TV, Mac, AirPods, home) is so convenient for consumers that there’s continuous anticipation for the newest release. Let the iOS vs Android war wage on.

To maintain a community connection a good brand story needs stickiness. Something to keep its audience coming back and look forward to what’s next.

Sincerity

Chick-fil-A was founded on Christian values. It’s stated outright in their Purpose. And placing company wide value in God, whether you’re a believer or an atheist, can be appreciated because it’s genuine.

When all is said and done, a good brand story is rooted in sincerity. It remains true to the brand vision, values, and purpose. It’s honest with the community, and itself.

Ready to tell your brand story?

Whether you’re in the beginning stages or years into the process, it’s never too late to implement these 8 strategies as part of your brand story. If you need help, think of the brands that resonate with you and ask yourself, ‘Why am I loyal to this brand? What is it about their message that makes me choose them above all others?’

Want to take your business to the next level? I’m here to support your brand story. Let’s work together: email me at NTeitler@gmail.com .

I want to hear from you! Comment your thoughts on this blog and branding below and let’s continue the conversation. For now, here are some of my favorite quotes about branding from the business experts themselves.

Hoboken to the Hamptons

On October 15, 2020 I unpacked my boxes and unlocked the door to my Hoboken apartment. It symbolized change, opportunity, and, above all, freedom. A place entirely to myself. Well, one year later and that 750 square foot apartment has become much more than where I live— it’s become home, in every sense of the word. It’s where I feel safe and comfortable, a place that I miss when I’m gone. But it’s also where I built myself, something I didn’t anticipate when I initially signed the lease.

October 15, 2020

I arrived amid the pandemic, when the price was right but social distancing made crafting a social life from scratch near impossible. For my first six months as a Jersey resident, I felt isolated, despite my newfound sense of independence. I envisioned Hoboken as my future while simultaneously refusing to accept the Hamptons as my past. So, I attempted to sustain my Hamptons community while building a Hoboken one. Selfishly, I wanted to straddle the line of realities and make both places my own. And I did.

Today, as I walk the cobblestones of Court Street holding the latest issue of James Lane Post in hand, I’m reminded of all that I have built for myself since my move exactly one year ago. I’ve kayaked countless miles across the Hudson River with the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, celebrated City of Water Day with Fund for a Better Waterfront, went back to the 80s with the Hoboken Shelter, and tested my limits at the Hoboken City Challenge Race. Throughout that same duration, I wrote for and held a Weekly Wellness column with James Lane Post and AFLOAT USA, moderated a nutrition panel in East Hampton, and co-organized the inaugural Southampton Shop and Stroll to benefit the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. Somehow, someway, I kept the Hamptons close to my heart as I rooted myself in Hoboken’s mile-square city. 

Hoboken City Challenge Race

All the while, I transitioned out of a career as a traditional journalist and began my own business as a contract brand storyteller, working with clients from Hudson County to the Hamptons and everywhere in between (even down south to Virginia!). This has been my greatest achievement because it allowed me to connect communities through conversation, and it continues to fuel my passion for people every day.

with Thuyen Nguyen in East Hampton

When we look back on our lives it’s usually through rose colored glasses (psychologists refer to this as rosy retrospection). I’m not saying that this year didn’t come with its fair share of problems, or that I’m impervious to the realities of starting my own business. On the contrary, the initial struggles of my move propelled me forward and forced me to step out of my comfort zone, and I have grown in ways I may not even realize for months or years to come. 

So, cheers to me and my Hoboken-versary. May the next year bring even more memories and friendships, clients and community, from Hudson County to the Hamptons and everywhere in between. 

5 Lessons We Can Learn From COVID

In March of 2020, COVID entered our lives and unleashed a world of uncertainty. Like the morning of 9/11 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we will all likely remember exactly what it felt like, and where we were, when a virus forced us into our homes indefinitely.

The events that followed would unfold much like a tsunami– a single catastrophic blow followed by a series of precarious waves. Government orders became a life raft without a paddle, keeping us afloat with expectations but without real direction. Soon, days blurred into a single hourglass as we watched our time evaporate. And with it went our jobs, lives, comfort, stability, and maskless faces. We’d no longer be the same because nothing was the same.

But there’s hope. We have vaccines, businesses are reopening, travel bans are lifted, and loved ones can gather once again. Our tomorrows are more promising than our yesterdays. So, now that the worst part is behind us (fingers crossed) what have we learned? What will we take away from it all?

Here are 5 lessons I learned from COVID:

How to be an Optimist

1. How To Be an Optimist

The saying, “someone always has it worse,” carried me through the worst of times. When my family got sick, when I lost loved ones, when my company dissolved, when everything I knew turned upside down, I acknowledged that I was still more fortunate than others. Those who lost so much more.

COVID-19 taught me that in changing my perspective my mindset would shift as well. Every moment became an opportunity to be grateful for what I did have. I learned how to accept the growing pains by turning negatives into positives and literally counted my blessings every morning. It wasn’t easy. Days would go by and I’d accomplish nothing, except the ability to say I was fine. For months the mere concept of staying happy and healthy saved my sanity, because I didn’t allow myself to fall into despair. I was sad, I was struggling, but I knew I still had tomorrow.

Being an optimist amid chaos didn’t mean things weren’t wrong, or that I wasn’t sad. It meant I could overcome the situation because I was hopeful for the future.

2. To Take Advantage of Today

Tomorrow takes on a different meaning after being locked down or closed out. When real life turned into Groundhog Day, only without the benefit of Bill Murray, every day became a lost opportunity. The gym session I postponed, the grocery shopping I put off, the people I forgot to call, the prolonged ‘we should get together sometime,’ they no longer existed as part of a hypothetical timeline. Tomorrow was stolen and my brand new 2020 planner became a relic of a pre-pandemic world.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, as time blended together, COVID-19 taught me to take advantage of the day ahead. When nothing is guaranteed, not even toilet paper, following through on even the simplest task becomes a foundation for the future.

3. That We’re All Part of a Global Community

The onset of the pandemic was marked, in my mind, by two defining moments. The first, when I assumed a sickness in China wouldn’t make its way to New York. The other, watching videos of Italians in lock down singing from their balcony. One instance elicited fear while the other inspired hope, and that would come to define my year ahead. A year where death tolls made headlines and reports of heroism turned pages.

Between international flights and the internet, our world is more connected than ever. When an outbreak in China made its way across the globe, in a matter of weeks, ‘halfway around the world’ quickly ended up in our own backyards. But, unlike the Spanish flu, thanks to technology, the pandemic of 2020 connected us. We had TikTok trends, video calls, Netflix ‘Top 10s,’ baby Yoda, and the ability to see, in real time, how the rest of the world was responding. Some of us doom scrolled while others searched for hope in a haystack. It all proved that we are linked, in some way, shape, or form.

COVID-19 taught me that, and it created a sense of togetherness in the most isolating of times. Every single person on the planet experienced the same thing, a notion that is concurrently heartbreaking and freeing.

4. Copywriting as a Skill

When the newspaper I worked for dissolved, along with the entire life I built around it, I felt displaced. I didn’t just lose a job, I lost a family, a home, an entire community and, along with it, financial security. The economic tole of the pandemic was inescapable and I was caught in the wake. Companies were downsizing, office spaces rendered useless. With nowhere to turn, or so I thought, I searched for a way to make money independently. That’s when I tapped into copywriting.

Once the world went virtual, content became currency. No one passed by traditional ads anymore or met in person, which meant that digital storytelling could make or break a business. People were going online for everything– from workout videos to product purchases. In an ‘aha’ moment, I knew my decade long career as a journalist would benefit those that solely relied on the internet for their livelihoods. I could edit, write, proofread, and create countless forms of content for others because I made a living doing just that. The only difference was I’d be doing it for the business directly, not a publication.

COVID-19 taught me that I had a lucrative, transferable skill– writing. Prior to the pandemic, I never considered copywriting. But in a sink-or-swim situation, it revealed a new horizon of possibilities. As I began to take on clients for projects, I built a side-businesses. It awarded me some financial relief, both physically and emotionally, while also providing me with a purpose again.

5. What I Really Need

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I questioned what I wanted most. In the beginning it was Amazon. Without travel, without events, without a social life, I wanted something to look forward to and tracking packages became a hobby. But, with fluctuating income, the joy of opening boxes quickly dissolved into guilt and I was forced to find happiness elsewhere.

When the familiarity of the outside world faded, physical desires dwindled and external comforts like events, food, working out, or even shopping, no longer satisfied me because they no longer existed. At the time, I lived at my childhood home, after a tumultuous setback only a few months prior. As isolation continued, I ached for personal freedom and solace. I took to the outdoors on weekends– walks on the beach, hikes in the Hudson Valley– and quickly discovered that what I really needed was to reconnect with myself. So, I did just that. I got my own apartment, started a daily walk routine, read more, cooked more, and got involved with more non-profit work. COVID-19 taught me that as my distractions waned I attracted more of the life I truly needed, and wanted.

Take The Good, Leave The Bad

In the months, and even years, ahead we will rebuild from the wreckage of COVID– the political unrest, mourning our deceased, financial impact, addressing our mental health. But through a worldwide restoration comes personal reflection, an opportunity to learn from what was lost. In taking something positive from an unarguably difficult situation we can come out of it with understanding. Maybe it’s blind optimism, or perhaps it’s just hope.

I’d like to acknowledge that COVID-19 impacted everyone differently. My heart goes out to all of those suffering right now. You are not alone. If you need assistance please comment below and I will refer you to an organization that can help.

Overcoming Regret To Succeed

One of the most common misattributed Mark Twain quotes reads, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” While those wise words actually belong to another American author, Harriett Jackson Brown Jr., no matter who said them, the quote lives on as valuable advice. Take the risk, dare to dream, make mistakes. Live with no regrets. It turns out, Brown was right.

According to research done by Dr. Medvec of the Kellogg School of Management and Dr. Gilovich Professor of Psychology at Cornell University, inaction has greater psychological effects and leads to a greater emotional reaction in the long term than in situations when action was taken. Essentially, if two situations were to have the same negative outcome, the one where action was not taken will have a greater sense of regret than the one that called for action. 

Lately, I’ve been contemplating multiple decisions in my life. Rather, the decisions I failed to act on. The list is embarrassingly long, and to no ones fault other than my own. The list includes several tangible goals that I could have, or, should have, accomplished by this point in my life. My excuses ranged from ‘I’m too busy to focus on that right now’ to ‘I’ll have plenty of time to do it later’. It’s the same inner monologue time and time again, year after year, that manifested from thoughts to poor habits. In actuality, busy was a mental construct I built as a euphemism for procrastination and ‘later’ never came. My immediate delay turned into permanent inaction.

When I created Nikki On The Daily™ in 2011, I thought I had the world ahead of me. Instagram was just picking up (launched in the US in 2010) and the concept of branding oneself was still new. I distinctly remember family members asking “What is your brand? What are you building” and I answered, “Myself.” My vast interests and independent spirit made me fearless, I wanted to experience everything and meet everyone. At the time, I had a goal to become the go to writer for all things food, fitness, and general lifestyle pieces from Manhattan to Montauk. I just received my BA in media studies, with a focus on broadcast journalism. I had an idea for a YouTube channel, similar to NBC Live. Through my expansive list of contacts, I also wanted to plan events for small businesses looking to connect with a wider audience. The web of ideas continued to grow as I sat still. I was caught up in concepts at a time when I should have been driven to act.

At those particular moments in my life I didn’t see an immediate reason to act on anything because I never felt ready. I felt that I didn’t have the proper space, the latest technology, the experience, etc. I was more concerned with being rejected than I was with laying the groundwork to accomplish all of my goals. Nine years later, with more experience and exposure than I started with in 2011, I suddenly feel those goals echoing in my mind. The deepest parts of me are filled with annoyance, a self-loathing of sorts, for having not acted sooner. I look at the success of so many others and think, how could I have allowed so much time to go by?

According to “The Inaction Effect in the Psychology of Regret,” regret is a “goal-directed emotion” that can inform us to our own goals and how we aim to achieve them. It’s “an emotion that is functional in mastering skills and learning and in attaining a better grasp over decisions.” Rather than get caught up in a negative mindset of what could have been I’m consciously aware of each decision I make moving forward. Introspection has the power to bring me closer to where I want to be: making Nikki On The Daily™ an accessible brand across various outlets, where I’m churning out new content, and reaching a wider audience.

It’s easy to get caught up in regret, as our minds spin off into various scenarios and fears. No matter how confident I may have been, I let my inner uncertainties take over for almost a decade. In acknowledging the mistakes of the past I can create a successful future. I’ve learned the only way to be ready for a challenge is to take it on. I’m going to start a podcast, produce video coverage, execute events, and cover more stories. The only regret I’ll have is if I never tried at all.

References:

 “The Inaction Effect in the Psychology of Regret” Zeelenberg; van Dijk; van den Bos; Pieters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2002, Vol. 82, No. 3, 314–327

“The Experience of Regret: What, When, and Why” Thomas Giloviqh and Victoria Husted Medvec. Psychological Review Copyright 1995 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 1995, Vol. 102, No. 2, 379-395