Brand Belief: The Fairytale
Owner of West Coast Brand Management, Sasha Curry, knows branding. The 26-year-old has built her, now multinational, company from the ground up; with clients landing on the Grammy’s, Vogue, the Food Network, GQ Magazine, and Harpers Bazaar.
Her secret: bringing back the art of traditional storytelling.
Brand Belief: The Fairytale
Story by Sasha Curry
When I was four years old, I suffered through night terrors. Horrific ones. The kind that had the power to brush up against some of the sweetest childhood memories, and bring them right down.
My escape? A hair elastic. “Tug on this bracelet and you’ll come home”. My mother assured me, sliding the pink elastic onto my wrist. As simply as she explained it would work, it did.
My belief in that drugstore hair elastic gave it the power to be something more than rubber and string. Truthfully, it was both a shrink and a magic portal in one. That pink hair elastic would later be realized as the brink of my understanding of the emotional, and spiritual power of story.
A couple of decades later, shortly before graduating university with a BA in Creative Writing, I landed a dream job working for a clothing company as their Marketing Coordinator. Struggling to see their synthetic yoga leggings and sports bras as disruptors in a heavily saturated market, my interest in the company dwindled. In a position that required my full faith and passion, I despised going to work. My job lacked purpose. Therefore my life, too, lacked purpose. Sensing my (probably overt) frustration and boredom, my boss laid me off. I was meant to be a journalist, not a marketer, he assured me.
Companies need purpose for the people inside the company as well as those outside of the company, like humanity needs storytelling to hold history together. The two go hand in hand. A company’s story gives it purpose; a purpose for employees to believe in and work for, together. The result? Company alignment and increased employee productivity. Next? Inevitably, increased revenue.
To put it plain and simply, it’s easy to get behind a company whose story or purpose matters to you.
Salesforce is one of the top companies to work for in the world for a reason. Their employees know the product they’re working for serves as a solution to a lot of common business struggles. They can see its positive impact on customers every day and get to be a part of that solution. Salesforce also pioneered a 1-1-1 philanthropic model wherein they give back to their communities. So employees know their purpose with the company stretches past the office.
Run a company without a purpose and you’re steering a directionless ship into the abyss. Go on like that long enough and eventually your crew is going to figure it out. Everyone is going to want to move the ship in a different direction–for a different reason, and any power that once existed is going to be dismantled.
Just like the hair elastic, products and services are also given meaning by way of story. An engagement ring is just a colourless piece of rock that snags your sweaters. A life-changing medical software is just a confusing mess of code on a screen. Things are just things until you assign meaning to them. That is done through story.
Think of Toms–“Tomorrow's Shoes”. Their powerful 1:1 model enables customers to play a role in a larger cause. They get to walk away from their purchase wearing a solution to poverty on their feet. They become the most important part of the story of the brand.
A note about products so often brushed under the rug: Building a world around your product crafts its authenticity. In other words, who would peel open the pages of a story about a single tube of red lipstick? Not me. Probably not you, either. Paint the world it belongs to: Who’s wearing it? What do they do for a living? Who are they wearing it for? Perhaps they’re headed to a summer dinner party with friends. Maybe it’s actually a first date. Over oysters and wine. Nah, it’s a carpeted bowling alley, with cheap beer. *Cue Mel Gibson applying a creamy red lipstick in his advertising assignment in the film, What Women Want.*
If these details bore you, then huzzah–I suppose that’s where the market for my job lies.
In a world where virtually every product and service has an abundance of competitors, how do you choose? This is why storytelling for brands matters. It’s all about romancing the product. Pushing past the whimsical beauty of art for art's sake and into the practicality of carving out a space in your community through authentic story. It’s about connecting your brand to the world.
Next, how does your story travel further than the constraints of an HQ? Customer loyalty. Trust your story in the hands of the people who believe in it, and it will travel. It will grow. Not only will those customers serve as repeat customers, but they’ll act as your messengers–your fans, repeating the glorious story of your brand to their prospective communities.
Stories are like magic. They shift reality, change the way things are as they plainly seem. They give meaning to the mundane–when crafted carefully. Storytelling for brands matters for those same reasons.
I knew I wanted to write stories for a living for as long as I can remember. Actually, it was probably after graduating from lemonade and gourd stand owner (my neighbour grew an abundance of gourds in his backyard) and realizing retail wasn’t my forté. I wrote my first crumpled up ‘novel’ about a bug in grade two. In grade three, I wrote my first contribution to a magazine–a book review, for a youth science magazine. It should be known that this article was heavily copy-edited by my mother prior to submission, though. One of my biggest fears has always been a career spent writing for hours, every day, in isolation. Also a job that entailing a reliable routine schedule. Most people enjoy a nice 9-5 with scheduled holiday time and stable paycheques and health benefits. Not I, to my parents dismay. Unpredictability, creative problem solving in a crunch, and chaos? That’s my jam.
So I worried: how could I build a dynamic career rooted in writing good stories, for good people, (good companies) and most of all–good reason? Build it and they will come. Launch it and you’ll figure it out after the fact, they said. Alas, West Coast Brand Management was born; a creative branding agency specializing in storytelling for clients in the sectors of non-profit and tech–whose products and services share the common pursuit of making the world a better place.
Today, I feel incredibly lucky to spend my 9-5 (ish) in WCBM’s sun-filled Gastown office; working with a small team of in-house and remote creatives, crafting the stories that industry disrupting websites, ads, products, campaigns and brands are made of.