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Legendary Brand: What’s Your Story

I’m currently in Sydney, Australia, preparing to share insights with business leaders based on the strategy and tactics of legendary brands like Mercedes-Benz and Starbucks. For me, a legendary brand (often companies with whom I’ve worked and/or about whom I’ve written) is a company that is extraordinary on two levels: They consistently deliver elevated human experiences to all stakeholders and share compelling brand stories that become part of the company’s mystique or lore.

Let’s use the focus of my upcoming book as an example.

business book

The Airbnb Way (which is available at a special pre-order discount using coupon code THANKS through the following link) focuses on the way leaders at Airbnb have crafted a technologically advanced marketplace for those wishing to “share” living space with those seeking affordable accommodations provided with personal and local flair. It examines how the Airbnb platform is designed to foster trust, reduce effort, and increase efficiency. Additionally, the book tells how leaders at the company encourage hosts to deliver service with heart.

From the perspective of brand storytelling and meeting my criteria for “legendary” brand status, The Airbnb Way offers rich experiential examples of service excellence from the perspective of guests and hosts alike. It also captures the origin story of three friends who, in the span of approximately a decade, built a company with an estimated value of more than $31 billion from a couple of air mattresses, an education in design school, and even a couple of creative cereal box ideas. For the details of those stories – check-out the book.

For the purposes of this post, I want to talk about the elements needed to craft your legendary brand stories. Over the years, I’ve talked about brand storytelling but never in the context of becoming a “legendary brand.”

For me, brand storytelling has five distinct qualities:

  • A defined protagonist or character
  • Trajectory or movement
  • Authenticity
  • Emotions that pull for action
  • A hook

Brands that become legends produce experiences that turn into stories and leaders at those brands actively mine those stories to create spontaneous buzz or to produce lasting epic or signature stories. For example, a few years ago, I penned a post about a signature service story where team members are the protagonists, there is story movement, authenticity, and an emotional hook.  It is a signature story of legendary proportion. In that post, I noted:

Since I’ve written a book about The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, The New Gold Standard, I am often introduced at keynotes by someone who shares a story about service excellence at a Ritz-Carlton property. Twice recently, I was introduced in the context of Joshie the giraffe. If you don’t know about the adventures of Joshie (a lost stuffed animal that was returned to the child who owned him – complete with pictures of Joshie’s escapades at the hotel when he was separated from his owner), you can check out an archived post of mine titled Giraffes are ESSENTIAL to your customer experience!

To make my point, you must understand that the individuals who introduced me for these… keynotes came from two very different industries and neither of them told me in advance that they were mentioning Joshie. These introductions occurred over 5 years from when I first wrote my blog about the stuffed giraffe….), as I learned about Joshie from a tweet written by the father of Joshie’s owner – Chris Hurn.

A simple set of actions by a group of service professionals at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida continues to be shared with untold audiences 5 years later. This example alone should be an inspiration to take small and collective actions to produce BIG results one customer or employee at a time. A person might never know how many people they’ve inspired or how far an inspirational story can travel.

Many legendary stories emerge from those who have received extraordinary service while other stories can come from the founding of your business (e.g., the air mattresses that started Airbnb). Other brand stories can be told by you, in the context of your mission, vision, values or trade dress.

In our case, we share the story of our logo, which was designed to capture our focus on inspiring emotional experience delivery. We seek to ignite the inner heart of a business (the white space – or employee experience) which lifts up the external colorful customer experience.

We also highlight our company values, which include an evocative and made-up word we refer to as “otherness” – our antidote to selfishness.

What are the stories you are telling about your brand? What stories are being told about you by your customers? How are you amplifying those naturally occurring stories? More importantly, are you a legendary brand? By that, I mean, are you:

  • Consistently delivering elevated human experiences to all stakeholders?
  • Sharing compelling brand stories that become part of your company’s mystique?

I would love to talk to you about your legendary brand journey. Simply reach out to me here and we’ll talk about your experiences and stories.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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