I was backstage with Chris Lindland CEO of Betabrand recently at a Zappos All Hands meeting and I couldn’t help but conclude that he may have best demonstrated the power of an “engaging story.” In fact, I would dare to say that for awhile his entire brand with a fable without a deliverable product. Lest you think I am being harsh, let me offer Chris’ own words
“I have been in the fashion business for 6 years and it started with one product Cordarounds – horizontal corduroy pants. Essentially, my company began with a dumb question that went too far. I asked why don’t people turn the corduroy material horizontally? I then decided to take action on that question and designed such a product in my basement. If I were to act like a real clothing company, I would have hired a designer, a quality manufacturer, and a photographer to take pictures of my product for online sales but I am a communicator – so I just made the pants myself (about 150 pairs of them) and decided to sell them by telling a fascinating story about the pants. For example, I sold them suggesting that horizontal corduroy pants could ‘lower your crotch heat index’ and that you could ‘finally walk silently while wearing corduroy pants.’
Long story short, Chris’ novel idea and compelling story garnered significant media attention; particularly, from a high profile New York based newspaper and Chris was flooded with orders. In one day those orders were on the magnitude of 5 times his existing inventory. With no prospect of delivering against the demand, Chris launched a new story approach in the form of daily email campaigns to customers delighting them with fictionalized stories of where their pants allegedly were. These grand fables engaged customers for months while Chris found ways to get the pants manufactured and delivered.
Can you imagine, no product for extended periods and almost all your customers gladly waiting without canceling their orders because of engaging (yet fabricated -pardon the pun) stories about their eagerly anticipated product – stories they can share with their family and friends.
I have often said “story is currency in the wired social world”, what story have you given your customers to tell about you?
By the way, here are some stories I shared at the Zappos All Hands Meetings. Thanks to Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO) for his kind invitation and introduction…take a peek