Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that goes beyond theory to let you know how to use story in your branding efforts, January 4, 2012
This review is from: StoryBranding: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through The Power of Story (Hardcover)
If you're pressed for time in this 140 character attention based economy, and looking for the short story review, I offer you this.

Storytelling is surely one of the top buzzwords in the business and personal lexicon today. There are many good books on story and storytelling and just as many on branding. (I haven't read them all but I'm working on it.) StoryBranding is the only one I've read that breaks down the elements of story and relates them in way that will give you a thorough understanding of how to use them in your business or personal branding efforts. By the time you finish the book you'll have a real understanding of how to use story to make the jump from product and featuritis to a genuine connection with your customers that will go beyond any tricks that your competitors can use to try and lure them away.

If you've been bitten by the storytelling bug but not quite sure what to do or how to proceed, this is the book for you. The chapter on Using Archetypical Analysis is worth the price of admission no matter what your level of story understanding and it will lead you to know both your business and your customers in ways that will benefit you both.

Now for the long form version of the review.

When I was hanging up my C-Suite spikes and reuniting with an interest in the world of narrative and story that had been piqued in the late 60s and early 70s while I was in college, I searched and consumed everything I could find that related to those interests. Just over a year into that search I came across Jim Signorelli. At the time he was close to putting the finishing touches on a book called StorySelling. He had published the first five chapters to the web and when I read them I knew this was a guy who could bridge the left and right brain realms of story and business. He'd been around the block so to speak with agency, advertising, marketing and sales experience. And he had some very big name clients to boot.

In February of 2010 the American Marketing Association, in conjunction with his agency, ESW Partners, announced a webcast that would feature Jim talking about StorySelling. I was excited. Unfortunately, that webcast was fraught with technical difficulties that led Jim to throw in the towel after 17 minutes. So much for excitement.

The webcast was rescheduled two weeks later though and it was everything I had hoped it would be and then some. I sent Jim an email thanking him and complimenting him on his presentation and ideas. We compared notes on books we'd read on story and narrative and agreed that the poor house was only a short step away if we continued to fuel our habit. I lamented that while I knew his book would be good, and I would be buying it, I would be one step closer to the poor house than he would. He bailed me out by offering a free copy when it was published. And then the guy just disappeared. Fell of the face of the earth. I sent a few emails that went unanswered. Threw a few tweets his way. Nada. And then, in October, out of nowhere, I saw a tweet referencing Jim and his forthcoming book, StoryBranding.

I sent an email and this time got an immediate reply, along with an offer for an advance reader copy. Sign me up and put me in coach.

I read it over the next few days. It's a book that you could easily read in a day if you were so inclined. It's also a book that you'll want to read more than once if you're really serious about long-term sales for your company or yourself.

What follows is based on the advance reader copy. I haven't seen the finished version yet so some things I reference by page or chapter may be off a bit but I can't imagine it will be by much.

The book is 22 and one half chapters long. What in the hell is a half chapter you're asking? And the guy has the chutzpah to take our money for that? That half chapter is what starts the book off and it's a great read. It's what might be an introduction in other books but come on now, stories don't have introductions do they? Prologues perhaps.

It's in the .5 chapter that I came to realize what probably happened to Jim when he fell of the face of the earth. He went down the story rabbit hole and came out on the other side all the better for it. He takes us through his journey into story using his own company and the lessons they learned. And his motive for writing StoryBranding? " find a more powerful and creative way to define and sell a brand's unique value."

Towards the end of that .5 chapter he offers us this: "Brands have intentions too. But often, that intention is too raw, too blatant, and too often dismissed because the profit motive is transparent. If we look beyond the need for immediate sales, we start to see something that is far more appealing than the brands facts or opinions about why it's the best, strongest, most durable, cheapest, etc. We start to see a belief, philosophy or cause that defines what the brand is, not just what the brand is for. And much like we form an emotional bond with story characters, we start to relate to a brand in the same way. The brand's importance goes beyond any functional advantage. When we buy a brand, in a sense we join that tribe. In turn, we invite it into our lives to reinforce who we are while telling those around us what we believe is important." To me, that sounds like some of what stories have been doing for mankind throughout our history.

So just what is story? What's StoryBranding? And how in the heck does it work?

After surrendering to the 80 plus definitions of story that he found on the internet, Jim settled on a slightly modified version of Kendall Haven's, whose book Story Proof is well worth your reading time too. "Story is a narrative about a character dealing with some obstacle to achieve some important goal." And StoryBranding "is a process designed to help brands know themselves the way stories help us know characters. It's a process that also helps us know a brand's prospects in ways that will help form lasting relationships that are immune from any competitive claim or coupon."

And how does it work? Using story elements and mechanics, plot, theme, characterization and the like, Jim takes you through building the Brand Story Model. That "consists of two character cells separated by an obstacle. Similar to the way we define a story, our StoryBranding model also consists of a character's movement through some obstacle towards some goal. In our model, the main character is the brand whose goal is to connect with or become attached to the prospect. For this to happen, we must accomplish two things. First, we must completely move obstacles out of the way. And second, we must make certain that each cell's chemistry matches the chemistry of the other. The cells are composed of outer layers or behaviors we can see, and inner layers, or values and beliefs that aren't discernable but often explain the outer layer behaviors. Matching occurs when there is a logical consistency between the outer layers and the inners layers of both cells."

How do you do that? The rest of the book, from chapters 4 through 22 take you through that journey. And what a journey it is. You discover ways to know your brand and your prospect/customer and how to use story archetypes to define and match both. You'll answer "I Am" questions in ways you likely never have and you'll put story briefs together in new and exciting ways.

A note in closing. I really like the way Jim focuses on the brand as the main character. So many do just the opposite and I find Jim's method very refreshing. I think that you will to.
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