How your brand should tell a beautiful story

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Before you do anything, please watch this:

It’s almost perfect, isn’t it?

I don’t even own that much clothing from Patagonia. But, after watching this twenty-plus minute video on YouTube, that will change. So, it’s a video with only 300,000 views, and they describe the video as a documentary that is an “exploration of quality — in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family’s maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, New Hampshire; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Released as an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.”

I am sure that some of you have seen it (it was released about a year ago), but it only recently came to my attention. It is called, Worn Wear: a Film About the Stories We Wear, and I do believe that every brand (whether you are BtoB or BtoC) should watch it, take notes and think about it before they do any kind of digital marketing. Yes, it’s a powerful statement.

The stuff that true case studies are made of.

People who know me, know how much I laothe case studies and white papers. Most of them (if not all) are just trumped up stories about how great a brand performed on some kind of platform or campaign. Sure, it’s nice to get a peek behind the curtain, but it doesn’t add much value if everything written (or being produced) is just another way to trump up the brand. Where are the mistakes, the foibles, the struggles… and the true challenges?

Also, many brands use these documents to validate their own actions, always failing to realize that one brand’s success does little ensure that your brand can replicate or leverage that success for yourself. If digital marketing has proved anything, it has proved that every type of success is the exception… and not the rule. We’re no longer in the land of being able to simply outspend and out-shout the competition (or block them from media access because we’ve locked it in). Yes, the world of abundance is upon us. It’s no longer a scarcity model.

Why is Patagonia so good at this?

There is no denying that these are just well-produced testimonials. Testimonials have been the cornerstone of marketing since… well, just about since marketing was invented. The premise is simple enough: let’s not tell people how great our brand is, let’s just enable our customers do that for us.

Media has enabled this form of word of mouth marketing to have layers of distribution. With the Internet (and, social media in particular), this scales to the world with very little (if any) cost of distribution. If you were to ask any brand what they would most like their consumers to say about them, it would be:

  • Great quality.
  • Great price for value.
  • That it lasts for a very long time.
  • That it helps to build memories.

If we stopped right there, most of us might say that it would be hard to get our marketing to say all of those things (in a truthful and meaningful way). That is what makes this twenty-minute commercial (no, as much as Patagonia markets this as a documentary, it’s just a long commercial) so incredible. It sucks you in and soaks you in. It’s able to genuinely demonstrate the brand attributes in a way that is humane.

Back in the early 2000s, my excitement for the Internet — as a brand and marketing channel — was its ability to create real connections between real human beings. Knowing full well that this is just one, big commercial for Patagonia doesn’t change my level of pleasure and enjoyment in watching it. With that, it has — without question — piqued my interest in becoming a more loyal customer. And, if I wasn’t already a consumer, it would now be placed highly in my consideration stack.

Ultimately, the message is clear: these are the types of “case studies” every brand can and should be doing. Do you agree?

About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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