Don’t get me wrong, I love a good do-it-yourself-we-have-all-the-answers business book. In fact, I became a superfan of Donald Miller’s Building A Storybrand. So much so that it functioned as my brand messaging bible for some time. Yes, that sounds pretty drastic, but when you’re starting out in a particular field, you find something that connects and you run with it.
I used it for my brand and relied on it religiously as the framework for all my clients. I pushed it whenever I was speaking about branding. I logged endless hours on the phone with friends and colleagues about it. I could have been their poster child, it was that serious.
If you’re not familiar with Storybrand, long story short (ha!), it's a book (and high priced service and/or seminar) based on a very specific formula for crafting and clarifying your brand message.
As a small business, this can be very appealing (I’ll take a wild guess that, being a savvy businessman, Donald Miller knew this). People are looking for someone to tell them what to do and generally at a low price point. This book does just that. In all honesty, you can sit down in an afternoon and completely rework your brand messaging. It’s a script designed to guide the user towards clarity.
No shade (mostly), all of this is rather groundbreaking, until you start to look at the framework from the perspective of everyone else who is also using the script.
One of the biggest goals in branding any business is to differentiate; to slice out a section of pie that’s yours alone. The question is then, how is that possible when you’re using a script that countless other people (at least 500,000, anyway) are also using?
Answer: From a branding perspective, it becomes difficult.
Every homepage headline starts to include “when you’re struggling with ________” and “we help ______”. Every brand pitch ends with “so you can ______”. Every website structure includes a 3 step process.
You get the picture. The process stifles individuality. It clarifies at the cost of differentiation (and if we’re being really honest, the copy becomes boring).
As I was clinging to this process with every fiber of my being, I started to realize how lazy I was getting, how boring the copy was becoming and how predictable the message was (I’m not in the business of packaging and passing off what everyone else has just to make a buck, sorry). Now, think about what companies with no direction other than Storybrand are doing.
My brain just keeps going back to that 500,000 copies sold. Eeeek.
But that’s not all folks.
Storybrand also doesn't place much emphasis on visuals. According to its philosophy, as long as the messaging is strong, a stock image of a happy person will suffice.
If you know me at all, you know I’m cringing hard right now.
While messaging is undeniably important, neglecting visuals can result in a lackluster brand presence. As much as we want to deny that books are judged by their cover, consumers are drawn to brands that not only communicate effectively but also engage them through beautiful, compelling visuals.
I’m not here to slam just Storybrand (it just happens to be the easiest target). It's crucial to recognize that this issue extends beyond Storybrand. Any process or methodology that you become too entrenched in can make you complacent and hinder creative thinking or make you susceptible to blending in with your competition. By relying solely on a predefined formula, you risk losing your autonomy and uniqueness.
A word to the wise: Use Storybrand and other resources as references and tools, rather than strict guidelines. Blend the knowledge you've acquired with your own thoughts and ideas. Formulaic approaches can provide structure, but true innovation and differentiation come from thinking outside the box and challenging the status quo. Remember, you are the driving force behind your brand's success, and your ability to think independently will set you apart in a sea of sameness.
Starting a podcast sounds fun. Until the silence rolls in. Let's unravel where I went right and where I went so so wrong.