Marketers and consumers alike know that a brand is more than a logo and color palette. A brand is an identity, a culture, a communications style. It is not what you do, but how you do it.  It can inspire loyalty or instill disgust.

Brands are important. And nothing helps set the tone of our brands more than how we describe ourselves.

Why is it so many of our About Us statements are boring, buzz-word compliant, double speak?  They don’t have to be.

Brand storiesConsider Panera. At its heart it is a bakery.

What they do is simple but they operate in a highly competitive market fighting for customers against coffee shops, local bakeries steeped in history and catering companies of many sizes and cuisines.

How do they keep employees motivated? What makes them stay focused on what they do best? Why do customers keep coming back for more when they have so many choices? In part, it is their brand story. They don’t just bake bread, they celebrate it every day.

Just reading their story makes me crave that warm, sumptuous experience that is buying fresh bread at Panera. Yes, they sell cookies. Yes they make fresh salads. Even coffee is a staple. But those aren’t what Panera is about. It is about the bread and they celebrate that simple, heartfelt goodness in every customer interaction.

Another great example has been manifested visually at  Einstein Bros Bagels.  It’s hard not to walk around a metropolitan center and not find a bagel shop of some kind. Like Panera, competition is fierce.  Like their peers, Einstein Bros Bagels need to build loyalty and draw in customers amongst lots of other choices.

Visualize your brand story

One way they achieve that is by making their food have a true personality. This poster proudly displayed in the Indianapolis Monument Square shop says it all in a clever way! It says we’re like you – good ideas come from our belly, and we were the first to try something new – bagel sandwiches. It also says stay, enjoy – you’ll leave full and happy.

Wow, based on these two examples I’ve got heavy carbs on the mind. Better showcase another type of business just so you don’t think I do nothing but eat breakfast food!

brand storyCheck out the brand story by Johnny Cupcakes.  No, I didn’t make a mistake and go back to baked goods! Johnny Cupcakes sells t-shirts. Nothing but t-shirts. And they have a loyal fan base that took this once out of the trunk business into a global sensation.  Their brand story is an important part of their success. If employees and customers only thought of Johnny Cupcakes as a place to buy a t-shirt they would be competing with Hanes, TJ Maxx and Old Navy. But they don’t. Wearing a Johnny Cupcakes shirt is a statement, and one that keeps customers coming back for more. What’s even more important is that not only do customers come back for more, but they are compelled to tell the Johnny story to others. Customers don’t just buy t-shirts, they champion the brand.

By now you might be thinking that all of this brand story business is just for Business to Consumer companies. But you’d be wrong. Business to Business marketing can and should take a lesson from these brands – if a bakery, bagel store and t-shirt manufacturer can stand out from their very heavy competition, shouldn’t we try too?  After all, business executives are people too!

Companies that sell to marketers are getting pretty good at telling their brand story. Hubspot is famous for its brand personality. Check out the culture section on their website. Or Netprospex’s company page.  Even Google’s About Us statement, who sells increasingly to the enterprise, hasn’t missed the opportunity to say who they are, not just what they do.

But it’s more than just marketing companies and B2B businesses born out of consumer roots. Check out this small tech start-up, TechLok’s company history. If you visit the page you’ll need to scroll down past team member profiles. They’ve taken a good solid step towards telling a story.

brand story telling

All of these companies are living proof that B2B doesn’t have to be boring.

If your About Us statement reads something like  –  My company is the leading provider of .  Our award-winning solutions serve <#> thousands of customers with offices in <insert country> and <insert country> … You’ve missed a great opportunity.

But here’s the good news. It is easy to fix. Get back to writing and remember:

1. Tell a story. Don’t say what you do. Tell them why you do it. Make it personal.

2. Your brand story matters. Tell it in all the ways you can. Panera puts their on their take out bags. Einstein Brothers showcases it prominently on the store walls. Hubspot demonstrates it with tons of blog posts and speaking events.

3. Be approachable. The most complex solutions are still bought, sold and used by humans. Don’t get lost in buzz word compliant solutions speak.  There is a time and place to talk about what your product/service is and what amazing features it provides.  Your “About Us” brand story is not that place.

4. Focus on what you do best. If you try to include all aspects of your business you’ll end up with lists of things you do. Instead focus on what drives your organization.

We all have legends, legacies and brand stories lurking in the corners of our offices.  Don’t be afraid to use them!

p.s.  If you have other brand stories to share, I’d love to read them!