I was in two minds about writing this story.
It's the story of my journey of revamping Story Rules' brand identity. On one hand, I feel it's worth sharing since it contains lessons that can be applied by anyone looking to build their personal/corporate brand. On the other hand, talking so much about myself in a post makes me squirm a lot. Some parts are decidedly 'salesy', and not the kind of stuff that would normally go in this story-letter.
But eventually, I thought that the benefits outweigh the cons. Let me know if you think otherwise :)
It's been about 4 years that I've been working under the brand name 'Story Rules' for my storytelling training and coaching services.
When I started in 2016-17, all I did was pick a name and design a simple logo. For the original logo, in fact, I didn't even bother speaking to a designer. I just created it on PowerPoint using a thick font. :|
And it worked fine... Until it didn't!
My logo was simple but dull. And my slides, website and other visual assets did not exactly speak a common visual language.
Which was fine, if I was just going to be doing B2B training. But with upcoming B2C initiatives like a public e-Course, a podcast and an online video series (all to be released one-by-one - patience!), I wanted all my content and visual assets to speak the same brand language.
That should have been simple right? Just get a designer to come up with a new logo, some slide templates and voila, brand redesign done!
So after speaking with a couple of friends from the world of marketing and branding, I realised how this is far, far more than just a visual exercise. I had entered into the world of branding.
I needed to know what problem my brand was solving for the customer.... and more importantly, what it stood for in their eyes.
I needed to tell my brand *cough* story through the new identity.
But I couldn't do it alone. I needed some mentors.
One mentor - who's been extremely helpful and incredibly knowledgable about this craft - is Vineet Sharma of PepsiCo. He patiently took me through the basics and handheld me through the process.
Vineet is a batchmate from IIM-A, and was always a branding geek. It's been absolutely enlightening having conversations with him on the topic.
One of his most critical insights was this: "In a space where the product is not very well known, you will end up doing a fair bit of concept-selling. Now here's the rub. If you spend effort and money selling the concept - but do not clearly differentiate your offering from that of others - then the benefit of any awareness you create about the concept, will not accrue to you, but to the market leader."
To give an example, say, your product is a new paid online newsletter that covers the startup space in India. Now, paying for news online is still not something that everyone is ok with - and so, let's say you spend quite a bit of your marketing dollars in raising awareness about the need for good paid reporting and analysis.
Vineet's point is this: Unless you clearly differentiate your offering from that of other companies in the space, the benefits of any effort you put on awareness-creation, will accrue to the market leader in the space. (Say 'The Ken').
Your brand differentiation is your brand identity.
And it needs to come through everywhere - in your logo, in your tagline, in your writings, in any assets that you put out.
And so, one critical exercise I embarked upon was a survey from my existing clients... What is it that they see as my differentiation... Why do they come to me, and not others? To get these answers, I reached out to about 12 clients from diverse sectors.
I had an inkling of what their answer would be - but even I was surprised by how strongly their perception matched with mine. (Score one for self-awareness!)
So here are the two clear differentiators for Story Rules:
1. Holistic approach: Storytelling is both a science and an art. You need a holistic, balanced approach that combines both ‘left-brain’ and ‘right-brain’ elements to make it work well.
I come from the world of numbers and business, given my past as a CA, MBA and management consultant (hey, don’t judge me… we all make mistakes).
But I also understand and appreciate the importance of ‘right-brain’ elements - an understanding that flowered during my years with a social enterprise ... and my history-storytelling startup. I’ve also immersed myself in great writing by remarkable storytellers (like Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Bill Bryson, Dan Pink et al) - and try to bring that learning into my work.
So, given my exposure to the world of numbers/business and also to the world of stories, I can ensure that the client gets the holistic, complete picture about storytelling.
Story Rules covers the Science and the Art, the Head and the Heart of storytelling. :)
(Credit to Vineet for helping me come up with that line!)
2. Customised solution: The world of storytelling techniques can seem like a distant isle, disconnected from your land. Which is why, it is important to build bridges. Bridges between your specific industry or function and the storytelling techniques being taught.
I build these bridges by doing four things:
- Having specialized courses for specific audiences (say Consulting firms, HR teams, Finance teams, Sales, Technology, Leadership et al) rather than a generic, one-size-fits-all course.
- Customization of modules (within those courses) that are most relevant to Client use-cases
- Incorporating specific case-examples on storytelling from the Client's organization or from the industry.
- Combining this conceptual understanding with individualized coaching on the participants' specific work stories/presentations
Due to this approach, the participants can connect the concepts with their real-world application and begin using them at work immediately.
Now it was time to incorporate these two insights into the brand identity.
Here I was guided by Shreyasi Singh of Harappa Education. I just love how Harrapa has built their brand identity (a lot of which is Shreyasi's passion for the subject). She guided me towards two designers - Madhumita Srivastava and Amrita Dasgupta - who had designed the Harappa logo.
Madhumita and Amrita are beautiful souls. Their hearts beat for design and art, and they are a fountainhead of creativity. They immersed themselves into this project and came up with a range of interesting logos, each telling a different story.
But here's the one that I loved the most:
Here's how this logo tells the 'differentiation story' of Story Rules so well:
Phew - that's a lot of story for one simple logo :)
Of course, there's a lot more to the process - and we are still in the midst of it... but I've enjoyed it so far... I hope you also found some value (or at least entertainment) in my journey.
Best of luck in your own brand-definition journeys - whenever you decide to embark on one!
Feel free to reach out in case you need any inputs.