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The new aspiration economy changes the role and meaning of brands. Brands are valued differently: not as much as they can give their consumers economic status, but if they provide the social, cultural, and environmental one.
Modern status is conveyed through storytelling. Brands tell stories of their origin, heritage, design, craftsmanship or purpose and appropriate the stories of people they are celebrating. Consumers tell stories of how, where, when and what they bought and through those stories provide meaning and cultural and social context to their purchases.
In both cases, stories increase desirability of products. When brands sell products, they sell culture; when modern aspirants buy products, they buy themselves a role in a cultural, social or environmental narrative.
In addition to being a valuable brand currency, storytelling is also critical for customer acquisition and loyalty. Once consumers buy into a story they are less likely to leave or switch than when they just buy a product.
Here is the ABC of a perfect story.
A is for Audience. It refers to a deep quantitative and qualitative dive into who brand customers are and what are their values and aspirations that a brand and its products and services can support.
B is for brand. It refers to the intangible parts that make a brand distinct and exciting; aspects of a brand that are linked to its provenance, its founder, its sourcing and production and/or its philosophy, mission or the desired role in the world. These are expressed through design cues and narrative anchors that quickly signal a shared understanding of the brand and create trust. A signature aesthetic and a visual narrative give companies differentiation and durability.
C is for culture. It covers the values and aspirations in culture, the mood and the atmosphere, dominant tastes and the ways they are acquired, the context and what society is collectively paying attention to.
Examples of the well-executed ABCs:
Hodinkee magazine for inspiration and education of watch aficionados and watch-curios.
GUCCIFest, a new fashion show format that looks nothing like a fashion show, directed by Gus Van Sant and Alessandro Michele.
GANNI Talks podcast, where brand founders Ditte and Nicolaj Reffstrup call friends around the world.
Aesop’s Taxonomy of Design tells the stories behind its global stores, offering information on the processes and materials that go into each one. Accompanied with interviews with designers and collaborators who worked on specific stores.
GANT’s show “Couple Thinkers” that expresses the brand’s “Never Stop Learning” philosophy.
Fenty Skin’s launch party. Accompanied by other Rihanna initiatives, like live virtual events and YouTube tutorials.
McQueen Creators, revolves around craftsmen and designers in the brand studio.
David Zwirner’s Platform, which brought together twelve New York-based galleries. Applicable for brands across categories and beyond the pandemic.
Further reading: Five pillars of a successful content strategy
In the episode 14 of The Business of Aspiration, I spoke with Gill Linton, founder of Byronesque, an online editorial based shop for contemporary-vintage fashion. Described as "the app revolutionizing vintage fashion shopping," Byronesque was born out of desire to change the experience of second-hand shopping. Quoting Vivienne Westwood, Linton's mantra is "buy less, choose well." We talked about future vintage, re-issues and importance of original editorial. Listen below.