‘How we make it’ can be a compelling narrative
The other day, my husband came home with a bottle of Kelt — not his usual cognac. When I asked why he’d switched brands, he pulled out the box and started reading:
“Centuries ago, it was discovered that cognac, which was sent from France to the colonies, improved dramatically during the long sea voyage. The rolling of the sea, the temperature variations, frequent air pressure changes and the sea air itself rounds the spirit off in a beautiful way.
“In the 20th century came the age of brands. This meant the spirits were shipped in bottles rather than in oak barrels. The magical effect of the sea was lost as a spirit does not mature once it is bottled.
“Kelt has revived the tradition … We send our already aged spirits, still in oak barrels, on a three-month sea voyage around the globe. This, the Kelt Tour du Monde, creates a unique spirit and restores an aspect of quality lost for almost a century.”
My husband takes his cognac seriously. Why did he change his brand?
The story made him do it.
Find your process story
Does your organization use a compelling process for producing its products or services?
Sometimes “how we make it” can make a dramatic narrative. If you, say, send your product on a cruise around the world before you find it fit for your customers, make that process part of your brand story.Since Coors differentiated its beer through a process story — it was the only major brand to use cold filtration rather than pasteurization — beverage businesses have been building their brands by telling the stories behind their processes.
Enter perhaps the most romantic process story on the planet: the story of St-Germain.
Gathering wild flowers for your cocktail
I first fell in love with St-Germain over a Poivre (St-Germain, pear vodka, champagne) at Luke in New Orleans. Had my husband’s cooler head not prevailed, I would have retired on the spot and devoted the rest of my life to savoring these luscious cocktails.
My second meeting with my new best friend occurred over appetizers on our foodiest friends’ deck, where they topped the elderberry liqueur with Prosecco.
That’s where I read St-Germain’s process story, delivered in a gorgeous little booklet attached to a bottle right out of a 19th-century French perfumerie.
Here’s the story:
“In the foothills of the Alps, for but a few fleeting spring days, this man will gather wild blossoms for your cocktail.
“The blossoms in question are elderflowers, the man un bohemian, and the cocktail a stylishly simple creation made with St-Germain, the first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms. …
“After gently ushering the wild blossoms into sacks and descending the hillside, the man who gathers blossoms for your cocktail will then mount a bicycle and carefully ride the umbels of starry white flowers to market. Vraiment.
“There are no more than 40 or 50 men such as he, and in a matter of days they will have gathered and bicycled to us the entirety of what will become St-Germain for that year. You could not write a better story if you were François Truffaut.”
No, you could not.
So, even if you’re not Truffaut, how can you tell your organization’s process story?
1. Study the process your organization uses to create your products and services. Go to the scene to observe, if possible. There’s nothing like being there for nailing a process narrative.
Find out how your process differs from the industry norm. Is it rare? Unique? If so, you’ll want to make that point in your story. (“We can safely say that no men, bohemien or otherwise, will be wandering the hillsides of Poland this spring gathering wild potatoes for your vodka,” write the good people at St-Germain.)
2. Find the romance. If your process is better expressed in a flow chart than a narrative, this technique is not for you. (Your readers don’t want to see that sausage being made.) But if your process involves human beings doing something interesting or unusual, a surprising or hard-to-find ingredient or an approach that hearkens back to your industry’s start, you might have a story there.
3. Romance the copy. Take another look at the St-Germain and Kelt stories. Notice how everything from word choice (“umbels of starry white flowers”) to repetition and rhythm (“The rolling of the sea, the temperature variations, frequent air pressure changes and the sea air itself”) contribute to the romance of the stories. Your story might require a different voice from these, but it shouldn’t sound like the rest of your marketing copy.
Tip: You might start your story with one person (“un bohemian”), then expand it to the group (“40 or 50 men”).
4. Make the process story part of your brand. If you have a great “how we make it” story, don’t just explain it once on your website or brochure. Put it on your box or hang tag as well.
Then reward yourself for your hard work with a soothing and delicious cocktail. I can recommend one …