Dyson is not a company that looks to consumers for answers; it does what it believes and looks to consumers for advocacy.
I worked firsthand with James Dyson to understand his belief and see it in action. What I came to understand was a company interested in the idea that brave design combined with inventive engineering can, and should, make things better.
James and I agreed that using Dyson communications to “spin” a narrative was wrong for the brand. Instead, the writing needed to “tell it like it is” because what it is is remarkably compelling.
We never used hyperbole to make a point, because we believed that the reality of Dyson design and engineering was a great story that didn’t need embellishment.
In the end, we created a story thread that wove its way through everything including product information cards and instruction manuals. We even wrote an employee-only book called: “About Dyson,” so that each employee could ingest James’ belief in the power of great design.
And while it’s true that people are buying a great product, they’re also buying into what Dyson believes.
Sports Illustrated didn’t need to tell people it covered sports, it needed to convince people that its coverage of sports showed another side of life.
Writing for Sports Illustrated (not the magazine, but the marketing) is an intimidating challenge for a writer—as you might imagine. This is a brand that understands great writing, as well as its power and importance.
Together we believed that the brand was more than a sports magazine, it was a view of the way life played out in sports. The story needed to be more than scores and stats because those were a dime a dozen. What Sports Illustrated did better than anyone else was understand. Sports Illustrated was more than what happened on a field, court or anywhere else, it was a view into what made athletes, teams, fans, and games tick.
This story was threaded throughout the brand, from sales materials that were presented to advertisers to direct mail that went to readers. It was told in mass communications and employee communications.
We not only helped people see the magazine differently, we helped them understand sports differently.
Teenage boys don’t care how much they sweat; they want to increase
their chances of meeting a girl.
Teenage boys, for the most part, have one thing on their mind: girls. So just about anything that gives them a better chance of attracting one is, well, worth its weight in gold.
So we made AXE a “tool.” We didn’t talk about it as a product that simply made guys smell better, we made it an indispensible tool they could use to meet girls.
This idea of making AXE more than a product, but a tool, became a huge part of threading the story. We needed to do more than simply talk to guys, we needed to help them. We needed to do more than supply them with product information, we needed to teach them about girls.
And we did, in absolutely everything. From advertising to the Internet. From the way the sales force talked with retailers to the way the AXE team behaved inside of Unilever. We even created a branded television series on MTV called, “The Gamekillers.”
Story threading made AXE a teenage phenomenon … and quite a few parents nervous.
Google doesn’t need anyone telling them how to tell their story. It needs someone who can use their story well.
Working with Google is a master class in story threading. It already has a well-defined point-of-view and awesome discipline in threading it throughout everything it does. It even has a question it asks to ensure something is inbounds: “Is it Googley?”
I’ve worked with Google on many projects, everything from the launch of Google Chrome to creating sales sheets for its High Speed Computing Cloud Platform for financial services. And more in-between.
Writing for Google means being authentic and not playing games. It means writing for the user/reader and making things simple and easily understandable.
Writing for Google isn’t at all easy. But more than most brands I admire their discipline and passion. And it’s hard, of course, to argue with their success.
To see banks as they really are, it pays to be a child.
When GMAC, primarily an auto financing company, was changing to Ally Bank to more actively engage in online consumer banking, I sat down with the CEO to discuss the change. In that meeting he was very clear, he wasn’t going to play the games that other banks played—he wanted Ally to be more transparent and fair.
So our story became one of looking at banking through the eyes of children. We showed the faults of traditional banking that Ally was fixing by exposing those faults to kids, and having them respond with all of their brutal honesty and bluntness (because, hey, even kids know when something's wrong, so why don't banks?).
And this story was threaded throughout the brand. Our story of honest interactions and fair transactions was shared with employees and customers. We wrote scripts that were read over the phone. We created presentations that were shown to the street. Everything the brand did exposed its view on banking. And changed the way a bank is seen.