Brand Storytelling: The Importance of your Founding Story

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I love my industries. I mean leap-out-of-bed love them! How could I not? Getting to work with the great people and inspiring brands in the outdoor, bike, snowsports, cycling, endurance and travel markets is like going on a field trip pretty much every day. Twenty years in, and I still feel this way. 

As a professional storyteller (I’m the founder of Verde Brand Communications and a former journalist)  in our industries are exceptional at storytelling because our markets are passion-driven and very entrepreneurial. Think about our founders. … Only the maniacal would tinker in their basements or garages for days, weeks and months on end to create solutions in new products that make their beloved outdoor pursuit better. And, only in our market (in my opinion anyway) would people drive their camper van filled with product – still in prototype form – to their favorite crags, play holes or trail heads to get product feedback, or sales.

It’s this birthing process that makes the brands comprising the outdoor active lifestyle markets pretty exceptional at brand storytelling. In fact, Forbes just acknowledged us for that exact attribute.

We’re also exceptional at storytelling because we’re inherently tribal; that’s like having very interested, built-in readerships for each category within each sport. In our micro worlds surrounding our outdoor passion of choice, there’s a very specific “style” to how we do things. Add to that the fact that the tribes are fired up about everything and anything having to do with our passion. Ask any boater, climber, trail runner, through hiker, cyclist, skier – you get the idea.

Our industries make products that are identity pieces to these tribes. When we as outdoor enthusiasts find a product that aligns with our particular style in our particular outdoor pursuit, there’s a romance that develops that goes deep. In fact, the connection between brand and user is, in my opinion, completely unique to any other industry. It’s kind of like that feeling you had when you got your first brand-new bike when you were a kid. Actually, it’s still exactly like that feeling – only we get it when we upgrade our kit in any way at all.

All in all? A ton of built-in opportunity for marketing. Ironiccally, there’s one key thing that doesn’t seem to fit. I’ve noticed that many outdoor active lifestyle companies are missing their founding story. As in completely missing in many cases.

I get that our founders are far more often than not very humble. But it’s important to just go there and get it captured, and make it visible, to differentiate your brand. As the Forbes article stated: “The founding story is at the core of the brand’s mission and helps to explain why a company exists.”

Just this past week, I was sitting in a 2016 strategy planning meeting with one of our clients, G3 (Genuine Guide Gear). The founder of G3, Oliver Steffen, was featured as my guest on a recent Intrepid Entrepreneur podcast.

G3 is a 20-year-old independent backcountry skiing and riding company, based in Vancouver, Canada. G3 designs and manufactures some of the best hardgoods in the category. Oliver literally founded the company by making his own avalanche safety probes.

I found out in that strategy meeting that my podcast, The Intrepid Entrepreneur, was the first time he’d ever shared G3’s founding story. The very first time.

Oliver’s story is INCREDIBLE. Listen to it here. He didn’t have a blueprint of any kind building out his company. What he did have was an IRON will, a vision and a near-maniacal determination to make it GO – and that’s what he did. Hearing Oliver tell the story makes it quite obvious that G3 is a special company. In fact, I can definitively say that NO other backcountry company has a story like G3.

In my mind, that makes G3’s founding story pretty darn important. You can bet you’ll be hearing more about it moving forward.

Positioning this on the website, blog and the all-important “About” section is growing in importance. The consumer prefers to go directly to the brand’s website to engage and learn more about a company, rather than going to a retailer’s site. A study pointing this out was just published in Sept. 2015, article on BizReport.com.

Today, brands need to give the complete story to consumers – doing so will only increase engagement and frankly, in the outdoors markets, endearment. We all love to learn where a favorite outdoor recreation product came from – founder included. Brands, at the very least, should have a compelling founder’s story visible in an easy-to-find location on their owned media properties (such as a website, blog, social media, etc.).

How about you? Have you captured your founder’s story? Are you doing what you can do to ensure your company is on track to being discovered and better yet? Are you on track to ensuring that your company is impacting entrepreneurs the way it can? Let me know how you’re feeling around this – what are your challenges? Wins? Email me at kco@livinguber.com.