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We all like to think of ourselves as individuals with unique personalities and characteristics – well, I don’t, but I’m different – but what if we thought of our businesses in the same way? After all, every business has its own brand image, attributes and raison d’être, so why not? And if our business really were an individual, how would it set about interacting with others as it went about its daily… business?

First of all, as an individual it might like to tone down its marketing a notch or two. While it’s true that we do sometimes ‘market’ ourselves – think of our resumés and personal statements – that kind of self-promotion doesn’t go down so well in social circles, as you’ll be acutely aware the next time someone approaches you with the words, “Hi! I’m Brad, and I’m a dynamic and creative self-starter who’s truly passionate about profits! I bet you’d just love to hear all about me and my greatest achievements!”

Brad won’t make too many friends like that, and neither would our individual business. It’s not difficult to figure out how Brad could improve his social skills – except for Brad – and in the context of our business that very same solution would probably be called ‘brand story-telling’. Personally I’m not convinced by the actual term itself, but the basic concept is that our business will courteously present itself as charming, interesting, entertaining, helpful and supportive, will be a good listener and take an interest in others, and will slowly and subtly position itself as the kind of business you might one day want to do business with. Just as one day you might conceivably fancy a beer with a reformed Brad, although obviously it takes time.

3 C’s approach

One major brand, which has embraced storytelling, is JW Marriott, and recently had the pleasure of listening to their Vice President of Global Brand Public Relations, John Wolf, as he explained Marriott’s latest strategies.

First of all John introduced his 3 C’s approach. The first C is Content; the idea is to provide engaging, informative or entertaining material across a range of media, because “if you can add value to the lives of target consumers, we believe they’ll give you value back.” However, this content is most definitely not about directly promoting Marriott. As John explained, “You don’t need your brand to be front and center. We can’t just talk about ourselves.

The second C is Community; in this case the community of people who love to travel and to share travel related stories, photos and videos. “When people travel, they think about the destination long before they think about the hotel,” said John, “so by focusing content on the destination you can generate a tremendous amount of interest.

All of this leads to the final C – Commerce. Building up a travel community of potential consumers who have already become engaged with the brand should eventually translate into business transactions. Of course, this process is neither fast nor simple to measure. One example of Marriott’s content can be found on YouTube. It is a short movie entitled ‘Two Bellmen’. The bellmen’s uniforms carry a JW Marriott logo, but that is probably the only reference made to the brand in its entire 17 minutes. The video had over five million views in its first month and attracted highly favorable comments – many of which highlighted the fact that it was an ad, except it wasn’t, and because it wasn’t, it was so much more appreciated.

Those five million viewers won’t all become customers, but they’ll certainly remember the two bellmen. Some will begin to seek out more of the brand’s online content. And next time they need to choose a hotel, their minds are already made up.