A young boy from a small yet tumultuous village called Dharavi had made a ton of money — 50 000 rupees! — from working as a gardener for a family in Canada. He was an orphan who lived from one place to another and made a living from odd jobs.
A teenager, his name was Ram Mohamad Thomas. Happy and proud, he was eager to travel back to Mumbai. Quite an achievement to have a proper reservation, in the sleeper class while his peers were hawkers, some sleeping in the streets in chaotic India cities; others, porters or street sweepers.
The story of young Thomas fits in perfectly in a conversation around branding.
“I am wearing a starched white bush shirt made of one hundred percent cotton and Levi’s jeans — yes, Levi’s jeans, bought from the Tibetan Market.”, he boastfully noted, moments before he boarded his train.
What became significant for me was this: he believed the jeans he was wearing were top-of-the-range. Not because Levi’s is better than the many other denim brands there are.
It is the story he has been told that has an effect in how he percieved the brand on his back.
I am willing to bet that you are wearing a skirt, trouser, pair of sleek jeans or watch because of the story that is attached to it. Yes?
Let me explain. Though at times we are not aware of this, we often think it is solely our choices that dictate most of what we decide to buy. To a certain degree, it is, but not without attaching stories to the products and services we buy daily.
Ram, just like many other people, looks at the products he loves while replaying the stories he was told about them in order to determine their quality, style or cool factor.
The Apple iPhone, in my humble opinion, is an okay device! Apart from the security it offers, it is a phone Samsung competes with toe-to-toe. Case in point: Samsung’s Galaxy S6 boasts a 16 megapixels rear camera and the iPhone 6 possesses a mere 12 MP. However, when I have Apple’s device in my hand, I get a vastly different reception from people.
They see and think of me differently compared to when I have a Samsung mobile.
Let’s explore a rather simpler example. At the check-out section at a supermarket, let’s say, I feel differently when I look at a GQ magazine and feel otherwise when I behold a Fortune.
They are mere magazines for Pete’s sake!
Not necessarily! Due to the stories they are attached to when they are being sold, they become far more than thin books with visuals of breath-taking super models, cars, advice and interviews. The stories elevate their status and use in society.
When some people buy a Rolex Oyster Perpetual or a Tag Heuer timepiece, they buy with it prestige, history, meaning, the feeling it gives them when it adons their wrists. They buy the status it gives them when peers see it and make great comments on how beautiful it is.
Almost all that we buy, beyond the products and services we acquire, are stories attached to them.
The ability then, to tell an impressive and convincing tale, is more important than we realise.
Consider this . . .
Storytelling is how we live! Think of the job interviews you go to, the marketing of our products and services, right to convincing a potential lover of why we are worthy of their time.
And if you are wondering whether Ram made it to Mumbai in a joyous mood, he did not! A syndicate of heavily armed dacoits descended without warning and looted the Paschim Express for Bombay. His money, which was stashed neatly in his underpants the whole time, was discovered.
He kept the Levi’s jeans, though.