Guest Post by Jamie Garantziotis
I was catching up on emails recently when a message caught my eye from one of my favorite brands: Rapha.
As a bike geek and cycling lover, I love Rapha’s comfortable and beautifully designed cycling wear, and admire its use of content (particularly video) to tell its story.
Over the holiday season, Rapha challenged its community to complete the Festive 500 – burning off those Christmas calories by getting outside and cycling 500km across one week.
You can see some of the great efforts and content shared by the community here.
What struck me about this was the reversal of the storytelling dynamic, and the ongoing willingness of Rapha to put the brand in the hands of its consumers and community – a point highlighted by Brian Solis in his recent interview with Ford’s Jim Farley.
While Rapha normally invests in the production of stylish content to tell its story, this initiative was an invitation to get outside, enjoy riding your bike, and share the journey with the community.
In a recent discussion over coffee, a friend made the proclamation that 2012 isn’t the year for brands to take on more and more channels, but instead to target their social channels and do them better. Quality, not quantity.
What do Rapha and the Festive 500 teach brands about storytelling and doing it better?
Flip the dynamic
Yes, a brand should tell its story to consumers, but it also needs to take up the challenge and opportunity of speaking through its consumers and hearing the stories from within the community (hat tip again to Brian Solis for this point in his interview with Jim Farley).
This doesn’t mean a one-off “post a picture to Facebook” promotion, but consistent commitment to engaging consumers and forming a narrative around the brand’s place in their lives.
Understand the touchpoints
What better way for a brand to do that than by seeing and hearing what, when, where and how its communities are utilizing these products both online and off?
Foster connections within communities
People enjoy hearing others’ stories, particularly when they are focused around a shared passion or interest. Making a brand’s space a place for communal sharing has the power to foster incredible connections and relationships between people, and provide them with value beyond a physical product. I know I’ve already found a few blogs from Rapha’s Festive 500 I wouldn’t mind reaching out to in future.
Make it about something larger
A brand is one of many in the lives of the individuals within its community, and has its own part to play for each person. The stories a brand shares and encourages its community to share should reflect that, and make them about the wider landscape in which the brand operates.
In the case of Rapha, it’s not only about cycling, but about health, fitness, recreation and the outdoors.
A brand should balance its story with those of its community – and work to incorporate both sides of this storytelling in a wider narrative. I will continue to watch the videos that Rapha shares to evolve its own story, but also welcome the occasions on which it flips the dynamic and asks to hear my story and see how the brand fits into my time on the bicycle.
It’s a scary thing to give control of a story over to others… especially when it’s that of your own brand.
But with the advent and evolution of media channels and the desire for users to share more and more, brands have an unprecedented opportunity to interweave the narrative of their communities with their own.
What do you think?
Have you got any favorite examples of storytelling among online communities? Do you have any brands you believe are doing it best? How do you think a brand should balance content to both tell its own story and listen to the stories of its community?
I’d love to hear your thoughts … and in the meantime, it’s time for a bike ride!
Jamie Garantziotis is a communication professional based in Melbourne, Australia, where he is PR Manager – Regional for Southern Cross Austereo. He is the current Member Communication Chair for IABC Victoria, Australian correspondent / co-host of Engage TV, and in his spare time loves to indulge his passion for communication, cycling and speciality coffee.