"We are all storytellers, it's our human nature. I just think we have forgotten how to do it"
So said Natalie Pearce, co-founder of The Future Kind Collective, a business that helps companies grow more sustainably through defining their purpose and designing a positive culture to grow their impact. She discussed the importance of storytelling alongside Jack Scott, co-founder of DASH Water and Gergana Damyanova, co-founder of sustainable fashion brand Blond Gone Rogue.
At our MeetUp, made possible by our friends at Virgin Money, our panel uncovered how to take customers on a journey by having a clear narrative that highlights your startup’s purpose. The three founders discussed their own personal journeys, the lessons they learnt and how to make your own businesses stand out amongst the crowd.
The panel were joined by hundreds of founders and future founders watching along online.
Each business represented on the panel was started out of a frustration with the status quo.
Gergana speaks about the infuriating pricing of sustainable clothing, whereas Natalie was fed up with businesses having a culture that put profit before people. Jack found a way to overcome a farm-level food waste issue by making it a key part of his product and uncovered how he took inspiration from other businesses to make sure he communicated with his customers.
For each of our founders, identifying problems wasn’t just about designing solutions, but that problem-solving became part of the narrative of their brands.
What we learnt about telling your brand story:
Start with purpose and make your mission marketable
Our trio of co-founders took a dive into where their stories began, and how understanding that story, and telling it in a compelling way, can be key to finding your purpose.
Jack talks about how he aims to reach people who have similar mindsets to him through his storytelling and marketing. Frustrated with farms throwing away fruit and veg that weren’t picture perfect, he made the wonky fruit he would be saving at the centre of his brand.
“The wonky aspect is the magic of the brand and it enables us to connect with the correct people who share the same values as what we do at DASH,” he says.
Similarly, Natalie says that the story behind The Future Kind Collective actually developed through her shared values with her co-founder. With many businesses having a "profit first and people second," attitude, Natalie says that they get stuck in "culture debt" by prioritising numbers over people.
This purpose moulded their brand and helped build a consultancy with the exact purpose to help other businesses embed good habits for sustainable growth in a culture-positive way.
Purpose and values drive your brand, not the other way around. Think about what yours is and how you can make your mission marketable.
Stay true to the product
Bringing your purpose to life across your brand experience is key to staying true to it. However, sometimes it can be hard to decide how far to go, or not to go.
Gergana says that Blonde Gone Rogue have been contemplating how to embed their product journey into their packaging for a couple of years.
However, she says that tracing it all back to the person who actually made the garment was a complex and tough decision.
Gergana explains that “radical transparency goes against this idea of mystery” and by taking away the very thing that hooks customers into a product, Blonde Gone Rogue had to find another way of enticing people.
The tension between having product transparency and still being intriguing for customers was something that challenged the brand but would make their product story richer.
Natalie simply says that “authenticity is key".
"When a business is small you can hide things, but when you start growing, cracks can start to show," she adds. "Authenticity will pay off if you keep it front of mind and consistent as you grow."
Make your words worth it
There was a big debate on whether DASH was a soft drink or a sparkling water.
Jack and his co-founder Alex Wright decided that DASH was simply water, bubbles and wonky fruit - and that's exactly how they marketed it!
Now in around 7000 stores and on the path to selling 20 million cans this year, Jack insists that you just need to be "confident with language" in your branding and communication.
Words have impact, even if it’s only a few, so no matter how you communicate your story behind the product, it needs to be clear.
DASH also displays the fact that it has 0 calories or sweeteners, something that their own market research has proven to be a driving factor in why customers initially pick up the bubble-filled brand. Clear communication can help you gain a lot of customers who will then fall in love with your story behind the brand too.
As founders it’s hard to cut through the noise of a competitive market and get your startup in the spotlight, but by showing your brand values through good storytelling and clear communication will get people listening.
Stick close to your purpose and let it drive you forward, be honest about where your product is and where it’s going, and bring your customer on the journey with you. Don’t underestimate the power of your words and how far storytelling can propel you forward - craft your narrative carefully and you could be heading for success.
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