Branding Starts with Your Creation Story (a/k/a Corporate History)

What's your company's creation or origin story? Here's Michelangelo's rendering of the First Day of Creation.

Patrick Hanlon’s books Primal Branding (2006) and The Social Code (2011) are a bit dated but still relevant. They analyze why certain brands gain “visceral traction in the marketplace,” while other brands with equally good offerings fail. Crux: Branding is a belief system. Specifically, Hanlon says the “creation story is the crucial first step in providing answers to why people should care about you, or your product or service.” Hmm, “creation story” sounds a lot like corporate history!

From Primal Branding: “The creation story not only answers who you are and where you come from, but helps set up the further pieces of primal code (creed, icons, rituals, pagans, sacred words, and leader). Every company was started somewhere, somehow, by someone. Like telling a good tale, the opportunity is how to make it interesting. …. It’s all about creating a sense of meaning. When people believe in a belong to a brand experience it’s no longer about the task, it’s about the experience. When people shop for outdoor equipment they don’t say ‘We went shopping for a tent today.’ They say, ‘We went to REI.’ When people go for a cup of coffee, they say ‘Let’s go to Starbucks.’ When they travel out of state to gamble, they don’t just say, ‘We went gambling.’ They say, ‘We went to Vegas.'”

Further, Hanlon points out that while the creation story may be well known to old hands at a company, newer employees may not have a clue. This, he says, “results in a fractured culture, with people who … have internalized what the company is about, while everyone else (managers included) stumble along.” Great reason to include that creation story and evolving culture — a/k/a basic company history — in on-boarding sessions, annual reports, YouTube, and displays. And to enhance your website’s About Us or Our Story pages and timelines. Be honest: When did you last update those?