Researching the family tree has long been a rewarding pastime as it satisfies the innate desire to go back to our roots and find out where we came from. Knowing where we came from helps us to put things into perspective as we look back on our unique family history and identity.

Now is a time like no other to drill down into the origins of your business and pin down your unique identity. Drawing on the origins of your business is a very effective way to sell your products and services. I noticed this morning that my KFC app (which I had not considered using in the current lockdown) had changed from a simple white typeface on a red background to the image of the Colonel’s face, which immediately took me to the brand. The back story of Colonel Sanders and the origins of KFC make for great reading but this image of a smiling, elderly chef in his kitchen reminds me of everything that is good about KFC and builds my trust. Who wouldn’t want to be fed by a kind, trustworthy figure with a lifetime’s experience of cooking delicious chicken? I certainly would.

It’s not about reinvention it’s about the origin. In the middle of lockdown, we have the chance to look at our origin story and reconnect with it. I’ve said a lot about Mission, Vision and Values, but there is one more thing that really is the secret recipe for success.

So, what is the secret recipe for success? It’s listening. If you’re looking to improve, get insight, the secret sauce, or in KFC’s case the mix of herb and spices, it all came from giving people what they actually wanted.

There is a big difference between hearing and listening. We hear noise. We hear a myriad of sounds that can crowd out thinking and then we react to the loudest sounding names in the marketplace. We copy what other people are doing as we believe (wrongly) that they are the trendsetters. Real insight is gleaned from listening more to the problems people are facing rather than concentrating on the solution you are selling.

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. KFC ran a campaign a while ago thanking all the imitations from AFC to ZFC. Despite these shops trying to copy KFC’s name and logo they are unable to compete with the taste and the unique authentic KFC “original recipe”.

Listening is hearing what people want by watching their behaviour before they have heard of you. We have watched potential clients get a quote from us and then do the work themselves or go elsewhere for something cheaper to get more ‘value for money’ or a perceived immediate return on investment.

A DIY solution is likely to fail as it fails to connect. People will reject marketing if the “why” does not resonate and it’s difficult to buy-in. Without giving too much away, one of our prospects tried two other cheaper solutions only to come back to us over 6 years later and work with us – they had been price-driven, not purpose-driven. Today, they are smashing it!

Listening takes time. Time is something a lot of companies have right now in the midst of lockdown. Normally, busyness and urgency force us to make quick decisions, not right or informed ones. To use the time wisely is to look at your audience, not just the ones spending with you, but also the ones that are not. I’m sure from 6 years ago we have improved our own narrative. We don’t get hung up on price, it’s the power of story that sets us apart. Storytelling takes years of experience in life and we have that. I’ve got older, the team have got older and more experienced. We know the power of listening.

You see, when asked about who our ideal client is, we used to think it was just anyone who needed a brand. Wrong. We know through listening that it’s CEO’s who have built a company but lost touch with their origin story and, in the process of countless reinventions, lost the purpose, drive and heart of why the company started out. Those are the people we like to work with. It’s also why we love to work with startups because their motive is more in line with their origin story. They went into business to make a difference, it was cause over cash. The company they had been serving forgot to serve and they were the brave individuals who stood up and said, “This isn’t me, I can do better.”

So, what do you do when you’ve had a measure of success, but forgotten why you started? Build a great brand that is all about connecting and you’ll never forget again.

Methods change but the problem remains. Think about your phone and how connection used to be a disaster when you couldn’t call, now it’s more about not getting internet! You see, the real need isn’t about clarity of voice or speed of the internet, it’s about connection, connection with the people we love. A more powerful story to tell is how an exchange of telephone numbers turned into a series of texts, that turned into taking some selfies, to changing a status, to downloading an app, that found a dream house, that turned into a video of a little one walking… The goal wasn’t the network, the goal was to be loved and to love, the telephone was a tool to get there and remain… connected.

Learning to listen requires time to process. This is what we do in our workshops, we give people time to sound off. A brand workshop is always about more than inventing a logo or choosing the colour or just the product itself. It’s about reconnecting with ‘why’, something which founders often need to do as they have allowed too much noise to drown out the heart of why they started.

Lockdown is an opportunity to retune, rethink, and repurpose where you are. If you are a CEO, ask yourself, “Is this what you had in mind when you set up the company or made a decision to lead it?” I don’t mean the way you do it or the process. I’m talking about motivation and purpose. Has it all become about you, or is your company still about serving the customer? We are ALL in the service industry, so we are committed to serve. We may do it through a product or service BUT we are still servicing a solution to a problem. Serving is making people feel valuable, creating community, not just customers.

In these times of fear, intelligence seems to falter. Go back to the start and discover that something from the past might be the thing that helps you reconnect and secure a more sustainable future.

There is always a reason that motivated you to start your company or take a leadership role within it – you believed you could make a difference. You were seeking to fulfil a specific need in your customers and you wanted to add value to both them and to the wider community. Now, with responsible trading and sustainability, your purpose has become more far-sighted, a younger audience requires it. All of the above need to be articulated through your brand narrative and re-enforced through the execution of both brand assets and customer experience. Our values help us deliver and it’s times like these that reveal what we value. The number one in everyone’s list should be people.

Our brand marketing agency Cre8ion has many years of experience building purpose-driven, story-led brands and we specialise in audience identification. We’ve always found that telling the right story gets the right kind of enquiry. How? We learned to shut out the noise and listen to the voice of the audience we’ve identified – the right voice.

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