Time for heroes

The Libertines only sang about it.

But IBM is actually doing it. Salesforce.com is doing it. American Express is doing it. Adobe is doing it. Google is doing it. Dove is doing it. Even the small London-based B2B content marketing agency Velocity is doing it*.

Doing what?
Putting their heroes on centre stage. And by heroes I don’t mean firefighters saving cats from trees, Nobel prize winners coming up with crazy things most of us don’t really get anyway or Ben Affleck saving the planet.

By heroes I mean your customers. Your colleagues. The dude from down the road who made a fortune by selling organic ice-cream. Your gran who puts her crazy morning routines on YouTube and has 500K followers. The 12-year-old girl who organised a 500-runner charity marathon all by herself. In short, all these interesting people out there who live these great stories and ideas that relate to you in one way or another.

To make it even shorter: everyday heroes. Ideally ones who demonstrate something important you want to say about your brands or your company.

Power to the people

Your company’s story is probably great. Maybe it’s even told in a very engaging way. But what makes your story less compelling is that it’s told by you. And because it’s told by you, people only believe it that much. They’d believe it more if it came wrapped up in stories about people they can relate to. You get the idea here.

So, in these times of content ubiquity, literally everyone is telling stories of some sort – making your life harder and your voice less likely to be heard. Drawing on great and inspiring people around you who can deliver your messages as magnetic stories can be a true competitive advantage.

Here’s why:

  1. Your own story becomes more credible. The more people talk about the stories you choose to tell, the more likely we are to believe it. (Not always a good thing, but true.)
  2. You keep your existing audience happy. Everyone loves to share something great they’ve done or contributed to. Plus by putting your audience in the spotlight they get the chance to extend their own network. Win-Win.
  3. Your star rises. People will like when they see how you are helping others – directly or indirectly. (Even if they don’t have anything to do with your product now. But who knows, maybe they will in future.)
  4. You become more attractive (and may welcome one or two new people on board). People want to be part of something great.
  5. You may even lay the foundation for a community. Look at IBM and their the IBMers programme. They are literally everywhere.
  6. It’s fun (and interesting). A selfish reason, but usually this kind of content collaboration is way more fun and interesting than the stuff you create that’s all about you.
  7. You tick the MOFU (middle of funnel) content box. Just like that.

And the good news, it doesn’t require deep pockets. Because high production values are not a must-have. You can do a vox pop with your mobile, organise a Google Hangout, and write about it – the sky’s the limit thanks to all the new (and old) technologies out there.

And you don’t need famous people either. On the contrary. The more real and more accessible the people, the better. The key to success is to tell stories people can relate to. They should think, “Wow, I can (and should) do this, too”, instead of, “This has nothing to do with me”.

A few examples

There are so many great examples out there, it’s impossible to do all of them justice. But here are some of the latest initiatives I’ve seen and loved:

#1 Google Stories

(The skateboarding one is my favourite one.)

#2 American Express’s “Shop small” initiative

#3 Skype

#4 IBM’s ‘Big brains. Small films.

#5 Salesforce.com Social Heroes
Salesforce.com Social Success

It does the trick, at least for me. I love every single one of these stories. I shared them with friends. I even write about them. And my love for the companies behind them has grown a little. Actually, not just a little.

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*hum.hum. At least to a small extent under its own name.

Comments

Martha, Inspiring. Thank you for sharing and reminding us the hero is NOT us (brands). They are our customers, neighbors, friends, colleagues, family members…and the list goes on and on,

Martha, thanks for this. Really inspiring. And yes, brands tend to forget that it’s all about a good and healthy relationship. There is a large gap between the brand and the people who are making that brand survive, especially in the online world (let’s face it…offline sometimes it’s even worse).

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