Think of some of the products, services or brands that you love the most. What comes to mind? There are hundreds of products, services and brands that we use, wear and interact with. Most of these we don’t think much about. Most of them are average. If there were a reason to switch to another we would. But there are a handful of brands that we love. For some people it’s Amazaon, for some Apple, for some Zappos, for some Uber, for some Patagonia and the list goes on.
The beloved brands tell a story. More importantly they allow us to tell a story about ourselves (showing off my Life is Good tee says something about who I am).
These product, company and brand stories fall into two major categories, the affinity story and the product story.
The affinity story
The affinity story is built on connection. The product or service is great maybe even the best but it’s the mission that captures us. Harley Davidson is perhaps one of the best well-known examples. Other motorcycle companies produce motorcycles with 1800 cc engines. Other motorcycle companies produce motorcycles with a lot of chrome. But only Harley has the Harley story.
Harley appeals to a particular worldview – the person who longs to live life on their own terms, who wants freedom, who wants to for maybe just a few moments, live outside of society. Even more than that Harley answers a very specific pain. The pain of being a cog. When someone tells you what to do. When society tells you how to dress or beautify – you feel like a cog. But you don’t have to feel that way when you take to the open road during a sunny weekend morning dressed in your leathers.
Harley owners didn’t buy their bike because of the chrome. They bought the bike because of the story.
The product story
There are some products, services or offerings that are so compelling we just can’t help but love them. They fill an unmet need. They add exponential value. In a way, they are so great, so different they don’t even have any competitors. Or at least they change the face of competition. Sometimes they change the face of industries like Apple with the iPod and iTunes and the music industry.
Look all over the tech startup space and you see product stories. The most well known product story is Amazon. Their mission is to give you the very best online buying experience. They too solve pains. The pain of going all the way to the store and finding the product yu want out of stock. The pain of making the wrong decision because you can’t comparison shop. The pain of spending too much time in the car, spending too much money or spending time in line. Nearly everything they do builds on their product story from innovations like Kindle to Amazon Prime.
Many organizations start this way. They start with a great product. And some, overtime, develop an affinity story; I think this is happening to Uber and Airbnb. Or some, like Toms Shoes, start with an amazing affinity story and their product supports the story.
Which story does your association have?
Product or affinity? I suspect most associations have an affinity story. Either way you need to know because the marketing of one is not like the other. Leaning hard into a product story when you really have an affinity story doesn’t give members a chance to get to know you.