In the 1800s, companies proudly showed images of their factories in their advertisements to demonstrate power, superiority, and ability to produce, regardless of what their product actually was. Now, in the digital age, it’s no longer about showing buildings and industrial hubris – it’s about people.
Brands no longer use images of their factories or warehouses today because, to be frank, most now view this as outdated or even a liability depending on the conditions in the country of origin. And in reality, manufacturing in a traditional sense hardly even exists in today’s world. Most products are made from a large mix of “ingredients” from different places and suppliers, and hardly ever come from a single factory. Companies and brands are increasingly outsourcing manufacturing entirely and don’t actually produce anything at all.
In my last post, I talked about the importance of having a clear purpose as a brand. In today’s world, positioning your brand around your products simply does not align with the purpose of most brands. Products are no longer the big differentiators. Some of the largest players in highly profitable verticals are basically selling the same thing at the same price. So what makes the big difference? We must focus more than ever on purpose-driven storytelling that tells the people-centric story of our brand, not the factory narrative.
“In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”
— Peter Nivio Zarlenga
But how do you know which story you’re telling? Don’t all modern brands understand that this is the new norm for brand communications? Truth be told, not everyone gets it. To illustrate, here are some conceptual differences in factory stories vs. people stories. Perhaps you’ve seen some of these illustrated in recent marketing campaigns.
- The factory story is about production; the people story is about purpose.
- The factory story is hierarchical; the people story is organic and web-like.
- The factory story objectifies the workforce into a singular unit; the people story assures that there’s a place for the individual as part of the whole.
- The factory story is about the products; the people story is about the benefits.
- The factory story ends with specs and measurements; the people story describes the life that awaits when the product solves a problem.
- The factory story attempts to impress with industrial age data; the people story invites the audience in to be part of the brand’s story and how it intersects with their own.
So why are some brands still being driven by their “factory story” when they should be telling the story of their people? Some just don’t know any better. They’re living in the past. Others refuse to change, staking their confidence in an outdated understanding of why people buy what they buy. To others it’s safe to stick to the factory story, there’s simply a lot less complexity to deal with. The reasons are many. But it’s time for all brands to commit to moving on if they haven’t already.
I challenge you to take a hard look at your company’s purpose and see which story you’re telling in the marketplace. No matter what product or service you sell, it’s time to get your “people story” right and leave the factory behind.