Setting the scene
“I am often asked, ‘Why muesli’? Well, it was 1992, and I was a student. My part-time job was making homemade muesli … I would grind the nuts, mix the warm honey and cinnamon through oats before roasting them until golden. It smelt amazing”
You may be wondering why I’m beginning an article on branding by telling you about muesli. Some of you may recognise the quote above as the words of Carolyn Cresswell, company founder of Carman’s Muesli. I found her words on the back of the packet. Now, the muesli/breakfast cereal snack bar market must be one of the most crowded there is. How does a small business start-up, working from the founder’s kitchen, even begin to compete?
By telling an engaging, credible story that helps customers get a feel for the company ethos.
Telling the tale
Now, I’m not suggesting that this is foolproof. Or that telling a story is the only element of branding – there are many others – but chances are that if you remember anything about a small business brand, it’s because you’ve heard a story about it. In the case of Nads for example, you may recall hearing about the founder, Nadia, who couldn’t find a product that could cope with her daughters’ depilatory needs, so she created one herself. Or Nudie juice – ever read the back of their juice bottles? Pure genius. They’re using storytelling to create a brand.
Even big companies benefit. While the minutiae of Richard Branson’s personal life is neither here nor there, it’s arguably the story of who he is and how he made it big that helped established the Virgin brand – more of a cult, really.
Building the climax
Getting back to muesli. One of the things I love about Carman’s, is how the story progresses. At first you read about how the founder took over the business she was working in. “One day I was told that I was going to lose my job as the business was to be sold. A little voice inside my head said, ‘You could buy this small business. You love the muesli and you make it already!’ That night I went home and discussed it with my parents… my offer of $1000 for the business was accepted. I made deliveries before morning lectures and balanced the books during lunchtime.”
The next ‘chapter’ tells you a little bit more: “As a mother of two young children, my passion for real food with real ingredients and nothing artificial is stronger than ever.”
Writing the sequel
As the range expands, the story continues: “I remember when I was growing up, my Grandpa would always make porridge for breakfast.” Thus begins the story on the back of Carman’s Oats.
I love it. As a small business owner myself, hearing the stories of other women, and how and why they started out in business helps build credibility in my mind; I find it easier to trust someone who says they care about the environment and what goes into the food they eat because they have two children of their own. I just know (or at least I have a pretty strong feeling) that if I rang the company for any reason, I would get to speak to a human being who would listen to me and deal with my issue.
A surefire bestseller!
You may not have the dollars to commission a professionally designed logo, engage a PR consultant, or to splash your name on the billboard in Times Square – but you can tell your story on packaging, your website, to generate buzz in the local press. And that may just help your business become a bestseller.