*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: What's up branding experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. Today my guest is Gabrielle Dolan and she joins us from Melbourne, Australia. Gabrielle is a global thought leader on real communication and business storytelling. Her clients include brands like: Ernst & Young, Accenture, Visa, Amazon, Australia Post, National Australia Bank, Vodafone, and even Obama Foundation just to name a few. Gabrielle also is the best-selling author of quite a few books on communication and storytelling. her most recent book is called “Magnetic Stories” and this is the book talk about on today's podcast. Hello Gabrielle—thank you for joining us today!
Gabrielle Dolan: Thank you, Arek. It's great to be here. Can I share some latest, exciting news about my book?
Arek Dvornechuck: Sure.
Gabrielle Dolan: That last week it was a finalist in two categories for the Australian business book awards. So, um, in, uh, the general business book and in sales and communications. So I'm very excited about that.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. Me as well, I like the way you wrote book because it's very practical. You get to the point, you give us practical tips, you know, examples. So it's really easy to read straight to the point. So I really like that about this book. Okay. So in your book you basically teach us how to create and tell our messages through storytelling, right? And so in general, how to build brands by using the power of storytelling. But as you mentioned in some of those opening pages that people often think about storytelling as the, our story page on their website, for example, they usually consists of some facts, stats, and dates, and this is not actually what story is right. Therefore of corporate jargon. So I wanted to start with, with the basics, you know, with you, can you explain to our audience, what is brand storytelling? Maybe you can give us some examples, maybe the Barbie example that you give in the book.
1. What is brand storytelling?
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. Yeah. It's a good question. I think storytelling, you know I've been working in this space with storytelling for about 20 years and storytelling 20 years ago. Wasn't overly pop Hillary in business. No one talked about storytelling and now it is. And this whole concept of, well, how do we communicate what we do through brand storytelling? So, uh, it's what you said, but what I see a lot of people is calling something, a story, but it's actually not a story. So, you know, on their website, they'll say our story, but you look at it as just a timeline. So to me, the concept of brand storytelling is even when I look at what brand is, I love the definition of brand from Jeff Bezos the Amazon CEO, where he says your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room. I guess my variation of that is your brand are the stories people share about you when you're not in the room. Because I think as humans, we tell stories, it's the way we communicate. So brand storytelling is coming up with whole lot of stories that communicate your brand. And when I say a whole, I think one of the mistakes people make is that they just share one story and it's normally the story about how the company started. So that's good. And we can talk about the different types of brand stories later, but you mentioned the Barbie example and I do. Yeah, I do love, love that example of what a really, really good brand story can do for you. As a, as a company I used to growing up, I was not really into dolls. I never really played with dolls. I was always be on my bike or my skateboard and playing football, but I wasn't really into dolls. And therefore I never had a Barbie and years later when Barbie was Barbie's reputation was being branded as it's not a good, she's not a good fit girl for role model, she's got an unattainable body image. So she had a, she had a pretty bad brand there, there for quite a few decades. And I happily went along with that story. And, you know, even having two children, never bought them Barbie dots, but then researching for the book, I heard the backstory to Barbie and the backstory was that, um, Barbie was invented by Ruth handler, who was the wife of one of the co-founders of Mattel that my, and what this was in the 1950s and what Ruth handler noticed. She had two children, she had a boy and a girl called Ken and Barbara and yes, Ken and Barbie are named after her children. Yeah, but what she noticed when both her children were playing with their respective adults, they imagined themselves as adults. And why care was encouraged to see himself as an astronaut or a firefighter or a superhero. Barbie could only hurt see herself as a caregiver because that's what dolls were at the time. So she pitched this idea of Barbie, you know, where she could change clothes. She could, you know, there'd be astronaut Barbie or executive Barbie. And initially they, they didn't work, but they agreed. And in 1959, Barbie debuted at the New York toy fair. And there's a quote from Ruth handler that says my whole philosophy with Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be that Barbie always represented that women have choices and hearing that story and hearing that quote completely changed my perception of the Barbie brand. Not only changed my perception, but would also potentially influence my buying habits. And that to me highlights the power of one really good story. And it's a story that once your heard it, it's almost like you now have this loyalty to that brand and the story can then be shared by others. But, um, so that, that's, I, I just thought when I came across that story, I go my, of all of, of all the brand stories I've heard that really typifies what a good brand story can do.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right, yeah. I think that's, that's a great example. Even highlighted here in, in the book, the key takeaway from this story is that, you know, Barbie, we always represents the fact that a woman has choices, right. Um, and so a little girl that is playing with that adult though, can imagine herself being, you know, anything she want to be right. So since we already know what a story is, and also in your book, I just wanted to mention this for our listeners that, you know, basically the premise of the book is that so storytelling is not like some, every very kind of stuff. It's real, it connects with customers. It changes your mind as it changed your perception of, of BPI brand, right? And there are different trends that you mentioned in the book that we should know and understand and how we can navigate these trends to generate stories and, and engage our employees or our customers. Right. You also mentioned about different types of store. So this is what I wanted to talk about next. Maybe you can talk to us a bit about what are the different types of stories that we can tell. Maybe you can give us some examples.
2. Type of brand stories
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. Excellent. So when I started researching for this sport, I knew there would be different types of brand stories, but I didn't know how many there would be. And when I collected all this stories from all these companies, doing amazing things around the world, it sort of fell into five types of stories. So the first one is the creation story. So that's either how the company started or how a product started. So sometimes people call that the founder story, but I wanted to call it the creation story, because I think it bring in how a product started as well. So the story I just shared about Barbie is, uh, the creation story of Barbie. So how, how the actual product started. So either how the company started or how the product started. The second type of story is a culture story. So this is very much around the company values. So if you wanna be known for, in innovation or integrity or diversity and inclusion, for example, then what are the stories that you are sharing that demonstrates your living the value? So these could be stories that lead the leaders share about why, you know, why integrity's important or why innovation's important, but how you are sharing stories about that. And this is both internally and externally, and especially the culture stories are internally. Then you have stories like the customer. So how you sharing stories about the customer? And now this moves beyond just a customer testimonial, but you, you know, the impact you are having, like making your customer the hero, there's also community stories. So the things that you are doing in the community for good, again, this is moving beyond just what the you are doing as, um, a company in the community. But perhaps it's what your employees doing. You might some have employees that are doing really great things in the community that have nothing to do with the product or service you're selling. But by default, you are showing that you have great employees, which is a good thing. And then the other type of story is the challenge story. So they all start with C. So what challenges have you had? How have you overcome them? Um, and sharing those stories? The key is there'll be some stories that really that cross over different categories and that's okay. But the idea of saying these are the five different types of stories to help, to help brands and to help companies look for them. So you, you said, if you got a few examples, I'll give you, yeah. One of the examples in the book that I love is it's, this is, this is a customer story, I guess. And it comes from Columbia restaurants in Florida. So it's the oldest restaurant in Florida. It's a, I think a fifth generational owned, uh, restaurant. They use stories a lot. They use stories across all their social medias. They use it in their induction programs. I remember when I interviewed for the book, I asked them, when did you start understanding the power of story and when start doing something? And I thought they were gonna say like 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, they said 19 40, 19 40, like, so like, like they've, they've got this concept of storytelling for 80 years. But one story they shared last Valentine's day is they shared this on their Facebook page and, and their other socials of a customer. They were talking about. It's a celebration of love. They were talking about this couple that had been celebrating their wedding anniversary at their restaurant for 72 years. So seven, two years. And the story says that when they came in to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, they got seated at a table. They came back again the next year. And coincidentally got seated at the same table for the next 70 years. Columbia restaurants have secured that table for them to come back for their wedding anniversary and they have come back. So you hear a story like that, and it's, it's celebrating the customer, but you're also going what an amazing restaurant that must be to a do that. But to also that this couple keeps coming back. So I think that's a great example of not only a customer story, but it sort of goes into their culture as well. That's sort of the culture they have of an organization,
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. That's a great example. So just like a summary for our listeners, there are different types of stories that you can tell. It can be a creation story. It's about how you started the company, why you started that company. Right? So the example you gave us was Barbie, for example, culture stories. So this is about, you know, employees living our values, right? So we can highlight employees and their achievements and customer stories. So this is the example you gave us from this restaurant from Florida. So showcasing our customers. We have challenge stories. And I love this example, I think, is in your book right here about Airbnb. Right. I think that would fall into this category. So this is when a company responded to a challenge, right? So for example, COVID 19 Airbnb, you actually described, you know, how they responded to the challenge because they had to let go of 25% of their employees, and then we have community stories. So how companies helping the community in general, right. Or society.
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. Yeah. And I'll, um, if I can give another really quick one too, I think it will show how some stories can cover off. They can sort of be any of those. So this is, I could have either had, this was another COVID related story, which there was, um, you know, a lot of companies, a responded challenge. So there was a gin distillery in Sydney, in Australia. And when we went into lockdown March last year, they had a restaurant as part of their gin distillery, and they, and they had to close. So like the rest of the world, we, everyone went into lockdown and the restaurant had to close. They were really concerned that they, their 15 people that worked in the restaurant would lose their job and, and they would lose their job because the restaurant wasn't able to open. They also knew that the community was really struggling with hand sanitizers. So there was a massive shortage of hand sanitizer. So what they decided to do literally in this was on the Friday night, they decided to swap their entire production from making G in to making hand sanitizer. And by the Monday. So within three days they had changed their production. They had designed labels, they had source bottles and they had made seven and a half thousand bottles of hand sanitizer. By Monday, they went on to create, to build hundreds of thousands per reduce hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer. And they not only save the jobs of their 15 staff, but they were able to employ another 15 people from the region who had lost their job in the hospitality industry. So you look at that story, it's an absolute challenge story. It's a, so they've done good for the community. It's a culture story because they talk about their values of, you know, innovation and quality. So it's a culture story, but if they continue to make hand sanitize, I don't think they have, but if they continue to make hand sanitizers, then that becomes the creation story of that product. So it sort of, you, you can look at a story that can cross all of those, but the key is to keep trying to find these stories and then share them and share them wherever you can.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. And that illustrates the power of snowing. Right. And I think we, few examples like that also here in, in United States about companies who also did something similar. So that's great. We discussed the types of stories that we can tell. And now you also give us a specific step by step process, right? These are five steps that you develop in the third part of your book. You actually tell us how we can actually implement brand. Right. So just quickly to summarize those five steps and define, teach, collect, communicate, and create. So I thought maybe it would be so kind to give us like a quick overview for, you know, our audience who's listening. Perhaps they wanna learn more so we can give them like an overview of what's in the book.
3. Brand storytelling process
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. Okay. So the first step, like you said, is defined like, what is the, you want your brand to be? So what do you wanna be known for? So, you know, if your brand is the stories people are sharing about you, what do you want those stories to be? Do you wanna be known as really customer first? Do you wanna be known as leading edge? Do you wanna be known as, you know, really innovative? So figuring out what you wanna be known for as the first start to define your brand, then there is definitely a step around teaching people, the power of storytelling. So teaching them not only how they can share stories better, but what they do to actually create those stories. So if you wanna be known for great customer service, your team need to be understanding, they have to actually do that. They have live a great customer service, which creates those stories. And then you get into an almost like, um, cyclical process, an ongoing, ongoing process of, um, capturing those stories. So how do you capture them? Yeah. You see that, how do you capture them? How do you communicate them? So where are you? You know, are you sharing them on social media? Are you sharing them on your website? Are you sharing them internally in your induction program? And then the other thing is how you create them. So again, like I said, if you wanna be known for exceptional customer service, what are you doing? What are your people doing? What are your employees doing every day that creates those stories around exceptional customer service. So then you keep building stories because then all of a sudden, if your employees are looking for ways to deliver exceptional customer service, that by default will create stories. And that's when that's when your customers share those stories on social media, it's almost gotta be a conscious effort to go, well, how do we, you know, if we wanna be known for this, like looking for opportunities to deliver on that,
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. That's a great rate of summarizing this. So yeah. So you really go into details in your book, right? You explain each step in more detail, we give us examples. So just a quick summary, my key takeaways, first, you need to define your brand, right? So your mission, vision, purpose values, and so on, define the brand. And then you need to educate your team about the power of stories. So they're, you know, they can buy into this idea and then you find some stories to tell for inspiration. You can use those examples from the book. You can get inspired by different types of stories and find stories that, you know, in the past, in the present that can inspire your future, you know, and how you can tell stories in the future. Right? And then step number four is about, uh, communication. So how you share those stories, both internally with your team and externally how they to the outside world, and then step number five, you need to understand the actions to that create those stories, right? So as you said, you know, there are certain behaviors and there are certain experience that can be positive or negative. And that in itself creates stories, right?
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. It's absolutely. So if you, you know, coming back to brand storytelling is stories. People are sharing about you. They will share the stories because you've told them the story. And so they retell it or you done something and they will tell the story about that. So it's sort of, and this is where it comes back to being really authentic with your brand. So what you say you wanna be known for, you've gotta do it. So you it's like what you say and what you do is your brand.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. Awesome. So as we are about to end our interview, I just wanted to ask you, what's the best way to get in touch with you. Find more about you, maybe on your website, social media.
Gabrielle Dolan: Yeah. Look. So my website's gabrielledolan.com. There's actually a seven day storytelling kit. So it's free. So literally you subscribe to that, get an email from me once a day for a week. And it's just contains a really short video. So if you're thinking about, well, how do I go about this? And I think that's a good place to start. So that's on my website. There's a whole lot of free stuff on my website, white papers. There's access to all my books, youtube channel, all the normal social meetings.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. Thanks for putting out all this great content. And I really appreciate you having here. Of course, I'm gonna link to the book in the description box. So thank you very much for joining us today.
Gabrielle Dolan: All right. Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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