Thoughts on growing a brand through storytelling from Wrestler co-founder, Ben Forman.


A decade ago the old school “advertising” way of building brands was to tell the world whatever story you wanted, and then your business could do whatever it wanted in the background, hiding behind your sparkly veneer. There was a real disconnect between action and words. That is becoming less and less possible, thanks to the omnipresent immediacy of today’s media. Quite frankly I think it’s marvellous.

These days, when clients ask us to make them look great, we simply ask “how are you great?” If the answer is clear, then we explore that and simply expand and promote the stories already alive within their business. If the answer is “ummmmm” then we say, let’s go and work on getting yourselves great, so that your story can be too. This is a somewhat uncomfortable conversation at times, especially when some young advertising schmuck (me) is presenting a business owner with a paradigm shift in how to communicate. But that’s fortunately the world we live in now. You simply can’t hide from who you really are.

So, how do we know what stories to tell within our business that will help grow our brands and sell our products?

1 - Document, don’t create

I stole this line from the very polarising Gary V, but it’s a goodie. It doesn’t mean you have to film everything as a documentary, it simply means telling the story of what you’re really doing to capture your audience's attention and favour, rather than making stories up and trying to convince them to like you through marketing guff. Then, go forth and be wildly creative within your truth. Our recent Allbirds campaign “What’s in a Footprint” illustrates this point well. We’re documenting what Allbirds are doing as a business, but wrapping it in a supremely fun and creative wrapper, starring none other than Brett Mckenzie. We’re taking really complex ideas and business objectives, and turning them into entertainment, that is watchable, shareable, and memorable. Allbirds make great products, but beyond that, they have amazing values and a powerful brand philosophy. Consumers aren’t buying into them just because they make extremely comfortable shoes, they’re buying into the values system. The more we share our values and the work around that, the more we grow the brand, the more products we sell. It’s really simple, but because there’s not a direct correlation from marketing spend to product sold, it’s often put into the ‘maybe one day category’. My provocation is that if you focus on promoting the values of a brand more than the products themselves, you’ll be more successful. Humans are emotionally led, every decision is emotional. Every. Single. One. We’re shifting away from a financial maximisation culture towards a conscious culture, and values are at the forefront of this wave.

2 - Aim for your values, deliver with actions

“You can stand for something and not be perfect at it.”

A lot of businesses don’t talk about their values because they’re scared of looking like they’re half baked. Often the overly self effacing and timid kiwi brands. We need to move away from this thinking and project the image we’re aiming to be, and then follow that up with action. You can stand for something and not be perfect at it. I stand for sustainability and a green economy, yet I still drive a diesel ute. Would I buy another one now, probably not, but I’m not holding it against myself that the decision I made in the past doesn’t have to dictate the me of the future. It’s the same with our brands. As long as we’re actively stepping towards a better world, then that’s the story we tell. We can be completely transparent in this journey too, and take our audience on the ride as you grow your business to fulfill your values more wholeheartedly. What consumers and audiences want more than ever, is honesty. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to show you’re trying, and be vulnerable on the journey. Again, it feels scary and somewhat counter intuitive to reveal your flaws, but I can honestly say that if your virtues (actions) align with your values, then you’ll be rewarded for the authenticity you’re bringing into the world. 

3 - Don’t overthink it

“We’re all holding on so tight to these false ideas of who we are that it ends up trapping us”

My final piece of advice is that you don’t need to overthink it. Gone are the days of overcooked million dollar campaigns that stay on air for years and years. You’re not the same brand you were last week and you’ll be different next week. Embrace that and let creativity flow. We’re all holding on so tight to these false ideas of who we are that it ends up trapping us, halting any growth or expansion. You can apply that to a business or yourself. But the point is, if we don’t allow ourselves a little slack to trip up and to fail a bit, then how are we ever going to evolve? The future is unknown, and no amount of data can give you a clear path forward, so take some risks and try something interesting and a little scary. Share your true brand story, the successes with the challenges , show transparency with your customers, and embrace the unknown because by doing so you can help shape the future failures and all, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reaction of love you receive from your audience.


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