The Power of Stories

Ever since he started his NBA career, each time Giannis Antetokounmpo travels to Greece, he pays a visit to Sepolia. He returns to the place where it all began, making sure that his visit to his old neighbourhood is made public. His return, as well as his frequent references to Sepolia in his interviews, are part of his identity. Giannis doesn’t want to forget where his journey began -and he doesn’t want us to forget, either. Thus, we don’t just see him as a great athlete, but as a great athlete who overcame many obstacles and left behind limitations, difficulties and bitterness. In addition to his athletic prowess, on every occasion he showcases his humanity – a fact that singles him out from other successful athletes of his calibre.

On a Sunday morning, when his wife was in church, coach Bill Bowerman, one of the founders of Nike, decided to pour synthetic resin into the family’s waffle pan. He had come up with the idea of designing a running shoe with excellent traction that would offer his athletes a significant advantage and took this opportunity to test it out. This is how the Nike Cortez, an iconic shoe that became the starting point for the brand’s explosive evolution, was born. This story has been shared frequently and is more telling for the brand than any advertisement. It highlights how Nike was created, reminds us of its starting point and reflects its evolution. Moreover, it also sheds light to its purpose: to inspire and support athletes.

The world of business is a world of creation. All companies, large or small, well-known or not, start out from a creative idea. It is an idea that leads them to design products and come up with services that will solve problems, improve conditions and drive change. This original idea, essentially the “fuel” of every business, is often forgotten in the course of time, lost in an effort to create a distinctive identity and generate profits.

However, the journey of a business is not just a sequence of events meant to fill the “Our Story” tab on a company website. It is a key element of a business’ identity, the source of its strategy.

We tend to believe that the sole goal of business is profit. As a result, we fail to recognize that every successful business also has a sense of purpose, a vision and a mission that act as a compass for the business itself, while also inspiring others to follow it. Prioritizing one’s contribution to the world against profit is an underestimated business strategy. However, if we look at our preferred and trusted brands, we will note that they are not just about profit, but also about creativity. And the best way to share that with their audience is a story that talks about their beginning, about what or who created it or, even, changed it along the way.

Businesses often use stories as a marketing tool, trying to grasp the public’s attention and stand out from competition. They hope that simply knowing about their products and ideas will lead people to choose them. They are also driven by the need for “fresh” content in order to keep up with the demands of digital marketing. In searching for more stories that will help them attract interest, they are often driven away from their own story. While trying to find the “right” story, they miss the opportunity to tell the one story only they can share – and, at the same time, they diminish the significant power of storytelling.

Stories are much more than a communication tool to sell or to lead audiences to decisions they may later regret. The most effective and successful stories are those that go beyond the need of selling and creating content, to highlighting the “raison d’être” of the business. They fulfill their purpose when they aim not only to our wallet, but, most importantly, to our heart.

April 17, 2023

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