Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors of all time, says that a company (product, brand) is a story people want to tell themselves. Special wine glasses that purportedly make the wine taste better, even though double-blind studies show that it makes no objective. It’s a story we want to tell ourselves, and the story is more important than anything else, a “lie” we tell ourselves.
I just paid $3.00 for an artisanal chocolate donut, and $4.85 for an artisanal half-caf iced Americano coffee. States Coffee is one of the best at creating an experience. Simple, kind, beautiful, if you ask me. It’s nice to order coffee from people who seem happy. It’s nice to be in a place where the energy feels clean, and things are simple, minimalist, and beautiful. I suppose it’s a “story”, but not like Seth is describing. It’s an overall gestalt of all the experiences I am having, the impressions. Some have words associated, and others don’t. And I don’t think the ones with words are more important than the ones without words.
Gestalt (Ger.) — something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts (Mirriam Webster)
In a different minimalist coffee shop, in your town or mine, it appears sterile, pretentious, and robotic to me. To me, the other one sends a message like: “This is the style now—bare wood, brick and metal. And charge a lot for the donuts, make them look fancy.” But no spirit in it. Without spirit, it is dumb. Without the spirit, nothing real is happening.
Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors of all time, says that a company (product, brand) is a story people want to tell themselves. But just how does that work, exactly? Do I walk into a coffee shop and run a little script in my head? “I love this coffee shop, because it is authentic and the people seem happy, therefore I want to believe it is good and means me well, blah blah blah…”?
I don’t think so. This is a far cry from what I think is really happening, in much the same way as feelings are not the same as thoughts, and we don’t need to continually construct the world as words in order to experience reality. What is really going on is that the place has a gestalt — a feel. And that feel is composed of the overall collective vibe of the place; the intentions of the owners (and their ability to steer that intention into reality); the hiring of the employees and how they are treated; the meanings behind the designs. I love a big sign on a high shelf here that reads, “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”. That embodies something about this place, and why I like to come here.
Each company, brand, or product is an energetic ball that radiates a nuance, a complexity of feelings that shape our perception of it. Granted, our own reality filters interpret that ball further, either pulling it in, pushing it away, or using it to play a role in our own story.
A good business does not really “tell a good story,” although words are a piece of a human puzzle. A good business creates a good feel. A zeitgeist. A gestalt. An essence. It creates this through its decisions, its clarity of intention (or lack thereof), its integrity, its mission (not necessarily what is printed, but what is felt). How people are treated.
For me, when I have a feeling that people are happy, and “this is special”, I have no problem paying more, because this elevates me. We like to feel elevated. I don’t know if the other feel just like I do, but I know that people really like coming to this place, because it is very popular.
When we say that a business (or brand) is a story we tell ourselves, we sell ourselves short, by telling ourselves that everything is words. It’s not. Principally, it is feelings, and people will feel the alignment (or misalignment); the love energy or the have-to energy; they feel every little decision. That is how you get to craft something wonderful: by making it a gift of loving-what-you-do. I know you won’t feel that every single minute, but if you allow your self — your spirit — to come through, that is what people will feel.