Are you a follower or a fan? How storytelling can create deep-connect with brands

What happens when in the New Year’s week, you get an attractive piece of communication that talks to one of our favorite new year resolutions like getting fit?  Even better, what do you do when someone talks to those of us who are passionate about an outdoor sport about things you can do to flag off the year by pursuing your passion? The answer is a no brainer! 

Albeit, two different business models, two French companies Decathlon and Go Sport have been attempting to redefine the market in this country… traditionally not very well known for its fitness and sporting culture at the household level. While both are about sports gear, Go Sport also sells top brands, while Decathlon has carved out its own niche where it has been giving the likes of Nike and Adidas a run for their money. The one thing that is common between the two is about “inspiring” everyone to play a sport

What makes them tick? Why is there an ever-growing fan following especially for Decathlon? So far, the market was being led by brands that were more ‘lifestyle’ oriented, based on being fashionable, celebrity-centric and pricey. But now the paradigm seems to be shifting with the offer of fantastic quality, attractive designs and great affordability, making it possible for literally everyone to pursue their outdoor passion or to develop one.

At this stage, allow me to nail down a premise. Simply put, Image building intrigues customers and gets them to follow, while Reputation is a value that makes them stick as fans. It is a qualitative shift that happens as the brand commits to live by the culture that it propagates – day in and day out. When that happens, the journey throws up many stories of successes and failures, examples of passion and challenges that are real and touching. Defined by a purpose, such stories become the ones that resonate with the audiences effortlessly. Crafted well, these stories become the fulcrum of communications and eventually marketing – Human/Cause/Social impact, whatever we might like to call it.     

So how does great storytelling help these brands make fans out of their customers and employees? How do they transcend the agenda of mere product sales to standing for a purpose where sports equipment is something that customers will go for anyway? What impresses about Decathlon, is how they do this through brilliant storytelling where the protagonists are their customers, employees, partners, storekeepers – all about their experiences with the brand. 

Here is an example of how customers and employees tell their own story – the Decathlon Anthem. Here is another example of how mothers and children, landlords and business heads talk about their Decathlon experience with pride and panache.

The relatively new entrant Go Sport also talks about inspiring and empowering individuals to expand their relationship with sport and fitness. For starters, they are seen to be doing this by curating cycling or trekking trails for people like you and me – the non – career hobby sports enthusiasts. Again, told from the perspective of real people, sports and fitness becomes a possibility in everyone’s lives! Add to that a dash of ownership pride by making global brands more accessible to everyone …what can be a better message for a sporting gear company? 

Brands like Patagonia and North Face have set the gold standards when it comes to outdoor brands with cult following, built through carefully calibrated and inspired storytelling. But making it happen in India, in my view, is hugely more challenging as we see these brands build their reputation, based on stories that Encourage, Inspire and ring true to an increasingly growing set of audiences, who do not hesitate to call themselves followers and fans!  


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Devdarshan Chakrabortyy
Founder at Strongkofee
Founder at Strongkofee Leadership Communications
Dev has spent nearly 27 years in advising corporates on their communication and brand strategies and working with CEOs and business leaders in the area of communication skills development. He has worked with some of India's largest advertising and PR firms such as Ogilvy & Mather, Perfect Relations and Mudra in leadership roles and across various sectors.
A communications strategist and storyteller, Dev also leads the business storytelling and leadership communications coaching practice in Strongkofee. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, New Delhi, he is a speaker and part-time faculty with leading management schools and a mentor for startups in solving their brand and marketing coms challenges.

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