Monday, June 15, 2009

The power of a great story

May 16th, 2009 Posted in Business Strategy.

Shortly before Christmas last year, I needed a new watch. It was
time to step up to a “big boy watch”, forsaking the $100 jobs I’d
been used to. Since this was likely to be a large purchase, I started
searching the Web. I found a number of fantastic watches, each of
them with a great story.The WWII Soviet watch on eBay, for
example, wasn’t functional, but holy cow did it have a great story!
But yeah, actually being able to report time seemed like a major
criteria, so I headed to the jewelry store.

When I started shopping, I didn’t have much interest in brands, and
certainly didn’t know the difference between Breitling, Omega, Tag
Heuer, or Rolex. Regardless of quality or even style, I couldn’t really
get excited about spending money on “just a watch”. So I told the
salesman that I wanted a watch with a story. He showed me the
Omega Speedmaster and told me that it was the first and only
watch worn on the moon. Sold!

Well, not quite. I left the store without the Speedmaster, but lusting after it nonetheless. I went home and checked online to see if this story was correct; according to the Omega Web site, it sure was.

But their own excitement about this story was, as you can see, less than compelling.


But after a few days, I realized I’d been talking all about this watch to friends and family. I was telling the story of this watch over and over again.. and I didn’t even own it. The depth of the story was selling me.

Christmas morning, I was overjoyed to find the Speedmaster under the tree. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the story of this watch timepiece. But in the box was literally nothing related to the story.Not one mention of its history and barely anything about its functions. (Although the manual was translated into 753 languages… gee thanks, that’s helpful) But this watch’s story was so easy to share, that I found myself sharing it. Bragging about my new present, sure. But it was also about space, watches, the design style of the 1960s.

Stories are not just about the person tell it though, they’re also about what happens when someone hears it. Like my father-in-law who sent me the photo below from the Houston Space Center museum on his recent vacation trip. The story I told him about the watch, my passion at the time, provided context for him to both understand my passion and be on the lookout for it in the future.


There are two key lessons to learn from this experience:

1. Providing a story about your product makes it easier for people to talk about your product. If this was just a nice watch, how would I show it off without looking like a jackass? When I can talk about the story, it’s much easier.

2. Stories explain passion. It’s easy to understand why I’m excited about a watch, and it’s easy to
create a reason for people to be on the lookout for the Omega brand if those people understand
why I’m so excited.

It’s incredibly disappointing that Omega is overlooking such a great opportunity to let their
customers tell great stories about this product, or I assume the rest of their product line.
Maybe that’s a good thing though… I don’t have to share this story with anyone!


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