May 30, 2024

Telling the story versus being the story


The story you tell in advertising might make the things you sell sound better. But what really matters to people is how the things you sell make life better for them. It’s that experience that makes your story meaningful and authentic.

Here is an example.

MidModMen+friends is a Saint Paul, Minnesota retailer of restored mid-century home furnishings. Its value proposition sets it apart from other antique sellers. Every piece of merchandise is restored to top quality condition before it is displayed for sale.

Some items just need a good cleaning. Some need to be refinished, reupholstered and rejuvenated. Others need to be stripped down to the essentials and thoroughly restored to their original luster. Customers who come looking for high value items that add style and beauty to their homes come away with something else too.

They come away with a story.

“Our customers tend not to be highly knowledgeable, like at the collector level. But they are interested in knowing something about the merchandise,” says co-owner Neal Kielar. “So it’s like a gift we like to give them: ‘This is where this came from, how we got it, what we did to it, what it’s made of, who the designer was, and what this means.’ It’s still just going to be their coffee table, but now they know something about it. And they can share the story with their friends and family when they see it.”

It is how customers experience the quality of goods that brings the story to life and makes it meaningful to them. That quality experience extends to how the goods are featured inside the store.

You don’t find novelty items or an overwhelming amount of merchandise. MidModMen stocks just enough to engage curiosity, but not so much that customers feel overwhelmed and can’t make choices. “Any store can have stuff, and it can be great stuff,” Kielar says. “But if your environment and the experience isn’t inviting, your inventory is more of a commodity.”

Quality is MidModMen’s value proposition. Quality is the story it tells. But it is in how customers experience quality by interacting with the products, the people and the environment that makes their life better. And it is how MidModMen lives out its brand promise.

That is the significant difference between telling the story and being the story.

[BONUS: I had the opportunity to interview Neal Kielar recently for The Heart of Marketing podcast. Listen in to learn more about how MidModMen has built its value proposition into everything it does to make its brand story come alive.]

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