Why you shop with just a few brands

Consider your favourite brands. What is it that draws you to them? Is it really just the products they make? And why is it that each time you need a new laptop, or a new car, there’s one brand that rolls off the tongue?


Copywriter & Strategist

November 3, 2022

The answer is their story. They’re at the very core of our human experience. The way you see the world and your place within it is determined by the stories you tell. A successful brand exists in very much the same way. We make our purchase decisions, not on a careful evaluation of pros and cons, but as a reaction to the stories that brands tell us.

Let’s look at NIKE. On the face of it, they sell shoes, yet, have you ever watched a NIKE advert in which they talk about their shoes? You see, a best-in-class running trainer can’t stand out amongst other best-in-class running trainers, simply on the basis that it works really well for running.

That’s right. Nike’s most effective marketing decision was to avoid talking about its product.

Just like you and I, they know that Adidas and Puma make shoes that are just as good as theirs. That’s why they choose to focus on marketing that will make you feel something; ideas that communicate their beliefs and brand values. These campaigns are, in other words, NIKE’s identity, their story. You could then, when describing NIKE, say that they are a company that looks to break down barriers to entry for all sports, promote inclusivity and diversity and oh… they just happen to make great shoes.

Know what you stand for so that you can stand out

Patagonia and North Face are both outdoor clothing brands. Their clothing shares a focus on utility, keeping you warm, comfortable and safe in harsh environments. If you browse their respective websites you’ll find a host of almost indistinguishable products, fabric clothing woven together with a very similar aim and a very similar look.

Their differences then are not really in the products they offer, but in the stories they tell us.

Patagonia is the pioneer of sustainability. They’ve founded initiatives that focus on the preservation of the natural world, worked with hundreds of charities and aim for total transparency in their supply chain. Their messaging is honest, looks to invite you into conservation and inspires you to shop more consciously.

North Face, on the other hand, are the pioneer of hardcore exploration. Their films feature brutal expeditions, professional athletes and awe-inspiring storylines. Their messaging is rugged, serious and puts them at the forefront of your mind if you're looking for a no-holes-barred approach to outdoor gear. They want you to push your limits.

Two very successful brands, with two very similar product ranges, and two powerful but very different stories.

Finding your story

Brands can no longer afford to be faceless, storyless organisations. They must become their own personalities and engage with customers on a regular basis. As the internet democratises marketing, human attention is at an increasing premium. We no longer wish to feel like the consumers at the end of the supply chain but instead, part of a brand’s story. We’re on the search for communities and movements we can get behind and feel good about supporting. Coming up with a story that caters to these needs is the central challenge facing brands today.

TOMS rocketed onto the scene when it embodied these ideas to great effect. Their concept of “One for One” is used as the foundational backbone of their business. For every pair of TOMS shoes they sell, a pair is given to someone in need. It’s obvious what they represent and their story pulls at our emotions. It makes us ask the question “What would life be like if I didn’t own a pair of shoes?”. Once they’ve got you into that space, the purchase decision is like a no-brainer. It's simple. It’s genius.

Great brands like TOMS and NIKE find their “Why”, their core values, the reason they get out of bed in the morning, and they shout it from the rooftops.

You see, a story, told authentically, with a meaning and a purpose behind it, can’t be copied. You don’t need the best shoes on the market, you simply need people to believe in your vision, to see something in your story that they see in themselves.

At Overpass, we work closely with you to identify your core values and find a way to communicate your beliefs through a powerful narrative. It worked for NIKE and we’ll make it work for you.

But hey, let’s start with a coffee and work from there!