Good, Compelling Storytelling Is Good For Business



Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” Robert McKee 

I’ve been thinking about storytelling and narrative a lot over the last few months. I knew I needed a compelling narrative for redoing the blog – as much for myself as for other people (thank you Mark Suster for drilling down on this concept in a recent snapstorm as well as for this excellent post on your blog – well worth a read for anybody thinking about this topic).

Working on my personal narrative got me thinking about brands that use storytelling effectively  – and how in the process, they develop loyal, engaged brand evangelists.

The majority of my favorite brands are still run by their founders which creates an especially strong bond. Although sometimes, a newcomer can develop an equally good connection if the narrative is strong.

Read on below for five examples of brands whose narrative speaks to me.

Warby Parker

My source for glasses almost since their launch in 2010. The founders’ story (Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, and Jeffrey Raider) is especially inspiring. They started the business while at Wharton with $2,500 seed money. The company name is derived from characters in a Jack Kerouac journal. They created one of the best user experiences on the planet.


Huge fan of Jeff Bezos, a true visionary and a genius. Even more of a fan after reading The Everything Store by Brad Stone.

Whole Foods

Although WF is struggling at the moment, I have remained a loyal customer in part because it’s so convenient but also because I love the story of founder, John Mackey, and his lifelong passion for organic food and healthy living. He started working at a vegetarian co-op while in school and has been a vegetarian almost his whole life (he’s vegan now).  And it is his birthday today: August 15th.

Standard Hotel Hollywood

My home away from home when in LA. Have been a loyal guest since the day this hotel opened. Knowing a little about Andre Balazs and appreciating his taste, his strong brand vision and his ability to attract people who are “on brand” adds tremendously to the Standard experience.  The Balazs/Standard narrative is so strong, it weaves through his various enterprises (e.g. The Mercer, Chateau Marmont, Chiltern Firehouse, Hotel San Jose) uniting them into a much more powerful and creative whole. Every one of his properties adds to the story.

This is a bit of an outlier but I have been so impressed with their new, young CEO, Doug McMillon, that I have doubled down on my loyalty to the brand. So although not a Walton, McMillon has worked at Walmart since he was a teenager and is now part of the narrative.  He thinks about business in a fresh way. So I’m cutting Walmart some slack vs. Amazon. Their prices are excellent and I like what he is doing to transform and update the company for a digital age. I like ordering from places where I can put a face on the business.

And finally, not to flog dead horse, Apple – under Steve Jobs – would have been #1 on this list but with Tim Cook at the helm, narrative and storytelling have become a lost art.

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