What stories do you want people to tell about themselves?

I’ve been working on the business behind the scenes for a few months now. I’m beginning to think maybe it’s like painting the Forth Bridge, you’re never really done with honing your message and seeing ways you can help your ideal customers.

One of the exercises I did this week was looking at brands I love and how their stories feed into mine. I confess I wasn’t too into the idea when I started. I don’t see myself as being someone particularly into brands. But then I took a step back and thought: hold on a minute, there are some places I always shop:

  • John Lewis (the one in Cambridge is HUGE)
  • White Stuff
  • I’ve been wearing DMs since I was in my teens.
  • Bookshops (obviously)

What do I think of when I see these brands? Quality but more importantly an opportunity for self-expression. They are playful, rebellious (yes I said John Lewis and rebellious, it’s a worker co-operative), and you can be yourself. I don’t feel like I need to be a member of a particular ‘crowd’ when I’m in any of these places or enjoying something I’ve bought from them. They also have a social conscience.

A photo of my DM boots

These are my current DMs. Aren’t they great? I always feel confident when I wear them. I’ve written before about enclothed cognition and the things we do to project an image to the world. These boots make me smile everywhere I go.

My secondary school uniform was brown. I hated it. One of my favourite things in the world is socks. I am always happy with socks with a funky design on them. My children bought me a set for my birthday last week with little motifs of woodland creatures on. They are so cute! (My children and my socks.) I was at school back when The Sock Shop was a high street chain (remember that?) They had a store at Victoria Station and I would go there whenever I went to London on the train. They sold every design of sock possible. (The weirdest ones I ever bought were croché. They’re not comfortable.) My teachers always tutted when they saw my brightly patterned socks. You were supposed to conform. Regulation skirt length (not that I ever wore a skirt to school), regulation jumper. Wearing my lovely multicoloured socks was the only way to stand out in a sea of brown.

I feel like I’m expressing myself whenever I shop in John Lewis, White Stuff or choose a new set of DMs. Buying books is always an act of self-expression. It’s impossible not to wear your heart on your sleeve when you’re in a bookshop. You give your inner self away immediately!

Quality, playfulness, self-expression, and social conscience are all key aspects of my brand and I’m going to be working on how I embody those in The Story Cave in the coming weeks.

What stories do you want your customers to share with you? Let me know in the comments.

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

6 thoughts on “What stories do you want people to tell about themselves?”

  1. Good stuff Rachel! Yes to books, obvs, though the publishing industry … Yes to DMs, though I know I’m joining a crowd. I’m still pondering JL and WS, though. I get self-expression, but can you be a bit more specific about / define / unpack playful and rebellious. What happens to the rebellion when you still need the shoppers to come / click through? Can you tell us how you live these values out in your work?

    • Anything which involves change is a form of rebellion. Original thought is a form of rebellion. Wanting to make a ruckus is rebellion. Helping people to make changes in their lives helps them rebel against the status quo. Rebellion can be very small things which make a difference to someone’s life.

      I help people share their work and ideas and those make a difference in the world.

  2. Enjoyed reading this article, the descriptions of the DM’s and the socks add a nice person touch. It reminds me of the joy that I get out of buying new Converse All Stars in various colors, Adding in that your kids get you the socks adds to the personal connection you are building. What stories do you want your customers to tell?

  3. Hi Rachel, thanks for sharing, I love hearing about your quirky socks. I love this section:
    It’s impossible not to wear your heart on your sleeve when you’re in a bookshop. You give your inner self away immediately!
    I love the image this brings to mind. It’d be great to hear more about this. Do you think this is a good or bad thing? Should we be exposing our inner selves or be more careful to create a ‘self’ that we show customers and can build a brand around?

    • I think customers want to know who you are. They don’t want an airbrushed version. And you wouldn’t want a situation where you have conveyed an image of yourself and then you do something which shows you in a completely different light. Anyone is welcome to browse my bookshelves any time 🙂

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