Take a look at a screen shot from Zappos from December 20:
Every image, every link, every sentence communicates a story. Zappos is telling you why you should buy from Zappos. Now, you may not like the story - you may not care for Coach, or you may not ever buy Coach from Zappos - that's fine. But it is still part of the story - from the penguin and showshoe in the logo to guaranteed Christmas delivery to advertising Coach as a way of communicating a broad merchandise assortment, Zappos is telling you a story.
Story is going to be critically important, moving forward. Story is where Social Media has a place. Story is where the marketer matters. Story is where the creative professional regains authority.
Here's L.L. Bean's Pinterest page - what do you "feel" when you look at this?
You can certainly feel the outdoor spirit of L.L. Bean, can't you? And based on how often each image has been pinned, you can get a feel for the imagery that customers prefer. If I'm in the creative department, this information is GOLD! Merchandising, Creative, Marketing, and Customers are all working together to tell the L.L. Bean story.
Hint - the story cannot be told without Merchandising and Creative. This is what is different than the past ten years ... previously, we let Marketing do the heavy lifting. Going forward, the Merchant must have a point of view, the Merchant must lead, with passion, demanding that her Story be told. The Creative professional must translate merchandising passion into imagery that the customer cares about. The Marketer blends a fusion of Merchandising and Creative genius, making the Merchandise and/or Story easy to share.
This requires a collaboration that has largely been missing for the past decade.
Here's an example, from J. Crew Discovered (click here).
Heck, they go so far as to tell you the story behind their gloves, don't they? In fact, J. Crew tells a story, and then Karla Gonzales (on Pinterest) spreads the story for J. Crew (see below):
Not only is Karla spreading the story for J. Crew, but J. Crew gets to see what Karla likes - this feedback loop helps the Merchandising, Creative, and Marketing team identify trends, product opportunities, and creative strategies.
This all starts with the Merchant having passion for a product. It is fueled by a Creative professional who writes heartfelt copy and generates appealing imagery. The Story is spread by the Marketing department, and is then moved through the Social ecosystem by the Customer.
This collaborative Story ... Merchant + Creative + Marketing + Customer ... has been largely missing for the past decade. Yes, social has been there to spread the word, but the strategy behind the story has been largely missing. In 2014, the Story becomes critically important.
Business success in 2014 comes from a three letter acronym: MSS.