Retail Band

Brand Storytelling | Connecting With Customers – Ed Lynes EP 61

The Art of Purposeful Brand Storytelling.

How do you communicate with your customers with the right messaging? How do you develop that trust relationship that keeps bringing them back? One thing all customers have in common is a pain point, and your product has to first solve it.

In this episode of Page One Podcast, Luke Peters speaks with Ed Lynes on the importance of building a trust relationship with your customers using the right messaging. Ed is the founder of Woden, a strategic messaging agency that helps you build consumer trust and remove friction. He helps transform your brand with a powerful story.

Listen in to learn the areas that you need to target the customer and make a connection that will lead to relationship building. You will also learn the power you hold by understanding customer purchasing behavior and how you can use that to your benefit.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding how to build a relationship with your customers and communicating your purpose the right way.
  • The importance of creating a brand story that allows your customer to be the hero who understands your product’s pain point.
  • Learn about the things that are going to help you build better affinity and customer value.
  • The power of understanding customer purchasing behavior and then aligning your messaging with it.

Episode Timeline:

  • [3:18] How at Woden they help brands with the right messaging to develop a customer relationship.
  • [4:18] The three areas to target the customer, make a connection with them, and start building a relationship.
  • [8:03] Learning how to communicate your brand’s purpose and letting the customer know you understand their pain point.
  • [11:36] Ed shares a case study of how they helped a company that was suffering from genericide right their customer messaging.
  • [17:29] How to create a brand story where the customer comes out as the hero with your product.
  • [21:33] How to articulate your brand’s messaging to make sure that the customer understands the pain point.
  • [26:53] How to find the motivation and the perception of why the customer is purchasing the product they’re purchasing.
  • [30:18] How to focus on things you can control with your customer during uncertainty.
  • [33:55] Ed recommends some of his strategies in understanding people and how to market to them.

Books Mentioned:

  • Merchants of Doubt by Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes
  • The Innovation’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  • Story is the strategy by Ed Lynes

Relevant Links:



Speaker 1: Welcome to the Page One Podcast, a podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders, on topics ranging from digital marketing, sales channel strategies, influencer marketing, best-in-class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate sales. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.

Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One Podcast. I’m your host Luke Peters, CEO of NewAir Appliances and Retail Band Digital Strategy agency. Really excited about this episode today. In this episode, you’re going to hear from Ed Lynes, founder of Woden, a strategic messaging agency that helps you build consumer trust, and remove friction.

Luke Peters: So for those brand owners that maybe have a somewhat commoditized, or non-differentiated features in their products, you’re going to really listen to how storytelling and messaging can set you apart. Ed’s going to be put on the spot here, he’s going to critique my brand, my company NewAir, live here on this podcast, so looking forward to that. And, Ed is a managing partner of Woden Strategic Narrative Agency based in Philly, PA. Woden helps organizations develop clear, compelling, strategic stories and aligns all they do behind their message. Ed is the founding partner, and leads the firm’s day-to-day operations. Ed grew up in Boston, attended Boston University, where he dropped out to start a newspaper, and grew that into 14 different newspapers.

Luke Peters: Ed, from one paperboy to another, welcome to the Page One Podcast.

Ed Lynes: That’s great. Yeah, thanks for having me. Who would have thought that newspapers would have been a growth industry, and I guess a way to start a career in 2005? But, stranger things have happened. Thanks for having me on.

Luke Peters: That’s a great story, the dropout stories are always fun. Did you ever go back? Or, did you just continue on in your business career?

Ed Lynes: No, just continued on. Actually, I’ve been fortunate. My business partner in Woden has actually been my same business partner since 2005, so we’ve had now three or four companies together. Back in the newspaper business, with Philadelphia Weekly, so we purchased the alt weekly here in the city. We have a soft spot for papers. But no, I’ve had the same partner through it all, which I’m sure as you know as an entrepreneur, makes a huge difference, having the right person by your side. We’ve been doing the Woden thing for about five years now, and just absolutely love working with companies like yours, to help them really figure out how they craft a story that’s going to connect with people.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Listen, for all those brand owners out there listening, I thought this would be a great episode, and one we can learn a lot. I quite often interview other brand owners, but at the end of the day, we all have to have a website, we all have to have brand positioning, and brand messaging. Ed’s an expert in that area. So I thought this is more than just a call-to-action on your product, this is really how to align your brand with customers so you’re able to get sales when you really know that your product isn’t that much more differentiated than maybe your competition. Ed, I’m looking forward to hearing that, and learning from you today.

Luke Peters: Again, we do have a lot of brand owners listening. Why don’t you just, in simple terms … Hopefully I did justice there, but did I miss anything? Or, do you want to explain a little bit more about what Woden does?

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I mean, I think you hit the elevator pitch points perfectly, so thank you for that. It’s really all about having that clear, compelling, strategic story and getting everything aligned behind it.

Ed Lynes: I think what you hit on most is perfect. It’s not just the logo, it’s not just the colors, the website, the things that people think about initially. It’s really the way your customers feel about the brand, and all the different relationships and developments that come out of that. I think for us, we really feel like when you get that message right, the impact is transformational. We help folks make sure they’re on the path for growth, building the right culture to support that, the right customer experience to support that, which we’ll talk about a bunch today. And of course, the longterm strategy that keeps that perpetuating into the future.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Well, why don’t we just start right off here, with some practical advice from you? For the typical brand selling hard goods into Home Depot, or Wayfair, of course online at Amazon, what are two to three doable changes that their marketing team should do, or take action on immediately in their messaging?

Ed Lynes: That’s a great question. I’ll start with the obvious, that brand messaging and storytelling is not a panacea. I recognize if you’re on a shelf, or you’re showing up in an Amazon search, pricing, packaging, design, we know these things matter, especially for price conscious products, or an undifferentiated product. I certainly don’t want to come across today as pretending the right story just cures all ills.

Ed Lynes: But, I really do think it comes down to three areas that I’d encourage folks to target. The first one is, think about the entry point the customer has with the brand. If you’re on that shelf in Home Depot, that’s the copy on the package. The customer’s going to pick it up, they’re going to see the artwork, and they’re going to read a little bit of something about your brand. In the Amazon instance, it’s that little product description that appears on the page when somebody clicks a search result. That’s your chance, in a handful of words, to hook that buyer emotionally, and take them out of a purchase that’s purely driven by price point, and really can be about a quick and immediate connection, ideally with a pain point that they really feel. We know people make decisions emotionally, and that’s the first chance to draw them in.

Ed Lynes: Number two, and it’s funny I think most people are probably expecting to say a website here, but I’m really going to go with email. I think when someone comes to the website, they’re looking of course to validate information about the product, and about the company, and learn more. But, they’ve already been hooked in somewhere. Email is really one of those chances where you’re trying to forge a connection, and maximize that value of the customer over a lifetime. I’d be thinking about how do you turn those email campaigns away from being purely sales oriented promotions, and into relationship builders that make people want to advocate for the brand.

Ed Lynes: The third one, which again, you might think falls outside of the traditional domain of marketing, but it’s all really, to me, about customer service and customer experience. Most brands do good customer service. You know, I had an experience this week where I called my bank, and I got good service, but a terrible experience. I won’t name them on the podcast to shame them, or anything like that. But, I think making sure that you’ve got a customer experience that, when someone has a pain point and they pick up the phone to make a call, or when they send an email question in, that they’re getting more than just an answer, but that becomes an opportunity to reinforce the brand, build loyalty, help engage that customer on behalf of the story. That’s huge, and I think can matter even more than the copy on the web.

Ed Lynes: So I think those two would be the big three. Email, the first entry point, and then the experience that you deliver on an ongoing basis to build that brand.

Luke Peters: Well okay, that’s awesome. I was going to reiterate those, you just did it. But, a few other things just to reinforce was people, in general, make emotional decisions. Again, you want to try to build the relationship.

Luke Peters: Why don’t we stick to this? Now, a brand owner right now might be listening, or a marketing executive might be thinking about this, about okay, we’ve got to build a relationship, or I’ve got to build trust. But, in my product description, I’ve got to tell about the product. Or, maybe in their mind they’re thinking okay, I don’t want to have some corny company story on the package. There’s where, I guess, professionals will come into play.

Luke Peters: But, give us maybe an example of a tangible messaging change that brands could make. Or, maybe even give themes. On the package, should brands, in general, try to tell a little bit about how they started, because that is engaging the customers? Or, what type of message to do you find customers engage with? Because I think a lot of brands might think, why would a customer care about that? A customer, they want a product that works. So the brand might be, maybe not the right word, but too modest to maybe talk about their beginnings, and think that that even means something to the customer. But, it would be interesting to hear your opinion, there.

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I think the first thing to remember is that, just like you said, there’s a hierarchy to decision making, and it’s almost entirely emotional. We know that people make emotional decisions, and then they seek out features, and benefits, and details that just reinforce and support that same decision that feels good emotionally.

Ed Lynes: I think when we think about our brands, we’ve got to start at the top. Which is, what’s the purpose behind the brand? Why does this brand exist? If you think about even consumer brands, which on the surface might not have much differentiation, but there’s a reason why you felt the world needed another widget when you started your company. Or, when you entered that product line. I think, thinking really about why is it that we’re even in this business? It’s probably not just to make a couple extra bucks. Why are we in this business, and why do people care? The story is the essence of how you communicate that purpose.

Ed Lynes: I think the third level down, or the more tactical application … I think that question about origin story, or talking about us, is one of those places where people can get a little bit confused about the nature of brand storytelling. I would think of the story as the strategic element that ties all that together. And then, all those little things, the origin story, the copy on the package, those are the tactical pieces of copy that reinforce that strategic message, but ultimately are subservient to it.

Ed Lynes: So for me, when I think about what’s on the package, it may not be the origin story, if that’s not compelling, or not a way to reconnect with the brand. It’s really got to be about the catharsis and the arc that the customer feels. People buy products because they feel a pain point or a need, and they want to feel that you have an empathetic understanding of what that need is. Not that you’re going to solve it for them, but rather that your product can be a tool that they can use to solve it for themselves in an empowering way. I think when you come across to the customer as understanding the pain point and providing a tool that resolves it, there’s great power in that.

Ed Lynes: To answer your question about the first place I’d make a change, it’s pretty straightforward. Honestly, the elevator pitch. I think when you really nail down, internally, everyone able to talk about the organization in a succinct, consistent way, a lot of those other changes, marketing copy, social strategy, even the way that we talk to distributors about our product and they sell it to their customers, all sort themselves out. But, if you go inside your organization and you ask 10 people, “Why does our brand matter,” and you get eight, nine, or 10 different answers, that’s the first place you’ve got to start, is getting everyone singing from the same hymnal.

Luke Peters: That’s great feedback, and those listening, you guys should be writing that down. Because I guarantee you, in 90% of companies, they will get that feedback. Look, there’s a million things going on every day, and you have new people, and folks that haven’t been around for a while, but leadership isn’t always talking about elevator pitch, they’re talking about other objectives. I think that’s great feedback, and gives us all something to think about. It’s probably hammered down in our mind, but we’ve got to make sure that the rest of the company really understands, and believes in that cause. Good feedback, there.

Luke Peters: How about a case study? Is there something you could walk us through in a case study, and talk about where the messaging was from a brand you worked with, and how you changed that? I know in the format, you guys may talk about the hero’s journey, which I read about quite a bit, and it’s interesting how it’s repeated in so many stories. And then, you could talk about maybe where exactly the site that made the changes, although you addressed that, where it’s really holistic. How long does this take, and maybe the results that they noticed?

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I’ll tell you, I’ll probably touch maybe on a case study, and then we can come back to the hero’s journey question maybe as an aside, although, I think you’ll hear it come out in the case study question.

Ed Lynes: I’ll talk about one of my favorite clients we ever had, which is the brand Bush Hog. If you know anybody whose in any kind of farming, or has big swaths of land, you’ve probably heard them talk about bush hogging their land. Bush Hog makes those huge rotary cutters that you drag behind a tractor, that cut huge swaths of either agricultural, or a lot of times municipal property. Bush Hog’s been around for a long time, and they’ve really been suffering from something that we call a genericide. Which is where a product is so successful, that their name actually becomes a generic.

Ed Lynes: There’s a million rotary cutters out there. And so much so, that anyone whose in that industry simply refers to it as bush hogging. They’re like, “I’m going to go bush hog my land.” Or, “I’m going to go bush hog this.” Even if they’re using a similar product that’s made my John Deer, or somebody else in that industry. For them, they came to us and they really said we have to figure out, essentially, how do we navigate a world where our brand name is so ubiquitous that it’s actually become less valuable, which is a very unique challenge to have.

Ed Lynes: When we really got into it with them, I think they were making the mistake that a lot of great brands make. They’ve been around for 60, 70 years when they engaged us. They made quality products, with great service. They’re made in the United States, they would be repairing implements that they had manufactured 50 years before that were still working, and still in the field. What they were finding was they were really selling that aspect of good quality, good service, get a Bush Hog. They’re the original, they’re the best. But, what they discovered was that out in the field, distributors and the people that were selling their product just didn’t care, and a lot of the customers didn’t see it as differentiated. They saw it as more expensive, as a premium brand, and they didn’t understand why a Bush Hog rotary cutter was that much more valuable than, say, a John Deere rotary cutter.

Ed Lynes: What we really had to do was figure out how do you talk about the importance of a brand that not just repeating the same tropes about the best quality, the best service, but really makes it feel differentiated. It really comes down, and I think for every brand, to zeroing in on whose the customer? What do they look like, what makes them different than the person who buys a similar product? In Bush Hog’s case, it was pretty clear, these are real people who work the land. They’re often generational farmers, or in some cases people who may be more casual farmers, but see themselves as a real, legitimate person who has control over shaping their land.

Ed Lynes: What we really hammered in on was this idea that there’s frustration when you own huge pieces of land, around the idea of not being able to shape it and master it the way that you want to. And that the quality of Bush Hog isn’t an abstract thing, the quality of Bush Hog is that you can drive over a three inch tree, and a Bush Hog will just chew it up, and turn that into farmland in a way that a Deere won’t. So the quality matters, not as an abstract concept, but as an idea behind being able to achieve what you want to achieve with shaping your land the way that you want to shape it. We really built that arc around that. And eventually, settled in on a tagline, which I think was the big thing, at least for Bush Hog, that really helped them feel like they had that right differentiation.

Ed Lynes: If you go to the website now, you’ll see right when you land on their homepage, at the top of the page, the first thing it says is, “If it doesn’t say Bush Hog, it just won’t cut it.” Which was really designed to [inaudible 00:15:06] both the need to make sure that these were legitimate Bush Hogs and not imitator products, but also bringing that quality aspect home much more from the utilitarian and tool-based standpoint, which is what the customer loves. Really being able to shape that inspirational aspect, getting customers engaged, sharing videos with what they’re doing with their Bush Hogs, taking that passionate customer base and really getting them out there and making it, also, a bit more of a lifestyle brand and a community, was the huge difference for them. It took us about 11 weeks to get through that process, and we can touch on that a little bit more. I don’t want to go on too, too much here.

Ed Lynes: But, what we’ve seen is, really, in their dealer channel in particular, you have guys that went from selling competitive products because they were cheaper and easier to sell, or they had better dealer incentives, to folks that have got a really powerful pitch about why their customers should choose Bush Hog. That’s always the hardest, when you have someone whose outside of the organization whose got to advocate on your behalf. At least with Bush Hog, I think they’ve been really successful with a lot of those folks that are at the big agricultural co-ops, selling and really become evangelists for Bush Hog, and increasing sales through those channels because they feel so much more confident in being able to sell the product, and explain why it’s better than the competitor.

Luke Peters: That’s a great story. There’s a lot in there. It can all be distilled down to that tagline, which is really cool. “If it’s not a Bush Hog, it doesn’t cut it.” But when I hear that, I can completely understand how that elevates the brand. And then, of course, getting that messaging down to the distributors, because they’re talking to the customers every day. Yeah, great story, and with really a simplified way of understanding how that brand was transformed. That’s cool, that’s a tangible one.

Luke Peters: Now, I’m a little bit nervous though Ed, because now I’m going to ask you … You’ve got me worried, here. I’m going to ask you to step out here on a ledge for my company, NewAir. Our focus is we create amazing wine and beverage coolers, along with innovative ice makers, and heating and cooling products. We’re basically, what we like to talk about as is we add a little bit of magic to your home. Our core value that we follow internally is that we want to become the most trusted brand. This is the messaging I have internally, and I didn’t tell you that until just now. But, I did give you a heads up that I would put you on the spot, here. So it’ll be interesting to hear your thoughts, in where we’re missing the mark, which I’m sure we’re doing in plenty of different areas with the NewAir brand.

Ed Lynes: Yeah. Look, I think everyone … Frankly, this applies to even Woden. I think everyone can always do better, and this is true of everything in business. I always try to be gentle when I give folks our observations because, number one, we can all improve. And frankly number two, you always know your business certainly better than I do. But, there were some things that jumped out at me. I think before I offer this specific comment, I’ll quickly zip back to that question about the hero’s journey because I think you’ll see some of that come out in my feedback related to the NewAir brand.

Ed Lynes: Every great story, and this is particularly true of brand stories, follows a narrative arc called the hero’s journey, which is a storytelling structure devised by a comparative mythologist named Joseph Campbell. He looked at storytelling structures across all different cultures and societies, and identified 17 consistent components that really made stories spread and go viral. These are the same storytelling structures that were used in the Harry Potter films, Marvel movies, Star Wars, so they really work even in contemporary culture, to drive narrative [inaudible 00:18:31].

Ed Lynes: The ones that I think are super important for customers to think about, or your listeners to think about … We don’t have to get into all 17, but the key things you want to make sure you really get nailed down for the brand. Number one, what’s the broken world? Great stories take place somewhere that’s suffering from a state of disrepair. If you think about the beginning of Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s living in Kansas in sepia tone, in the middle of the dust bowl. Luke Skywalker’s an orphan living under the oppression of the Galactic Empire. All of these stories, the audience wants that problem to get fixed, and that’s what gives the story inertia.

Ed Lynes: A brand’s got to think about themselves the same way. You’ve got to be able to lay out a clear problem statement, particularly for consumer brands. That’s not hey, this could make the world a little bit better, or this would make things a little bit more convenient, but feels like a state of disrepair that starts the story. You want to always have a hero at the center of the story. Great fictional stories use heroes that audience can empathize with, that’s why they’re often teenagers or orphans, to go back to some of the fictional examples I used. So in your brand story, the customer really has to come out as the hero of the story. The story of NewAir’s not about you, it’s about all those folks that have got those refrigerators or ice makers at home, and they’re using them.

Ed Lynes: Ultimately, you want to lay the arc out in a way that you, as a brand, are serving that mentorship role. You think about, again, all these stories, the character encounters a wiser, older character, whether that’s Obi Wan Kenobi, or Gandalf, or Dumbledore, who shows the protagonist how much more is possible within them, and sets them off on their journey. That’s really the brand’s role, is to be that enabler power and show the way forward. Ultimately, that mentor always provides the hero with a magical gift, that’s the product, of course, that you’re selling, that the hero uses to restore the world to balance. That’s where you get the fifth part, which is always they all lived happily ever after, how every story … That arc plays out everywhere.

Ed Lynes: So to give you some feedback on NewAir in a second, you’re going to hear me heed pretty closely to those concepts. So I’ll pause there, just for a moment, in case you think there’s anything else you think we ought to touch on there, before we put the spotlight on you guys.

Luke Peters: Yeah. No, thanks for doing that. I’m taking notes, so definitely interested because it all makes sense. Everybody listening has watched these movies. For those hearing this the first time, it is kind of cool, and actually surprising. When I first heard it the first time I’m like, “Wow, that is actually right.” All these stories follow this same formula, essentially, in how they start, and then how the middle of the story is, and how the end of the story is. I think we know it intuitively, and then you hear it and it is kind of interesting.

Luke Peters: But yeah, I took those notes. I think it’ll be great to hear your answers, because even though you’re telling a brand this, it still really is hard to execute it. I guess, that’s why there’s experts like you, that have companies that do this. But, how a brand is going to lay out what’s broken, without sounding too depressed, I guess. And that a customer needs to be the hero, so how you portray the customer as the hero, and how NewAir comes up as the mentor. Definitely looking forward to seeing how you distill that.

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I think the first thing that really jumped out at me on the NewAir website when I spent some time with you guys is, look, the site’s clearly really well optimized for transactions for eCommerce. It’s clearly a site that converts. I don’t know how you guys do with that, but I’m sure it’s excellent. But, what really struck me was that if I didn’t already have a self-diagnosed need for one of the products, that first component of the story, the broken world, really is missing from that.

Ed Lynes: Right now, the headline on the page talks about how you can chill down beer in a minute. Well for me, I’ve already got a refrigerator full of beer. Why is it that I need, particularly, a beer fridge, or a tabletop ice maker, or one of these other kind of great products that you sell? I think that’s one of the things that we often do, as brand owners, is we take for granted the demand that’s in front of us because we get it. We feel the pain point, that’s why we started the company. I know you started your brand out of your garage. This was something personal to you, you understood it, you felt it. But, we want to make sure, I think, when customers come to us that they understand what the pain point is because sometimes, number one, they might not be able to even articulate it themselves. Or number two, even if they can feel it themselves, they’ll want to know that you feel it.

Ed Lynes: I think that’s true, even for consumer brands. It can be done in subtle ways, you don’t have to be dramatic and say, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got warm beer, and you’re going to be embarrassed by that.” But, those little subtle notes that imply to somebody, “You’ve got a pain point, and we feel it, and we get it,” are important. That’s number one.

Ed Lynes: I think two, and this is again a very common affliction for, I think, consumer brands, is making sure that the message is really differentiating. I noticed when I went to the about page, and learned a little bit more about the brand, all of the values that you espouse, and all the things that you hold dear, they’re the right things. Integrity, responsibility, great service, they’re all right there on the website. Building the brand around trust, of course. The challenge, of course, is that every brand says, “We have great service.” Every brand says, “We have integrity.” Few people are audacious enough to stand up there and tell you that they’re going to give you terrible service, and that’s their plan.

Ed Lynes: So what you want to do is find a way to talk about those things in a way that’s still authentic to you, but also differentiating. That can be as simple as using different words and different catch phrases that lay out the value, that makes someone feel like oh, that’s a little bit different, the way they think about that. Sometimes it’s laying out the values a little bit differently. Ritz Carlton does this incredibly well with their guest credo. They don’t just talk about great customer service at the Ritz Carlton, they have a spelled out, four or five word credo, that every member of the Ritz Carlton staff recites before every shift, in the way that they give great service. That’s part of where the differentiating on that comes in.

Ed Lynes: I think thinking about, number one, what’s the story, or what’s the pain point. But then, two, how do we differentiate the way we talk about even things like service to support that becomes super important.

Ed Lynes: And then, the third piece is to really bring that hero and that customer to the forefront. The products are there, and I think certainly for someone that’s entering that page off, say, an Amazon listing, or an ad, and you’re seeking to convert them, you want the product to be there. But, when you think about the person who might be coming back, they purchased a fridge and now they’re thinking about a tabletop ice maker. Or, they had a great experience at someone’s house, they saw a fridge and they said, “That’s really cool, I want one of those.”

Ed Lynes: We want to make sure that those people see themselves, really, at the center of the company. That can be done through something basic and simple like the photography that communicates the story. It can be done with testimonials and use cases. Or, it can just be done with simple, basic messaging that really, again, articulates to the person, “If you buy this, this is what it’s going to look like, and this is going to be the value that’s going to come out of it.”

Ed Lynes: I think, number one, really laying out the broken world, and make the customer feel the pain point. Number two, differentiate it really effectively. And of course, number three, really get that customer at the forefront. I think those are all things that are going to help build better longterm affinity, and I think customer value [inaudible 00:25:44].

Luke Peters: Wow, that’s awesome. Awesome. Thanks for doing that. And really, on the spot, because you didn’t have a lot of warning on this one. I knew when I wrote that in, I was taking a chance. But, that’s awesome, there was a lot there. I don’t want to go repeat it all, because you already summed it up. But, I think for folks with similar businesses, or even different businesses … Look, a lot of us have hard goods, or CPG type products, all of this is going to relate. That was awesome, thanks for doing that, Ed.

Luke Peters: You may have already answered this one, maybe there’s some other nuance to it. But, when a brand has similar looking competitors, and let’s face it, as much as we all want to be special, a lot of us are creating similar products, they’re just differentiated, into the same as in your story earlier. What types of other things can they do to create that differentiation? Is it still focused on this storytelling? And, how can they get customers to see that? Because the problem is, a lot of customers now are going to be on Amazon. They’re less D2C, and more marketplace, or more wholesale driven, so customers aren’t always going to their website, so it’s really hard, often, to get that story in front of them.

Ed Lynes: Yeah, great question. I think a couple points about that.

Ed Lynes: The first thing, and we’ve worked with some marketplace brands before, and one of the things that I try to be honest about is the limitations of storytelling. When you’ve got a marketplace brand, a lot of times that first sale is going to open the door with a customer is going to be because you’ve got great reviews, you’re high ranked on the search, and it’s competitively priced. The customer needs something, they make the purchase.

Ed Lynes: I think where storytelling becomes really powerful is after that person’s entered the ecosystem, and you’re either able to market to them directly, or get them to sign up for your email list, and you’re trying to unlock lifetime customer value. That’s really, even for brands that sell fairly competitive and commodified products, where they can make a huge difference, even if they’re selling through a marketplace.

Ed Lynes: I think the number one thing is to really understand what the customer values. For us, Woden’s roots were actually in a previous company that my partner Dan and I had had, which sold telecom, which is incredibly competitive. It’s not a hard bid, but it’s entirely commodified. Our real big breakthrough there was discovering that it wasn’t about service, or internet speeds, or uptime, it was all about helping our customers drive tenant retention, which was not something we had expected. Really, we wanted to speak to that pain point.

Ed Lynes: We had a bunch of work, actually, with spirit brands. One of the things you see in the alcohol industry is that people pick certain alcohols and certain spirits not because of how they taste, or not even because of the marketing of the product, they pick it because of what it communicates about them when they order the brand. They walk up to the bar and they say, “Please give me a blank,” they want the people around them to perceive them in a certain way. You see that, too, with a lot of home goods brands, where people want someone to come into their house and look at their kitchen and say, “Oh, you have a blank,” even if it’s not articulated.

Ed Lynes: I think it really comes down to understanding the customer motivation, and why the customer cares about buying a product from a particular brand. Whether that’s aligning with their self-perception, whether it’s aligning with a pain point that no one else has spoken to, or whether it’s, frankly, even just matching up with their own value system and beliefs. Depending on who the customer is and why they buy the product, you want to find that itch, and scratch away at it consistently and constantly. And the more they feel that, and the closer that affinity feels, the more loyal they’re going to be to the product. Even if, on a features and benefits level, it just doesn’t have the differentiation.

Luke Peters: Yeah. What I really like about that answer is the truth is, the messaging can’t always be there in front of people, especially with today’s buying habits on the marketplaces and Amazon. But, I really, really like how you pull that together. And every marketer listening, hopefully, is thinking in that direction of hey, you got that customer. Now, how can you remarket to them? Amazon can make that hard, but you can do that with the packaging, and things around the product, and there’s other branding ideas that work as well. But other channels, you may be able to remarket to them, so I think that’s a nice way to tie that together.

Luke Peters: You know, we’re in a Coronavirus world, and hopefully we’re on the upward trend, and things are getting better. They feel better right now, in August, the time of this recording. But, how do consumers in their mindsets change, when they feel uncertain? And, how does the messaging tie into that?

Ed Lynes: That’s a great, great question, again. And, being something, obviously, we’re hearing from a lot of our customers now.

Ed Lynes: The first thing, I think, that we’ve got to do is we just have to accept it, and embrace it. I think so many times, marketers or even C-level executives, are looking for that silver bullet that’s going to just solve it. The fact is, people feel uncertain, that’s natural given what’s going on in the world. I think it’s all about building empathy. There’s going to be more friction in our sales demand funnels because of that uncertainty. I think what we want to do is focus on a couple things we can control.

Ed Lynes: The first is we can continue to combat uncertainty by building desire. Uncertainty can come at two different places in the buying journey. Uncertainty can come at the top of the funnel where the person says, “Do I even want to buy a product like this?” Or, it can come at the bottom of the funnel where the person says, “Is this the right product for me to buy,” before they hit the purchase button. I think fighting the uncertainty at the top of the funnel, you can do by continuing to create excitement and desire around that. Obviously, eCommerce has continued to do well through the pandemic. I think a lot of that has been encouraging people to maximize the lives that they can have, and the things that they can do. That’s done a really good job building enthusiasm, building desire, and that’s, I think, how you can combat the global uncertainty, is give people a point of stability when everything else feels uncertain, and allow them to gravitate to that.

Ed Lynes: I think the second piece of uncertainty is when they’re down further in the funnel, and they’re holding off on making a purchase, which could be economic uncertainty, it could be, obviously, a crisis of having too many choices. I think in those cases, that’s just really where you have to come down to being authentic, and open, and arming people when they’re uncertain with the right information so they can make their own decisions. We live in a world where people can research and understand products better than ever before, and I think the more we try to push people over the finish line, the more uncertain they get that they’re making the right decision.

Ed Lynes: Trust your customers, arm them with the information that they need if you built desire, and trust that if you’re building the right emotional connection with them, if you’re being open, and authentic, and vulnerable, and understanding their uncertainty, empathizing with their pain points, and trying to get them into the right place, that they’re going to trust you, that they’re going to consume the information that you’ve dispensed to them, and that they’re going to ultimately make the right buying decision, and want to resolve that internal conflict by trusting you to help them with it.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Well listen Ed, you speak like a professor. I’ve got to tell you, you’ve very succinct. I love marketing, I learned a lot here because I’m often thinking of maybe getting folks through that funnel, and a lot of marketers are, and how we can improve a call-to-action, or a pitch, or remove friction. But, I like the overall theme, and I think a lot of us are missing out on it because frankly, what we’re talking about today is honestly a lot harder because it’s so many parts of the brand have to be reassessed and changed. But, definitely an episode I’m going to re-listen to, and have my marketing team check out.

Luke Peters: I think, Ed, for the audience, went through a couple of examples so we have the deep dives, but I think just on a simplistic view, especially for the single entrepreneurs out there, or the folks with the really limited budgets, first fix that elevator pitch, and make sure that it’s focused around the different elements that we talked about. With the broken world, and the customer needs, and the brand being the mentor. Hopefully that summed up the main themes of this, really enjoyed this.

Luke Peters: I want to finish with asking you, maybe who your favorite marketer is? Maybe it’s a marketer, maybe it’s a book that you recommend for marketers to read. Would love to get your insight there?

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I guess what I’ll leave folks with is I’m generally adverse … Maybe it’s because I’m not a marketer by trade, but I’m generally pretty averse to the quick fix marketing influencers that you see popping up all over LinkedIn. To me, great marketing is just about understanding a business, and understanding how it relates to people, and the levers you can push to make those relationships more effective. I tend to read and consume things that are maybe a little bit broader, and outside that.

Ed Lynes: Merchants of Doubt is a terrific book. Again, not a marketing book, but it’s really about, actually, how cigarette lobbyists convinced us to all keep smoking, long after we knew that it was bad for us. It’s a great case study in how we can get people to make decisions and act emotionally, even when it’s against their best interests. The INnovator’s Dilemma is a great example, on the other side of that, where you have great innovations, and great products that fail because people can’t wrap their head around it, and understand it.

Ed Lynes: I think the more we can read, not about quick marketing fixes, and ways to optimize web copy, but maybe the more we spend time understanding people and why they care about things, and why they love certain brands and certain people, the easier it’s going to be to build the relationships with them that ultimately is going to deliver value for the brand.

Luke Peters: Great choices. I’ve read The Innovator’s Dilemma, and will add Merchants of Doubt to the list. We’ll have those in the show notes as well, for the listeners out there.

Luke Peters: Thanks again. How can the listeners find more about you, and Woden? And also, I think you’re an author, right? You wrote a book called Story Is the Strategy?

Ed Lynes: Yeah. I think if folks want to learn … Forget more about Woden, but even more just how to approach this, the book’s a great place to start. I’m a big believer that whether you engage Woden, whether you do this yourself, whether you talk to somebody else, every brand should know how to talk about themselves in a way that’s clear, and compelling, and memorable. We put it on our website, you can go to, the book’s available there for free to download. We also sell it at cost, so 10 bucks or whatever it costs to purchase it. Want to get that stuff into as many people’s hands as possible.

Ed Lynes: So I’ll tell you, if you’re looking to learn more about this stuff, the book’s a great place to begin. You could never pick up the phone and never speak to us again, and I think you’d get yourself about 80% of the way there on making sure you’ve got a story that really works for folks.

Luke Peters: Wow. Well, I think you’re being modest there. But that’s a great offer on the free book, so definitely encourage folks to go there. We’ll have that in our show notes, and we’ll have a link right there so you can check it out.

Luke Peters: Again, I just want to thank everybody for joining us on this episode of the Page One Podcast, sponsored by Retail Band. Hope you enjoyed the interview today, truly appreciate your reviews on iTunes, and hope you all join us for the next interview. Take care.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Page One Podcast with Luke Peters. If you enjoyed this episode, please help us out by leaving us a rating on iTunes.

Speaker 1: Want to double your online sales? Check out And, don’t forget to join us next week, with our next amazing guest.

Get a FREE evaluation of your online sales strategy

Episode References:

Contact Ed Lynes: LinkedIn

Contact Luke: luke@retailband.comLinkedIn 

Listen, Subscribe, ReviewApple Podcasts + Spotify Podcasts