Elevator pitch vs. brand narrative – know the urgent difference

Here’s the simple (but profound) difference between an elevator pitch and a brand narrative:

Your elevator pitch is what you say to a prospect to explain your brand.
Your brand narrative is what your prospects say about you.

Every individual on your team should know – even memorize – your elevator pitch. The first audience for branding is always internal. You can and should control this. It’s essential, of course, that it be true, and not a delusion. If the sales force or the guys on the loading dock don’t believe it, it will shred into pieces over time.

Your elevator pitch is important

Can everyone in your company answer this well?

Your brand narrative, on the other hand, you hope to influence, but you can’t dictate it. Prospects are influenced by your visibility, your differentiation as they understand it, your reputation, your social media presence, your logo, your advertising, your shoeshine, your lobby furniture, and on and on. The collective perception is their reality.

Since both take less time than an elevator ride, people tend to confuse the two. The pitch, however, is aspirational and often includes two tablespoons of wishful thinking, but the narrative is a reality.

Knowing what your customers think, and why, is relatively easy. Knowing what your prospects perceive, and why, is hard work, requiring research, creative listening and insight.

Only then can you move the evolution of the narrative from
“I know that brand” to
“I like it” to
“I need it” to
“I have to own it” to
“I’m glad I bought it and you would be, too.”

Our role? Well, we like to hear, and help you rewrite, your elevator pitch, but our real value is improving your brand narrative to higher and higher levels. We’ve done this for teams in every category and of every size, from Fortune 100 to startups. How can we help you?

Comments 11

  1. This is a helpful distinction, but sometimes where we get lost is that we live in the professional service world and not the product world. It’s sometimes hard that in professional service, people become attached to a person, not a company and it can be difficult to brand the company – especially if it is a small business with less than 10 employees and if the sign bears a name of a person people loved, but is now retired. We run into this all the time with our clients as we do business valuation/brokerage and some quick turn around marketing strategies.

  2. I’m curious how, if the brand narrative lives in the minds of others, does your company improve a client’s brand narrative? It would seem impossible. There are chances for every company to impress customers and win loyal brand fans, but the choice is not for the company to make.

  3. I see what Cara sees also, in a company that markets both products and services to its clients. Relationship becomes a factor in both aspects of branding, as does the culture of the providing business. Trust between client and provider becomes essential to your customer relationship – and their testimony and word-of-mouth becomes essential to your effective reach into the prospect community.

  4. Excellent and simple distinction. As with most things in marketing getting simple has harder than it seems.

    Another way to put it is “Elevator Pitch is What You Want to Be” versus “Brand narrative is what you have become”. Your brand is a reflection of how you behave and service your customers (pricing, sales approach, services, support, etc.). How close these two reflect how well you execute your strategy.

    I did related post on brand, versus positioning, etc.


  5. Marc:
    It is possible to influence prospects in ways that improve perception and brand narrative – but you can’t control it, or assume that what you say is what they hear or believe.

    In short, branding ain’t easy.

  6. Influencing your brand narrative takes a lot of effort, it happens over time and it requires constant maintenance. Shifting the way a business is perceived in the minds of others does not happen with one campaign.

    All organizations, even service industries, have the power to affect they way prospects collectively see them. It takes strategy and patience. Make sure your brand is clearly defined internally and make sure it is delivered at every prospect and client touch point by every employee. Branding does not happen just in the market promotion and sales phases but through product or service delivery, through support and back, full circle, to new product development and promotion.

    I know as a consumer, I appreciate consistency from a company. I want the same quality service from the person that supports me as I received from the person that sold me on the company in the first place.

    I agree with Bob. “It ain’t easy.” But when we see the results from a strong, consistent approach, it can be so much fun.

  7. It might be semantics but I like to use the term “Value Proposition” for elevator speech. It should answer the question “why should i buy from you?” As for brand narrative, it is really position – or how the brand is perceived in the market place.

  8. Pingback: Kindle Customer Service – Battling for Brand Loyalty « FivePond

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