“There’s something happening in the larger world, which is making ‘small’ become a big part of our lives.” That from Rafat Ali, CEO and founder of Skift, a platform that aims to change how the travel industry looks at itself. He presented his philosophy on how thinking small and changing the story can change the world at NewsCred’s ThinkContent 2018.
Ali began his talk with some food for thought: When most people are starting out in their careers or while they’re in college, the advice they typically get is to “think big.” But he believes that taking an opposite stance and encouraging young people to “think small” might be more relevant for the world we live in today. We’re in an era of small brands with big stories to tell, says Ali.
Small brands are having huge moments in content marketing right now — including Away, Harry’s, Everlane, Thirdlove, Burrow, Forward, Vawaa, Rhone, Vello, The Armoury, and more. And if you notice, most of these brands center around travel, retail, and food — arguably the three most sectors most valued by younger consumers today.
Here’s a closer look at his thoughts on why this movement is happening, along with how small brands can use storytelling to power their growth.
Share What You Stand For
“Young people have latched onto brands as a conduit to how they live their lives,” says Ali. In fact, he says, the young, progressive world is seeking a sense of shared values and community with the brands they care about. Young people are very vocal on social media about this, he adds, noting that what a company stands for is just as important as its products and services when it comes to garnering brand loyalty.
As such, young consumers are looking for believable, authentic, and vulnerable stories from brands. “This is conducive to small brands that can tell these types of stories; independent, human-focused businesses that grasp the primacy of the individual consumer,” says Ali.
Some of the things that help small brands stand out in the crowded content world:
- Provenance: share your brand’s origin story.
- Craftmanship: small brands can focus on doing one thing, and doing it well so that quality is top-notch.
- Narrative: give the story that’s happening behind the brand, whether it’s your founders, the employees, or the customers.
- Local pride: how does where your brand does business tie into the company culture?
Make Personal Connections
Not so long ago, if you had 10 million unique visitors, you had a big site; now 100 million is small, notes Ali. But small and mighty brands can focus more on the impact they have on people, rather than the number of customers. He says the big question that small brands should ask themselves is “How big a part of their lives are we to the people who care about us?”
When users become part of your growth story, they will buy in and they’ll be with you for life, says Ali. They’ll follow the brand through ups and downs.
Let your small brand culture shine outward
Brands that are human-powered have the ability to create deeper relationships with their own employees, too, says Ali. As an employer, Skift makes ambitious promises to its workforce:
- You will do the best work you’ve ever done in your life.
- You will be the happiest you’ve ever been at work.
- And you’ll be set for life.
“That’s the big north star we continue to aim for and the type of brand promise that can only happen in a small, boutique company,” says Ali.
Ali encourages marketers at small or lesser-known brands to keep thinking small. Small is not just a stepping stone, it’s a destination in and of itself, says Ali. “Staying small and having a smaller footprint in this world is a good way to go forward.”
Dawn Papandrea is a NewsCred Contributor.