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Building a Brand Through Storytelling

RSR analyst Nikki Baird says every brand has a story to tell. I say RFID can help.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 10.23.2013

RFID Journal's executive editor, Paul Prince, sent me an e-mail last week concerning the article "Can Every Brand Tell a Story?" by Nikki Baird, which was included in a newsletter published by Retail Systems Research (RSR). Baird wrote: "Every brand can tell a story. But only if they're willing to do what it takes to mean it and to live it." Paul commented that it sounds like RFID Journal. He suggested I write about how radio frequency identification could help brands tell their story, which is what I'm doing now.

First, yes, RFID Journal has a well-respected brand, and it is because we are true to our mission, which is to help companies take advantage of RFID to improve the way they do business. I am passionate about what RFID can do for companies. But we at RFID Journal do not hype the technology. We don't say it can do things it can't, or that it will deliver a return on investment for every application.

Baird's article maintains that brands must stand for things. RFID Journal stands for the smart use of RFID where it delivers value to companies.

Can RFID help brands tell their story? Yes, I think so. Walmart's story is, "We work tirelessly to bring you the lowest prices." Using RFID to take costs out of the supply chain reinforces the message. Burberry, an upscale retailer, is trying to be both traditionally British and fashionably current. The company is employing RFID-enabled Magic Mirrors at its flagship store to provide shoppers with more information about some tagged clothing items. Two very different retailers with two very different uses of RFID—but each supporting its "story."

Apple, of course, has had a great story, with founder Steve Jobs as a central character. Apple's story is about making computers and electronic devices that are elegant and easy to use (a joy to use, in fact). A big part of that story is based on innovation: Apple was the first company to offer a mobile phone with a virtual keyboard instead of real keys, the first to introduce a phone that could respond to a wide variety of complex voice commands, and so forth. Apple seems to have strayed from its innovative storyline, with its refusal, so far, to include Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in its phones. Samsung has stolen Apple's thunder in that regard, with its commercials that show NFC pairing enabling the sharing of photos and playlists.

RFID technology providers could learn from Baird's suggestion that they tell a story. Many seem to simply want to sell their technology to whoever wants to buy it. It would be more effective to brand your technology with a story, for example, about your passion for reducing health-care costs or medical errors. Instead of telling everyone how your tags have a longer read range than another provider's tags, why not talk about your passion for improving inventory accuracy in stores, by ensuring the highest read rates possible? Instead of telling potential customers how many reports your software can generate, what if you talked about your passion for lean manufacturing?

End users don't really care about technology. They don't care which tags or readers are best. They want the lowest-cost product that will solve their problem, or the system that will deliver the most benefits at a reasonable cost. I believe RFID technology, when used appropriately and deployed correctly, can be a cost-effective solution to many problems, and that it can deliver significant benefits to almost any business.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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