Paint a Product Picture

A presentation at The Craft of Words · Workshop in May 2019 in Belfast, UK by Christopher Murphy

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Paint a Product Picture: The Art of Product Storytelling

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Please Note: This is a preview slidedeck that I’m still working on as I build out my component slidedecks. As such, it’s a work in progress, but it still contains information that I hope others will find useful.

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Selling is telling a story… Sometimes you’re giving not selling, but you’re still telling a story.

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Whether they’re physical or digital, how you describe your products matters. Crafting stories, to paint a picture of your products in potential customers’ minds, builds deeper and richer connections.

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Storytelling, especially online, is essential. In online commerce, storytelling is critical. Without a persuasive salesperson your stories do the talking.

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In a world saturated with mass market products, often created in conditions that aren’t ethical, customers are crying out for authentic stories. There is a hunger for brands with stories and a deeply held conviction.

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Share your products’ backstory… Customers are hungry for meaning, provenance and backstory. They’re eager to look behind the curtain and see process. They want to see the story behind your products.

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The Often-Hidden Details Matter Tell your customers: who made the product; how it’s made; what it’s manufactured from; and why it was made.

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In an era of cheaply manufactured goods, customers are eager to know the provenance of your product.

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Case Studies

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Hiut Denim

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At the simplest level, Hiut Denim make jeans, but there’s much more to their story than that…

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The language they use to describe these jeans is very carefully considered.

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The words paint a vivid picture.

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Selvedge is an investment. Ours is from Kuroki, the artisanal Japanese denim mill. Woven on a 1959 loom. 100% indigo dyed. Unwashed 14.5 oz. Before reading this, I had no idea that jeans would weigh anything, let alone 14.5oz.

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You might think £240 is expensive, but Hiut’s denim is robust and designed to last. It’s an investment.

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This language – in an email letting me know my jeans were on their way to me – is lovely, it builds a connection with the brand.

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Your jeans are on the way to you. But their real journey starts when you put them on. We made the jeans, but you will decide their history.

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This idea – that your jeans are on a journey – changes how we perceive Hiut’s jeans. It positions the jeans as the vehicle for a story that is individual to you.

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Three years and eight months later, my jeans are still in perfect condition. They were an investment.

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The language you use matters… Jeans vs. An Investment; Denim vs. 100% Indigo Dyed, Unwashed 14.5oz.; Tailors vs. Grandmasters

Hiut’s jeans aren’t created by tailors, they’re created by ‘grandmasters’. (That’s a story, too.)

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Field Notes

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Field Notes Mile Marker Edition notebooks are more than notebooks, they’re a beautifully designed product with a backstory.

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Our 42nd seasonal release for Spring is the ‘Mile Marker’ Edition, which celebrates the span and history of America’s Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

These are notebooks, yes, but they’re also a celebration of history that is filled with stories that Field Notes are sharing.

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Three notebooks cost $12.95. These aren’t cheap notebooks, so the story matters.

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Field Notes list the edition’s specifications prominently. This information is telling and selling the story of the product.

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Provenance matters. Here, the printers who proudly printed this edition. (The ‘founding fathers of the staple’ also get a mention.)

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Specifications – backstory – matters…

These aren’t inexpensive notebooks. They are, however, lovingly designed and created and Field Notes are sharing the backstory of their production.

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The bright, beefy covers are made from Westrock Tango 12pt C1S and covered with Pantone Toyo inks as specified by the awesome US DOT Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

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They’ve also been stamped with holographic Crown Foil so they’re easy to spot in the beams of your headlights.

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They’re bound with black and white staples, with innards featuring a ‘Horizon Mist Gray’ Dot-Graph pattern on 60#T Domtar Lynx.

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The language you use matters… Ink vs. Pantone Toyo Inks; Cardboard vs. Westrock Tango 12pt C1S; Paper vs. 60#T Domtar Lynx.

60#T Domtar Lynx printed using Pantone Toyo inks with a Westrock Tango 12pt C1S cover.

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Things 3

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This use of carefully considered language can be applied to digital products, too.

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This all-new version has been rethought from the ground up: it’s got an all-new design, delightful new interactions, and powerful new features.”

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Cultured Code use video – a powerful medium in an attention atrophied world – to share the product’s new features.

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Software often focuses on what an interface looks like, but Cultured Code focus on what the interface feels like.

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Stories Are Memorable

And it’s the memorable stories that are often the most shared via word of mouth.

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The story you tell shapes how your customers perceive your product. Put some thought into it and the return on investment can be considerable.

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Unit Editions sells books, but they describe their book What is Universal Everything? as a design publishing event.

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What is Universal Everything? is a design publishing event. Every cover is unique: a different tipped-in image graces the cover of each edition.

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Six by Nico – an elegant restaurant – builds its six course tasting menu around ‘A Story Every Six Weeks’ shared via Instagram.

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Six by Nico is home to a series of carefully curated and constantly evolving restaurant concepts. Every six weeks, Nico and his team serve a brand new six-course tasting menu, each one themed upon a different place or memory.

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Present & Correct sells stationery, but by sharing stories around that stationery they elevate it and make the mundane special.

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Present & Correct is a place for our own designs, things we love by other designers from around the world and vintage items which we discover on trips and foraging expeditions.

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Other helpful resources…

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I co-wrote these two books for Five Simple Steps on the topic of words as a critical design component.

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gumroad.com/standardistas

Get both books for the price of one with discount code ‘onefree’, for less than the price of a coffee.

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If you found this deck useful, follow me on Twitter: @fehler. I’m in the process of breaking down 15+ years of workshop content into small, easily consumable components. I’ll be tweeting as I’ve finished and shared these components. Cheers!

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Follow @fehler on Twitter (and Instagram and Dribbble), but Twitter is where I share helpful links to useful content.