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Brand Storytelling: Innovators and the Establishment

As a marketer, I am keenly interested in the language brands use to tell their stories, build trust with their customers and sell their products.

Whereas some brands take on a colloquial tone of voice, others infuse their messaging with corporate speak or buzzwords.  This may leave us questioning what is it they really do?  To explore this idea further, I decided to compare the brand messaging of Fortune 500 technology companies against startups.

Looking across a sample of web copy pulled from the ‘About Us’ pages of company websites, here’s what I found…

MISSION VS HISTORY

When talking about themselves, startups are 6.8x more likely to mention their company’s mission, which seems logical enough for young companies with little in the form of reputation to rely on.  As founders often say, it’s about “selling the vision”.

Fortune 500 companies, by contrast, rely far more heavily on history in telling their brand story.  The word ‘history’ was 9.8x more likely among this group, and was accompanied by increased usage of the past tense.  So if you’ve got it, flaunt it…

PROBLEM SOLVERS

Most startups fancy themselves to be problem solvers.  The web copy we analysed revealed that the words ‘problems’ and ‘understanding’ occur with significant frequency on start-up websites while being entirely absent from the Fortune 500 data. This suggests startups have, broadly speaking, subscribed to the “jobs to be done” approach of selling their products and services.

OFFICES = LEGITIMACY

The startups we looked at are 6.2x more likely to use the word ‘offices’ in their marketing copy.  Similarly, geographical names as a topic was 3x more common than with the Fortune 500s. This suggests that startups view having multiple offices as a sign of legitimacy, and then use this to cultivate trust with potential customers (did we mention that we’re opening the Relative Insight New York office this month?!). If investors are comfortable with spending lots of money to fuel corporate expansion, then this organisation must be a safe bet…right??

CORE VALUES & RESPONSIBILITY

Our comparison revealed Fortune 500s are far more likely to promote their company ethos and corporate stewardship.  Both the phrase ‘core values’ and word ‘responsibility’ were common amongst the Fortune 500 sample while not occurring a single time among the startups included in our sample.

So, what does this tell us? It could be that the integration of these factors into a company’s branding is a symbol of brand maturity.  On the other hand, it could be argued that it is a response to increased scrutiny of behemoth corporations regarding their impact on issues such as income inequality and environmental degradation.  Using Relative Insight to conduct a comparison of these companies’ websites over time could help us answer this question, but we’ll save that for another day.

RELATIVE INSIGHT CAN ANALYSE DATA FROM ANY LANGUAGE ASSET TO HELP YOU BETTER UNDERSTAND YOUR MARKET, CUSTOMERS, COMPETITORS AND EMPLOYEES.  

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