Sell a Story, not a Brand

Sell a Story, not a Brand

A Story by Gapelian Society

The Age of Emotional E-Commerce


Wouldn’t it be meaningful to plan and book a trip according to your favorite book? Wouldn’t you enjoy buying that classic jacket while watching your lifestyle-defining movie? What if brands became publishers and products were just the extension of a story? One of the reasons why journalism is endangered is because what they do is no longer related to how they make money from it. For its survival, brands must become publishers, and vice versa.

In fact, publishers are already behind. As consumer product brands turn into storytellers to break through the social media noise, the evolution of journalism might make it hard to differentiate between publishers and brands. With newspapers and magazines struggling financially, it would be significantly easier for an e-commerce or consumer brand �" with bigger budgets and consumers �" to get good at content than it is for a publisher to gain traction as an e-commerce business. Patagonia and Muji are two companies that illustrate this growing phenomenon, in which the prime goal is to sell a story, not a brand.


The Japanese minimalist brand celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2010 with amemorable 256-page photo-book full of authentic stories and philosophy. The book exemplifies Muji’s focus on the product itself and the story behind its creation and inspiration. By doing this, customers learn that Muji’s products were deigned simply because there was a real need for them; this contrasts with other brands that use emotional tactics to persuade people to buy. Muji often defines itself as a “brandless” company, aiming to explain its perfect alignment between product and values: “determination to pursue craftsmanship that is in harmony with society”. Product and the story behind it come first.


The California-based company has heavily invested in recruiting brand ambassadors who tell stories about environmental initiatives and outdoor adventures through Patagonia’s printed catalogs and digital magazines; “they are field testers for our gear and storytellers for our tribe.” Besides creating high-quality videos, documentaries and photo-essays, the company also innovates in the way it communicates its internal operations, like its supply chain. The Footprint Chronicles examines Patagonia’s habits as a company and tells stories about their suppliers, partnerships and practices. For instance, thisvideo tells the story behind Patagonia’s efforts in growing wool sustainably in South America.


In previous posts, we discussed the crisis in lifestyle journalism, the future of books and storytelling, and the state of long-form blogging. Now, we continue this thread by ideating about a concept that merges storytelling and e-commerce, to create a more meaningful, emotional and informed shopping experience.

Both Muji and Patagonia are successful retailers, but could easily make a living by publishing stories and communicating values. Muji could be a cult magazine for minimalists, on how to achieve simplicity through a complexity of thought and design. Patagonia could be something very similar to what National Geographic represents today, caring about sustainability and the planet. Every solid brand, whether it is a clothing company or a country, should be able to turn itself into a publisher; a transparent story to tell without unnecessary fake branding.

If it is the stories what move humanity forward, and what helps companies align products with people’s needs, this ideation proposes a platform where brands get together to publish story-books and create seamless marketplaces within them. The walls between advertising and content would be removed, with brands building a more sustainable business model for the journalism and storytelling communities.

One successful example of turning storytelling into economic prosperity isKickstarter. People present their ideas on the platform and disclose the story behind their inspiration, while others learn and decide to invest in them. Don’t you think this conversation between storyteller and buyer should occur at large? It is the age of emotional e-commerce.

© 2014 Gapelian Society

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


Some very interesting ideas, but seriously, I don't think all that plausible.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on January 28, 2014
Last Updated on January 28, 2014


Gapelian Society
Gapelian Society


Every day, millions of Tweets, Pins, and Facebook posts overtake traditional journalism and media. The Gapelian Society emerges from a group of cultural entrepreneurs who realize the need for a new ki.. more..