The Story Economy Blog

Thoughts on Boldness and Baskets

There is boldness happening in the world right now. There has always been boldness, but I think I’m in the mindset to notice, because there are Olympic champions on my TV every night, priming my brain to pay attention to boldness. We’re setting out to do amazing things: just watch, their body language says.

In particular, I’ve noticed the bold claims that some long-standing American companies are making. For example, Chevy has announced their “Love It or Return It” policy: don’t like your new Chevy after a month or two? Return it for a full refund, with no questions asked (as long as you don’t wreck it). Now, it only runs through September, but if they are really bold, they will keep it around forever.

And Longaberger Baskets announced last week that they are taking the steps to become a 100 percent American-made company again (they had started making some of their products, like pottery, overseas a few years ago). Since I do some contract work for Longaberger’s annual meeting, I was lucky enough to be there when CEO Tami Longaberger announced this at the meeting. “We’re coming home,” she said, and the crowd went wild. Tears and flags and joy. It was a terrific moment to witness.

It’s making me want to be bold. But in what way? Wearing a bikini after having two kids is bold. But that’s not the kind of bold I’m thinking about.

¬†Bold That Doesn’t Make Sense

The best of kind of bold is brilliantly stupid. It’s bold that doesn’t make sense on paper. Bold that defies logic and industry standards and bottom-line sensibility (Let people return a car for a full refund? Hellooo, why would you let people do that? Give up the goldmine of Chinese manufacturing? Are you kidding?)

If it’s really bold, there should be doubt. There should be risk.

In fact, the more bold it is, the more some people will doubt. But more importantly, the more some people—your people—will believe.

But they will only believe if the boldness is connected to your story.

Anyone can claim anything bold: I will listen to Smiths music 24/7 for 2 months; I will build the world’s biggest house of cards; I will blog about Spiderman every day for a year. Initial interest in boldness (and weirdness) draws people in. You’ll what? Huh, that’s different. But random boldness isn’t enough to keep momentum going. There has to be more.

Longaberger is making the move back to 100 percent American-made because they have taken it as their mission to heal the fabric of America. To restore consumer confidence. To tap into people’s sense of national pride. All of these things tie to their story, which is about American craftsmanship and family and heritage and pride (that's their corporate HQ over there: yes, it's a giant basket). It all works together. The same with Chevy: they want to tie back to their story as the car giant you trust. See the USA in your Chevrolet.

I was listening to the radio last night on a long drive home, and I came across a station that claimed they would play 30 minutes of uninterrupted music every time someone “liked” them on Facebook. Interesting, I thought. But what’s your story? Why does it matter? Aside from that initial “like,” what can I rally around?

So, what bold claim can I make for myself? I have lots of ideas. I’d love to claim that I will never miss another one of my kid’s bedtimes (I hate missing bedtime). But that doesn’t sync up with my story, which is that I have to support my family. I take great pride in that story. But it means that I miss bedtimes. I can’t rally around something at odds with my story.

And neither can you. Neither can any business.

We can be bold. I know we can. We just have to follow our stories.

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