Emotion is the missing element of most innovation processes. And storytelling is the best way to build emotion into your innovation. Learn how marketers are using storytelling to improve their innovation success.

We invite everyone to attend this conference at the Science Museum of Minnesota on June 14-15, where Fritz will present Storytelling: Bringing Emotion to your Innovation.


Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.

Quick! What’s the top-selling spirits brand in the U.S? It’s not Absolute, or Smirnoff or Jack Daniels. It’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Today, Tito’s is the only independently-owned brand among the top 40 brands of spirits.

Vodka is the perfect product for brand storytelling. It is a clear, odorless liquid in a category where very few people could pick out a specific brand in a blind taste test. Tito’s didn’t have more advertising spending or better distribution.

What Tito’s Had Was a Great Story

Founder Tito Beveridge (that’s his real last name) started out by making vodka for his friends in old-fashioned pot stills. They liked it so much that he paid a friend $25 for a logo and borrowed $90K on 19 different credit cards to make more. Tito is now number 324 on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people. He also loved dogs and has partnered with the ASPCA and other dog charities to become the Vodka for Dog People. Go figure.

The spirits category is rife with brand stories because…

People Don’t Buy Liquor.
They Buy the Story About the Liquor.


Jefferson's Ocean Bourbon - Aged At Sea

Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon – Aged At Sea

In 2012, Jefferson’s Ocean Owner, Trey Ferguson, wondered what would happen if he aged his barrels of bourbon on his friend’s ship. He suspected the rocking motion of the ship would age his small-batch bourbon better. The fact that the ship visited over 40 ports before landing gave aficionados a great story to talk about as they sipped their $80 bottle of bourbon — about triple the cost of a typical bottle.

Unlike Tito, Trey is not a dog guy — but he does like sharks (go figure). He has partnered with the nonprofit OCEARCH to save sharks around the world with the proceeds from Jefferson’s Ocean. This brand story helped make Jefferson’s the fastest growing small batch bourbon in the U.S. in 2015.

There was a time when you needed the most advertising spending or the best distribution to be successful. Good products and hard work and are still important to success. But today, the best story often wins.



Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.

There is a large soup of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Some estimates suggest it is twice as large as the state of Texas. Plastic waste in our oceans is a growing problem and getting more and more media attention. 

Adidas is doing something about it.

In 2016, Adidas partnered with a group called Parley for the Oceans to produce a line of shoes and athletic wear that is made from recycled ocean plastic. The high-performance shoes have very cool design and sell for as much as $210 a pair.

You are happy to pay $200 for these shoes because they come with a story — they are made from recycled ocean plastic. The Adidas Parley line is a great example of a brand staying relevant by telling a story that consumers identify with and want to share with others. Last year, Adidas sold over a million pairs of these Parley shoes.

Let consumers tell your story for you

There used to be a time when the model for building a brand was to spend a lot on advertising to build awareness. In today’s fragmented media market, marketers need to build the story into the brand itself. The story has to be so compelling that consumers share it for you. In a very competitive market, a compelling brand story is often the feather that tips the scales toward brand choice and market success.



Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.

It is clear that Voice will have a huge impact on marketing and branding in the next decade as Artificial Intelligence technology continues to evolve.

Not only will most product search go through your Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod, the AI Assistants will be gathering massive amounts of information on your habits and preferences. They will be able to predict and influence many of your brand choices. Soon, AI Assistants are making your travel arrangements, reordering your groceries and suggesting new brands you might want to try.

This future sounds amazing to some and creepy to others, but it is coming whether we like it or not, and the implications for marketers are profound. Marketing is about to become much more competitive and challenging. The winners will be digitally-savvy brands with a very compelling offering and a distinctive brand story.

In their article in the May Harvard Business Review, Niraj Dawar and Neil Bendle examine the implications of AI Assistants for Marketers. They predict that AI Assistants will quickly win the loyalty and trust of consumers, which means that these devices will soon become the main intermediary between consumers and brands.

Will Brands Matter?

The authors predict that certain brands will matter and others will disappear. In categories where brand names are more important than price, we may still ask Alexa for brands by name. Brands that are able to build a direct relationship with consumers will do better. For example, if we go directly to the Apple Store or apple.com to buy our next computer, rather than through Amazon. But if we need a new toothbrush, Alexa might just find an acceptable low-priced brand for us.

Implications for Marketers

  1. Brands will need to sharpen their story. Artificial Intelligence platforms will be much more efficient at sorting through options and making recommendations based on a consumer’s specific preferences. If your brand position is not clear, your brand will get lost in the shuffle.
  2. We may begin to trust Alexa more than even our favorite brands. As AI Assistants get better and better, they will be able to predict and almost intuit our needs. If they are consistently good at predicting what we want and making our lives easier, we will begin to form a trusting relationship with them.
  3. Brands will need to constantly keep their story relevant. AI Assistants will routinely reevaluate their recommendations for price changes and consumer preferences. Competition will become more intense as upstart brands offer price discounts for Alexa’s consideration. Brands will have to be able to rapidly adjust to shifts in consumer taste.
  4. Market research as we know it will go away. The consumer insights field is already being rapidly transformed. In the future, Google, Facebook and Amazon may dominate the insights business due to the massive amounts of consumer behavior data they will be able to collect. Future brand managers will have an insights relationship with these companies and have most of their consumer questions answered within minutes.
  5. Distinctive Brand Assets will be essential. Technology keeps improving, but our brains have not changed much since we were hunting woolly mammoths in the ice age. We are efficient, but often lazy thinkers. We are forgetful. And we remember things that stand out from the norm. Brands that are able to create memorable, distinctive assets, such as a rocket image for speedy home mortgage provider Rocket Mortgage, or a gecko for an insurance company, will be the brands that we ask Alexa for by name.

A Brave New World

In this brave new world of Voice and AI Assistants the manner in which marketing insights are gathered will change rapidly in the coming years and the competition among brands will be intense. The tools marketers have to work with will be smarter, faster and more efficient. Only the brands that are able to develop a smart brand strategy, build a meaningful story and execute on it in a memorable way, will stay relevant and survive.




Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.

I read a lot of business books. If I think one is really good for a broader audience interested in branding, I blog about it. Scott Galloway’s The Four is one of these books.

Galloway is the founder of Prophet brand consulting and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He has been rated one of the “50 Best Business School Professors.” His new book takes a critical look at four companies changing the face of business today. It shows how the success of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple can be attributed to both their business models and their appeal to us at a very basic, animal level. They deliver on our fundamental human drives for connection, hunting, knowledge, and status.

For each company, Galloway shows us an insidious dark side, of which we should be wary (Amazon’s Alexa may soon know more about you than your spouse and Amazon will decimate the retail and warehousing jobs with its artificial intelligence and robotics). But he also exposes and explains the business models and future plans of these companies that have made them so successful.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter is on the implications of The Four for your career. Galloway concludes:

• There has never been a better time to be exceptional, or a worse time to be average.

• Emotional maturity, empathy and curiosity and grit will be essential for careers in the future.

• Get into a habit of accomplishment now.

• Live in a thriving city where innovation is taking place.

• Follow your talent, and not your bliss.



Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.

A recent Harvard Business Review study of 474 executives found that 89% of business leaders believe that a brand purpose is very important to the company’s success, but only 46% percent felt their organization had a strong sense of purpose.

If your company was not founded on the bedrock of a deep sense of purpose, crafting an inspiring brand purpose is challenging. It is easy to write a bad one. It’s hard to write an honest and inspiring one. If you go too high, it can feel like blather. If you stay to low, it can read like a corporate training manual. An insincere and poorly written brand purpose can invite mockery and skepticism. For a good laugh, visit Jon Haworth’s random mission statement generator.

To avoid this trap, we recommend using real, human language (not Corporate Speak) and ensuring that your organization is truly able to deliver on the purpose. Here are some good examples of well written purposes.

Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Airbnb: To make people around the world feel like they could belong anywhere.


How High Should You Go?


A bad brand purpose tends to focus on the things the organization offers rather than the people they serve. It is hard to write an inspiring good one. Good brand purposes are based in a truth about the brand. They speak to a deep human insight of their target audience. We encourage our clients to reach higher than the category benefit. For example, if you are in the airline business, at the lowest level, your purpose could be:

ACME Airlines: To get people safely from one place to another.

But when you explore why people want to fly in the first place, it becomes clear that there is a lot of emotion in air travel. And you have permission to rise above the category benefit. Southwest Airlines does this in their mission statement.

Southwest Airlines: To connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

There is a danger in going too high. If your brand cannot truly deliver on an exceptional brand experience, a brand purpose that goes too high starts to sound like corporate puffery (Fannie Mae: Our business is the American Dream.)

But if you are able to truly deliver on an amazing brand experience, you have permission to go even higher, like Virgin and JetBlue.

Virgin Airlines:  To embrace the human spirit and let it fly.

JetBlue:  To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.

Employees want to find meaning in the hours they spend on their work every day. Work is driven by emotional drivers of achievement, belonging and creativity. It is never just about the paycheck. A clear brand purpose can inspire your team with meaning and focus. 

Today, consumers also choose brands that align with their values. Brands that have a strong purpose and genuinely live up to it, outperform brands that don’t in the long run.



Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at fgrutzner@brandgarten.com.