Do you own (or possibly aspire to own) a nice pair of shoes handcrafted in a workshop? I’m not talking about the mass-produced high-street versions you pass each day, rather those made from the likes of Cheaney, Barker, Loake, and Church’s. Such shoes go through a remarkable journey, and when it comes to storytelling they may hold the richest tales of all the clothes you own.
I personally love shoes, especially those made in Northampton (the British birthplace of shoemaking). Are they expensive? Yes. Do they look the same as shoes a fraction of their price? Yes. But they also happen to last a lifetime, feel fantastic, and when you hold a pair of Cheaneys in your hands, you appreciate the journey they’ve been through.
All those skilled workers who sew, hand-stitch, polish, and hammer your shoes into shape. They go through the same process as they did in the beginning (for the most part), in a factory that’s only ever known about shoes-shoes-shoes. Each Cheaney shoe has a story to tell, as does the Cheaney brand as a whole.
You may not associate your shoes with storytelling, but I do. After reading this post, I hope you do, too. Especially when you see a pair of Cheaneys, who share their story better than most.
HERITAGE – HERITAGE – HERITAGE
Word on the grapevine is that Cheaney are about to launch a new website, and when they do, I hope they transform their About Page into a more compelling arena. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good page, but does it do their heritage justice? Nope! Not in my opinion.
Placing my own personal wishes to one side, it’s important to focus on what Cheaney do well on this page, and indeed, on everything they do (website, in-store, general communications…).
They’re proud of their heritage, which they should be, after all, this business reaches all the way back to 1886. But it isn’t just their heritage they talk about, rather the rich area of Northampton, and its place in the shoemaking history books. You see, heritage doesn’t just cover how long you’ve been around, where you first established, and who your founder is.
Heritage helps connect the dots between your various groups – businesses, suppliers, workers, communities, families, buyers, consumers, authority figures…
In Cheaney’s case, they have a rich heritage they can be proud of, but that doesn’t mean they should negate the larger community they’re part of (indeed, have been part of for nearly 150 years). To be honest, I think people can take a selfish outlook when it comes to heritage/history/their story, because it becomes solely about them-them-them.
It’s never about you-you-you, and neither is Cheaney’s rich heritage. They take homage in their old factory, inspirational founder, the people who have worn their shoes over the years, and everything else that makes them, them. BUT they’re also part of a larger community, and their heritage – alongside other Northampton greats – plays an important role within shoe lovers across the globe.
EDUCATING WITHOUT OVERWHELMING
I’m excited to see what Cheaney have in store for us as the months move on (not just with the shoes they craft, but the way they share their story), as they approach visual storytelling better than most.
Their videos (if a tad outdated) SHOW the story behind their product’s journey, and their ‘Refurbishment‘ and ‘Choosing a Cheaney‘ videos educate you without overwhelming you.
In a world where most businesses push information down your throat in the form of blog posts, videos, how-to guides, and everything else, I find this not only refreshing, but truly impacting. You see, we all wear shoes. Whether you like shoes or not, or spend hundreds on a pair or head to your local charity shop, chances are you wear a pair on your feet right now.
But do you know how they’re made? Do you appreciate the process… the storytelling… the craftsmanship…?
It’s amazing how little we know about the everyday items we use each day (cups, TV’s, pens…) and the journey they take from inception to your house. There’s a lot that goes into the making of a pair of Cheaneys, and it’s easy to overwhelm folk like you and me with terminology and the finer ins-and-outs.
Cheaney don’t do this. They keep their storytelling simple. They keep it human. Most important of all, they ensure it’s conversational and natural.
In the Choosing a Cheaney video, Martin Grey talks about the various types of shoe on offer, which may suit you best, and overviews what makes them different. He doesn’t want to transform you into a shoe expert, yet at the same time, he doesn’t dumb it down.
He talks to you about Cheaney shoes, educating you along the way, but in a natural and easy manner.
Compare this to other brands, well… too often I find their videos over-complicated; their feature pages too rich and overwhelming; or arguably worse, a tad patronising because they dumb everything down to the point where they share nothing at all.
Cheaney sit in an awkward position as a business, because they produce an everyday item every single one of us is familiar with, but few understand how it comes to life. To take their storytelling to the next level, they must invite you into the journey and process, educate you about what sits on your feet, but in a way that keeps your attention instead of confusing the hell out of you.
I believe Cheaney achieve this, especially through videos like these:
PERFECTION THROUGH ASPIRATION
As a business owner, you may not have the heritage Cheaney do, or even produce products that offer an immersive journey like the making of a shoes. The reason I love Cheaney and their storytelling isn’t because they have that rich heritage and wonderful process, rather how they use it.
Your heritage isn’t solely about you, in the same way it isn’t exclusively about Cheaney. There’s always other people/communities/groups that play a role, and often it’s these people/communities/groups that provide the real glue that connects you to your customer.
You see, shoe lovers won’t only adore or buy from Cheaney. They love other brands, too. It’s rarely about you-or-them, rather how you can grab a piece of the pie and live happily-ever-after. By associating themselves with the Northamptonshire shoe community, they place themselves in a far more important story then theirs alone ever will be.
Cheney must also educate and inform their customers, which I imagine you have to do, too. Most brands I come across (whatever they sell) have features or traits that set them apart, but too often they over or underwhelm. Cheaney find the fine balance between educating without turning you away, which is one of the hardest and most important aspects of storytelling.
You must hook your audience without slowing the pace and going-on-and-on-and-on…
As a shoe lover, I may appreciate Cheaney’s approach to storytelling better than most, but I sense we can all learn something from the shoes we wear on our feet. We pick them up every day, but few of us appreciate the story behind the thing. Cheaney opens this process up, but in a natural and free-flowing way.
But these are just my thoughts, so it’s over to you. What do you think about Cheaney and their Storytelling? What have you learned from this post today? I’d love to know, so say hello to me on FACEBOOK or TWITTER, as this is where the conversation turns to next. Have a question, ask it! Have an opinion about storytelling, share it!
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