I attended a talk recently in which one of Sweetgreen’s founders, Jonathan Neman, was interviewed on stage about a variety of topics surrounding his company’s evolution. It is always refreshing to see a business that understands the importance of storytelling. You didn’t have to attend the talk to see that Sweetgreen gets it, just look at its website.
Companies can and should use storytelling in a number of ways. In fact, at Stories Incorporated, we often say that a company’s stories are interesting to most—if not all—of the stakeholders in the business: employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, investors, and even neighbors. There are obvious business uses for stories, and examples are everywhere. To name a couple: companies tell the story of how they helped a previous customer solve a pain point all the time (a.k.a. a case study), and you’ll often hear a story from the early days in investor pitch decks to demonstrate the founders’ persistence. There are many examples to be found for each of the stakeholders we mentioned.
The thing that ties the specific uses of stories in business together is that, in each case, the act of storytelling builds or strengthens a connection. Stories are amazingly powerful at creating a connection between the storyteller and the audience, because—along with some really cool physiological reasons—there’s a rapport and level of trust that is established during the telling of a story, as we know from experience.
I’m excited for Sweetgreen’s prospects for the future because the company understands what all those connections with all those stakeholders add up to: Community.* Sweetgreen is obsessed (in a good way) with building and strengthening its community and understands that a powerful way to do that is through storytelling.
The act of storytelling itself is impactful, but obviously so is the content of the stories you’re telling. Where the act of storytelling helps build and strengthen a community, it’s the content of the stories that can help steer and align that community. Sweetgreen does a great job of using storytelling to align all of its stakeholders with its mantra of Passion X Purpose.
*Seth Godin refers to something similar when he refers to a Tribe.