I was at a dinner party recently where the host had graciously pulled out a $100 Napa Valley cabernet, but a $10 bottle of wine stole the show. It talked to us, literally.

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) is the first to create "talking wine labels" to stand out from the hundreds of brands cluttering the shelves of massive retailers. It works simply. Customers download an app to their smartphones, hold it up to the label, and watch it come alive as the person on the label begins to speak. 

For the brand "19 Crimes," the labels have historic photos of British convicts who were sent to a penal colony in Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. They had been found guilty of violating one of 19 crimes that could have sent them to the gallows.

"Our stories are 100 percent authentic and true," a company spokesman told me. "We have the most unique story(ies) in the alcoholic beverage industry and should be telling them every chance we get which, in this case, is every bottle."

One label has the story of John O'Reilly who wrote poems on his harrowing trip to Australia. On another label, James Wilson 'reads' from his letter "Voice from the Tomb." while on another label, Jane Castings admits to being a thief, begging a judge to show mercy, only to be sentenced to seven years hard labor. 

Telling the deeper story behind a brand's name has paid off in recognition. Although TWE don't release sales figures, a spokesman says the app was downloaded more than one million times in the first seven months. A Facebook video about the app has received than 19 million views.

Every Product Has a Back Story

Although wine and story pair perfectly, every product has a back story. Every company, every individual, every brand does, too.

In movies and music, characters are introduced through 'back story.' Nobody cares about a hero's success until they're involved in the person's journey. The first act of most films--the first 25 script pages-- builds empathy by establishing the characters and their struggle. We want Rocky to go the distance because we empathize with his hardship. The same holds true in the music industry. The best songwriters are masters of backstory. Nobody cares who takes control of the car in Carrie Underwood's hit Jesus Take the Wheel until we learn about the driver's story.

What's your product's back story? When I work with major brands, I recommend that they find the unique story that sets them apart. Once you find your story, tell it often across all of your social media channels and marketing materials. Although TWE uses a new tool--Artificial Reality (AR)--to bring its brand story to life, it still relies on the time-tested technique of sharing a narrative. Stories are irresistible. 

Several years ago, a friend gave me a gift. It was a pen. It was a nice-looking pen and I thanked him for it, but I didn't think twice about the product. "There's a story behind this pen," he quickly added.

"It's not just any pen. It's made of original wood from the U.S.S. Constitution--Old Ironsides--the luckiest ship in the navy...She never lost a battle." I looked it up and, sure enough, it's a roller ball pen that's far more expensive than the value of its individual component parts. The story gives the product its value.

When I ask entrepreneurs for the product's backstory, I often hear: "We don't have an interesting story." I don't accept that answer. There's always a story. Here are three questions that will help you find those stories that will bring your product to life.

  1. What personal experience inspired you or your partners to create the product?
  2. Do you have customers who can share their stories of how the product improved their lives or businesses?
  3. Is there a historical event that relates to the product or your company?

The human brain is hardwired for story. Every product has a back story. Find it and tell it, often.