You’re reading What They Said, a project by Chris Gallo.

Stanley Hainsworth


The following is an excerpt from a 2010 conversation between Stanley Hainsworth and Robert Scoble. Hainsworth shares his path to storytelling and his agency Tether. Special thanks to Scoble and Rackspace for hosting the video. Watch the full conversation here.

Brands are People

I always equate brands as people. You could describe what Apple is as a person. Because of the personality they’ve created.

So with companies, the first thing I do is say lets figure out what your story is. What sets you apart in the marketplace from anyone else? Yeah, you have a product or service, but what colors that? What are you like as a person?

It’s the same way with a brand or product. A product needs to have a brand associated with it. If there is a buzz about a new app that came out, people say well who made that?

The name of that company - what does that stand for now? If that company wants to start creating other products, they need to start creating their story. Then everything they do will link back to that story.


Steve Jobs and Apple

It’s all part of that brand personality. He’s realized that me, as a person, I want to associate myself with things that complement my story. That help define who I am.

So when I buy a computer, I want that thing to be beautiful. Inside and out. Backwards and forwards.

He [Steve Jobs] realized that early on. That a phone or computer is actually an accessory to you. It’s an appendage of you. Our phones, iPads, and computers have all become our appendages - part of our personality.

His attention to detail and the beauty of it, really ties to his story. Some people called it snobbery in the beginning, but it’s a key thing of their success.


How do you get to being a loved brand?

You have to have an authentic story and you have to be true to that.

When you start getting away from it, like Nike went through that period. And Starbucks went through that period.

When you’re very successful, you can slap on swoosh on anything and sell it. Hey, lets sell lunch boxes and school supplies - what does that have to do with being an athlete?

Starbucks started getting into that too. How about movies? We start promoting that in our stores? It was like that doesn’t have anything to do with the coffee house experience. Music? Yeah. Books? Yeah. Coffee? Yeah. Movies? That doesn’t work.

The consumer will correct you - by leaving you to go somewhere else. That’s not who I signed up for. That’s not the brand I signed up for - you’re someone else now.


Technology as a Crutch

The computers can’t come up with the ideas for us. The technology can’t generate the ideas. I just finished a book about how ideas come to life - it’s called Idea-ology.

I wrote it because I was disturbed by how people were using technology to get ideas. It seemed like you don’t have to come up with original ideas anymore.

I would observe people when given a challenge - the first thing they would do is go on a web browser and start searching for inspiration. What they’re doing is feeding off other people.

And they start flipping through what other people have done on the web. It felt like we’re kind of feeding of each other, kind of cannibalistic.

In one way it’s cool, kind of mashing up a bunch of ideas. But where is your original idea? In the old days, when you couldn’t browse everything to be inspired from it or borrow from it or whatever you want to call it - you had to actually go for a run, walk along the beach, go for a hike, or meditate in your chair and actually come up with something original.

So that’s what the book is - how do you come up with an original idea, make it yours, bring your life experiences into it.


Brands read your soul

That’s what great companies do. They’ll read your soul and give you something you don’t even know you need.


Long term plan

Every startup should have their one-year plan, but even more important is there five-year plan.

How do you envision yourself five or 10 years from now?

That’s the first thing I did when I started Tether. I did a FAQ with myself. I interviewed myself and I shared it with my team here when I started.

This is where I see us in five years. Because I interviewed myself five years from now and how our company is. It’s been our business plan, our guiding soul.


Get Your Point Across

When I was at Starbucks, I noticed the photography wasn’t looking good. It’s because there was like 5 clients with the art director and photographer.

As the head of design, I could have gone in and kind of cleansed the temple. And sent everyone out, and said this is our job and we’re doing this. Instead I got everyone together and I showed beautiful photography. And it was right before lunch, it was dripping things and lucious things.

Everyone said, wow - could we do that?

I said, oh that’s a good idea. Let me try it.

We went out a did a little test shoot and shot some stuff. They said that is so beautiful.

I said you know how we get this? A photographer is like an artist or film director.

They said like no one on the set? I said yeah - it’s not a strict facsimile of your product. It’s an emotional interpretation of it.

From then on, they never came and I never had to tell them not to come.

I found using that method to be very successful in a collaborative environment. Whether it’s a company you own with 10 people or Starbucks with thousands of people.

There are ways to treat people. Respect who they are, and what their opinions are, but still get your points across.

Exactly.