The Story of an Icon of an Icon

“I don’t do companies that don’t have a story because if they don’t have a story, they don’t have a business,” says Lynda Resnick who along with her husband Stewart runs The Wonderful Company, a $2 Billion corporation with more than 4,000 associates and a diverse product line, including  Teleflora, FIJI Water, and POM Wonderful.

This week we are looking at some of the key lessons from Peter Guber’s terrific book on storytelling: Tell to Win, and specifically the importance of preparation.

Lynda credits “the art of the tell” for her business success.

What exactly is that?  

It’s not about a well-written business plan.  

Her first “rule of the tell” is to “give the audience an emotional experience.”  She begins by being crystal clear on the feeling she wants her audience to have.  Lynda seeks a way to connect them emotionally to her product.  The heart of that emotion is in the product itself which she refers to as thinking “inside the box.”

Exhibit one: Jackie Kennedy’s fake pearls.

In 1996, Lynda learned that Sotheby’s was auctioning a string of imitation pearls from the estate of Jackie O.  Lynda wanted to buy them so she could replicate and sell them as collectibles through the Franklin Mint which the Resnicks then owned.

First, she had to tell her story in a way that would convince her husband Stewart to be supportive.  

He assumed the necklace would sell for $300- $700.

Lynda warned him the necklace would likely sell for at least $25K.  Before he could object, she showed him the heart of her goal through photos of Jackie wearing the necklace in the White House.  One showed Little John on her lap pulling at the pearls.  “She wore them in nearly every picture ever taken of her.  They’re an icon of an icon.”

Stewart understood: Any woman who wore an exact replica would feel “as if she were channeling the queen of America’s Camelot.”

What Lynda was really selling was Jackie’s story.  She would tell this story forward to inspire her audience to buy the same necklace.

The Resnick’s paid $211,000 for the necklace.

Owning Jackie’s imitation pearls gave Lynda “the right and ability to analyze and copy them, right down to the sterling silver clasp and the three little cubic zirconiums and the silk cord and the seventeen coats of lacquer.”

More than 130,000 of the exact replicas sold for $200 apiece: “All of it told and sold through a story.”

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Reflection:  What story might we tell about our product or service that will move our intended audience to action?

Action:  Tell it.

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