What I learned about brand from an Asian supermarket visit

I went to my favourite place in Kent recently – Starry Mart, an unexpectedly huge Asian supermarket with possibly the best Asian snack selection in the UK. If you know a better one let me know! 

It reminded me of a story I did a while back about a trip there that I shared on a client account. I thought it would be a bit of fun but ended up being the most popular story we’d ever done and there have been a lot of great stories over the years.


So if you want to learn about how sharing your love of Chinkiang vinegar and taro mochi can smash major brand goals read on…


The problem everyone faces…

I was speaking to a founder recently who said a line I’ve heard many times ‘We could do a much better job of telling our story’ And they were right as they had a particularly good story.

But if you’re like most founders you probably experience things like this every time the painful process of writing content comes up:

  • What the hell am I going to talk about today
  • What can I possibly say about my burger/dumplings/jollof that I haven’t said 400 times already
  • I see other people talking about things that are important to them but the thought of it petrifies me
  • I don’t have time for this shit, this whole process just stresses me out every time


And this my friends is why most content is so very dull and why a personal account full of human stuff will always do better than a business account banging on about why you should buy their products.

So what makes you scared to deviate from the path of talking about your product? Some of the most common reasons:

  • Why would anyone care about what Im into and what I think?
  • I have to bang on about my products all the time cos Im a business and that’s what businesses do, right?
  • My customers are just here for the goods and they will unfollow me or turn against me
  • I will get reported to Instagram for crimes against humanity, lose my house, be jeered at on the street etc etc


But here’s the thing, by just talking about your product and not sharing your story you’re doing more harm than good. Controversial maybe but stick with me here…

Rav is a pastry chef, cookery school founder and generally amazing human being who does a lot of work to help the restaurant community through a platform she set up. Her engagement is off the charts and this passionate community she built led to her being selected as a judge on junior bake off.

But she also brings her story into everything she does, whether its the stories behind her food or her struggles and life journey and gives constant value by sharing recipes.


She always shares very entertaining videos of her hilarious grandma that are probably her most popular posts. Not very relevant to baking but very relevant to telling a human story.



Compare Rav’s account with most similar restaurant accounts of that size – there’s a reason that her engagement is what others dream of (and her engagement was off the hook when her account was much smaller).

Your customers are humans with interests which Im sorry to say go way, way beyond your product. They follow other humans, because they connect with them and their lives not brands.

The problem is you’re just doing what everyone else does because its the safe option and what you’ve always known which makes total sense. But all these other people haven’t figured out that it’s 2021 and in the words of the infinitely wiser Seth Godin:

‘Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories you tell.’


Why is this important?

Here’s something to chew on..

20% of your customers will generate 80% of your revenue.

Those 20% are your tribe, the bedrock of your business. The one’s who will keep coming back again and again whilst shouting about you to the world and continually bringing more and more similar people who are thus more likely to join your tribe.

You need to focus on this 20% above everyone else. If you try to talk to everyone, you talk to no-one and you’re just another brand on the feed adding to the noise. But if you talk only to your 20%, this number of die hard customers who love everything you do will grow and grow.

Im telling you all this because using your story to build a loyal tribe is what I live and die by. It took me years to understand the importance of this and the results it gets for businesses willing to make the leap. This is all based on my own experiences in the trenches growing brands every day and studying what the best brands in the world do.

So what can you do to break the cycle? How can you never run out of things to talk about that your 20% will care about? And how do you know that effort is going to make a difference to your business? Because it does take effort.

It’s all about trust

The first thing to understand is that customer trust is the foundation your business needs to be built on. Of course having an incredible product and customer experience comes first for that.

But after that you build trust by being yourself and giving value. The more of yourself you give, the more feeling you generate from your customers, the deeper the trust. The more things of value you share without expecting anything in return, the more people will see you as one of the good people.

And your tribe, your 20% will want to hear it because they’re just like you and don’t just want to hear about someone’s product, they choose a brand because of their story.

Quick quote from a customer research I did asking people what content they wanted to see more of from restaurants:

“Heritage and the people behind the company I’m very interested in – it would be nice to see how the company started and how the products come together. It allows us to make our own decision about what the brand is about.”

As for that 80%, some will unfollow you, some may even get offended but they’re not your people, don’t focus on them or take it personally. That’s the price of building a tribe, to say yes to something good you also have to say no to something else.

3 key things you can do

1) Map out your story

Block out some time and map out your story. This can include:

  • what inspires you
  • the significant events in your life journey
  • where you’re going
  • what your struggles are
  • what you’ve overcome
  • what you stand for and against
  • The fun stuff that shows you’re a human with personality with likes and dislikes (books, films, podcasts, food etc)

You then need to put this into a framework you can use every month so you can easily share your story without having to make it up on the fly every time and know you’re consistently building the bigger picture of who you are.

It’s not all going to work which is why constantly testing out things and measuring which parts of your story work and don’t is so crucial to help you keep refining it.

2) Know thy customers

Everyone thinks they know their customers but unless you’re speaking to them on a regular basis its just a hunch that lives in your head.

I knew I could post a story about an Asian supermarket trip for a fried chicken restaurant and it would go down well even though it seemed off the wall. We’d done in depth customer research and I’d chatted to loads of customers in person and knew that our 20% LOVED food and loved consuming content about it. Plus I’d tested loads of content already and knew that anything I posted about food that gave value worked and always made sure it was relevant to the brand story (Asian food was a big part of the client’s inspiration and passion).

You need to know everything about your 20% – why they come to you, why they go to competitors, what content they like to hear about and why so you can keep giving them more of what they want.

An easy way to do this is to do a big survey with your email list and use that to recruit people for further 1:1 interviews. The more you use your story as to why you’re doing this research, the more people will want to be involved and help you shape the business as they’ll want to see you succeed and keep growing your mission.

3) Do things

Most brands just talk, they don’t do, just look at all the greenwashing. The more interesting things you do for your tribe, the more interesting things you’ll have to talk about. It could be anything from a practical guide about something you’re passionate about to getting someone you find interesting to do a talk or trying out new food ideas with some of your biggest fans. Some level of social responsibility is generally good for everyone too.

Once you have your values documented it makes this much easier because each time you can focus on ideas that will help you share those values with your tribe.

Nothing brings a tribe together like interacting over shared experiences with people who have the same values.

If you’re struggling with any of the above then pay someone to help you. It’s an investment that will pay back in spades and you also need to ask yourself what is the cost of not doing anything?

The results you’ll get

And this is what all that hard work will do for you:

  • You’ll be seen as the leader of your tribe as you’re not scared to speak about the things they care about and you’re not afraid to be different
  • You’ll uniquely position yourself as no-one else can copy being you.
  • Your ever growing tribe will give you more and more repeat business. It also means you can think about your bigger dream projects as you have a community who will buy whatever you have to sell. Because they trust you.
  • You’ll make the world a better place by sharing your values and letting your customers live them every day too.


Because more messages like this ultimately lead to more sales…

The one thing

So by not sharing your story, by just sounding like everyone else, you risk not able to generate the long term loyalty needed to grow a successful business. Putting all that time into generating content that gets you no return.

And what’s the worst that will really happen if you take the leap and share your story? Your 80% aka not your people, keep on scrolling, maybe a few unfollows.

But isn’t that a tiny price to pay for the huge trust and loyalty you’ll generate from your 20% who’ll love you even more for it?

As always I like to leave you with one thing to help bring you closer to building a cult following for your brand.

Post something not related to your product thats about you that also educates and gives value – don’t just say you like something but why and the value it has given you so you can then inspire others. Some ideas:

  • Guide to your favourite ingredients (condiments, spices etc)
  • Your favourite restaurants
  • The people that inspire you the most or shaped your career journey
  • The books that had the most impact on you.


Try the cult brand scorecard

From my obsession of what it takes to be a brand with a cult following I’ve created this cult brand scorecard so any food brand can now see how close they are to building their own cult following. It only takes a few minutes to do and you’ll get a report with loads of actionable advice at the end, customised for you. Take the scorecard here and let me know what you think.