Customer Story Fans a Scandalous Fire

Customer Story Fans a Scandalous Fire

“I feel betrayed” was the statement that sparked a brushfire of abuse aimed at Volkswagen from a train compartment filled with commuters that were eager to air their anger. “I bought this car on principle.”


“Brands become vehicles for an explanation, meaning, and story.” Jonah Sachs Story Wars

I was sitting beside the brand bashing ringleader who described in great detail how he had researched this automobile before purchasing it to make sure low emissions from a diesel had less of a pollution foot print than batteries. He even went to MIT and spoke with a researcher who helped him decide to go Volkswagen based on the contrast to the overall pollution generated from the lifecycle of batteries.

“I felt really good about buying this car. Now I’m disappointed and angry.”


Volkswagen Brand Suffers After Scandal – Story Seen as a Lie

Target Market Ticked Off!

The furious Volkswagen owner next to me is a high school teacher, community volunteer who was the local American guide for a German student exchange program. They used to speak with great pride about being from Germany, the home of Volkswagen. Now, they skip that part of the story.

He felt good about “doing the right thing for the planet” and was incensed about the brand story he was sold.

A Brand Story Gone Bad

The power of story to be a multiplier is illustrated here by a single individual imprinting a lasting message onto commuters who will naturally share it when they arrive at work.

Exponential growth of Volkswagen’s deteriorating brand story driven by their previously loyal advocates of the brand.

“Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story.” Jonathan Gottschall The Storytelling Animal

Inuous Story Strategy Tips

  • Get your story straight: The truth is always easier to remember.
  • Be honest and authentic about your story: Liars don’t get a second chances
  • Branding stories are a two-way street: Passion drives both praise and rage
  • Brand stories build or break trust: The train mob agreed, never to trust VW again!
  • Know your story audience: If looks could kill. Monotone guys in suits testifying to governments are not seen to be apologetic by t-shirt & sweater wearing folks who care about the environment.