Sharing the story of Red Hat’s brand and culture

Last week I was asked to speak about brand and culture to a group of visiting MBA students from the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. They came to Red Hat to learn more about the company, and I gave a talk on how brand and culture align at Red Hat.

I love telling this story.

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Building brand through storytelling: Seven elements great stories have in common

Here’s a quick story:
A friend of mine and I had stopped at a gas station for a soda on a summer afternoon. I was probably about 10 years old. As we were drinking, I was mindlessly tearing the plastic label off my bottle and shredding it into pieces. He watched me do this for a few minutes, then said, “I hate tearing off the labels because it makes the soda taste bad.”

This was my first lesson in branding.

Few ways of communication are more universally human than storytelling. Stories give full-color context to black-and-white facts. They’re designed for sharing: Easy to tell, easy to remember. Simply start at the beginning and let the story unfold.

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Mixtape as metaphor for creativity

Mixtape is the traditional term. Today we call them playlists because there’s no more tape. Mix CD just never felt right.

But whether mixtape or playlist, the idea is the same. You’re choosing songs from one context, placing them in another, and arranging them carefully to create an intended effect.

If you do your job right, not only will individual songs speak to the listener, but the entire playlist as a whole. It will create a single cohesive idea, a story that begins in one place then takes you to another–each song creating a bridge to the next.

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