What is a brand story?
Telling your brand story doesn’t mean doing a “fairy tale” or “tales by moonlight” with your customers. Rather, it’s about the existence of your products or services in the world.
It’s who you are and what you do for others – how you add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, meet their needs. Storytelling in this context must be intentional, constant, and focused.
A brand story is more than content and a narrative. The story goes beyond what’s written in the copy on a website, the text in a brochure or the presentation used to pitch to investors or customers. Your story isn’t just what you tell people it’s also what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends.
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The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings and interpretations, which means that part of your story isn’t even told by you.
Everything you do, each element of your business or brand, from the colours and texture of your packaging and business cards, to the staff you hire is part of your brand story and every element should reflect the truth about your brand back to your audience.
If you want to build a successful, sustainable business and a brand that will garner loyalty, and if you’re lucky become loved you have to start with your story.
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Communicating a brand’s story isn’t that much different from the actual art of storytelling. Humans are wired to tell stories and hear stories. This is precisely why a brand’s story is so important — it’s absolutely engaging.
When someone is engaged like this, interested in your brand’s story, they feel connected in a powerful way. This feeling of connection then turns them into customers.
Why you need a story to tell
If you don’t have a story you are just another business online and you are replaceable once your customer gets a suitable competitor. You have no way to differentiate your brand or your business because you really don’t have things that will tell your brand story.
Creating a brand story is not simply about standing out and getting noticed. It’s about building something that people care about and want to buy into. It’s about framing your scarcity and dictating your value.
It’s about thinking beyond the utility and functionality of products and services and striving for the creation of loyalty and meaningful bonds with your customers.
Image Courtesy: Bernard Kelvin Clive
A brand story is not just a catchy tagline that’s pasted on a billboard to attract attention for a week or two. Your story is the foundation of your brand and a strategy for future growth.
Your product is only part of the story. A potential customer’s relationship with your brand will likely begin before they actually purchase your product at all.
Storytelling is all the rage. More and more brands comprehend the power of stories to transform their presence and identity.
Iconic brands such as Disney and Coca-Cola have long realized the power of their brand story to build a connection with their audience. Companies like Apple possess brand stories that are legendary in their status.
How you begin to tell your brand story?
A great brand story strategy will show you how to stand out, increase brand awareness, create customer loyalty and power profits.
The world’s most successful brands don’t behave like commodities & neither should you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a bank or a city, launching an online platform or baking bread, you have a unique story to tell.
Your story begins with the connection made when the customer hears your name for the first time, when he or she sees your logo, visits your website, reads you’re about page and experiences your interactions on social media.
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The signals you send about not just what you do and how well you do it, but about what you stand for, build the complete picture of your brand.
Marketing often happens when you are not listening and your customer is telling a friend how your product changed his or her life. It’s your job to give your customers a story to tell.
Every good marketer will tell you that you need to have a persona, a value proposition, an understanding of your customer’s needs, and a process of selling.
There is a good reason for the popularity of stories among brands, businesses, and individuals. Stories are a powerful tool in human communication.
Research indicates that the human brain responds to the descriptive power of stories in deeply affecting ways, influencing both the sensory and motor cortex. To read a story is to feel an experience and to synchronize our minds with the subject of the story.
The net effect of comprehension, understanding, anticipation and receptivity is trust. By telling a story and connecting with the reader, a storyteller can actually generate trust in the reader.
Stories produce trust. But not just any story will do. You must tell a story that has the right features — features that exhibit integrity-building features.
What your brand story needs
The story must be driven through personality. Susan Gunelius in her Forbes article has the best description of this: Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches.
Brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can.
In other words, your story isn’t dominated by some godlike figure that dominates the legend and infuses the company with life and power.
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No. Instead, your story is inspired by the presence of people who participate, create, connect, and develop the saga of growth and success.
Personality drives the story. But the story isn’t a biography of an individual. It’s the evolution of an entity told with personalities.
People trust other people. The core reason why your story should be personality-driven is so that it will provide someone real for customers to trust.
The story should be simple
Even though the description of the company’s origin takes up a few thousand words, it is conceptually straightforward:
That’s it. If we try to pack more undulation into the story, we tend to lose the momentum that is integral to its success.
Simple stories are better. While we may love the complexity of a Harry Potter plot, we can’t import that same complex model into the brand story. We need simplicity.
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Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. The three-part model mentioned carries this natural progression:
• Beginning: Problem. Explain the problem that you set out to solve.
• Middle: Solution. Describe how you solved it.
• End: Success. Get excited about the success this produced.
This is the form of story that people expect. Everything has a beginning, right?
Be careful with the ending, though. It’s not supposed to be an ending like the end of road. It should suggest the beginning of success and continuation.
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Simple stories are more trustworthy. As some of the world’s most famous brands have shown, the complexity of the story can erode trust.
The story shapes your reason for existence
Why does your business exist? The answer should be a story. Your business might be making money which is fine.
But why does your brand exist? What is the reason?
The answer to those questions requires that you tell a story.
The story must connect with your customers
At its essence, a story isn’t really about your company. Your company is the construct, but the goal of the story is to create a connection with your customers.
Tell your story in such a way that it tells your customers we relate to you, we understand you, we are like you. Few things can communicate that level of engagement like a story can.
A brand like EA sports must connect with active sports people and gamer’s. The whole idea of the brand is to inspire adventure, indoor and outdoor sporting activities.
Their tagline is “It’s in the game.” The brand’s story communicates this ideal. When your story connects with the target customer, you build trust.
Customers should buy a part of the story, not just the product
A customer is not only participating in the story itself, but they are participating in a monetary way. They engage the story by purchasing from the business that is telling the story.
When a customer purchases your product, they must feel as if they are buying part of the story. Customers are buying that product, and in so doing, they are buying the brand story.
The customer owns the story; therefore, they trust it. The customer is now part of your story. They’ve bought into it literally.
Get other people to tell your story
I’ve described what the story is, but what about the how? How do you do this?
In one sense, the story takes care of itself. A good story is shareable. Others will appreciate and engage in the story.
That being said, there are a few things that you can do to enhance the stories virility:
• Build your personal brand.
Remember how a story is infused with personality?
You and your team are the personality behind this. Grow your reach through your personal brand.
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• Be active on social media. Stories will spread through the power of social media. Snippets, extracts, and anecdotes are passed around, retweeted, likes, and explained bit-by-bit. Meanwhile, you build a presence and a brand that lives in a public social consciousness.
• Tell the story everywhere. Make the story part of who you are and what your company is. Communicate using the power of the story. Whether you’re writing a guest post, piecing together a biography, or just tweeting about your day, give your story and elemental presence.
• Encourage your customers to tell the story. Customer testimonials are one of the most effective ways of broadcasting your story.
Customers themselves will experience the problem, solution, success of the story. If they’re satisfied, they will be more than happy to crow about it. Use these stories on your website and marketing materials. They will reinforce the brand’s story.
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Stories are powerful. But don’t get stuck in your story. Remember, a story is the framework for a business’s life. The story shouldn’t create a trap, but serve as a catalyst. Some brands get so caught up in their story, that they neglect the value of their present activation.
The great thing about a story is that it lives on. Real stories keep on telling, keep on going, and keep on connecting with people. Keep your story alive by continuing to impress your customers and give them the best experience possible.
Your story will build the foundation of trust, but only a customer’s personal experience will cement that trust into something that lasts.
A compelling brand story gives your audience a way to connect with you, one person to another, and to view your business as what it is: a living, breathing entity run by real people offering real value. In that way, your content is not “storytelling” at all, it’s simply telling what’s true, and telling it well.
A brand story is made up of all that you are and all that you do. From the company’s history, mission, inspiration, goals, audience, and it’s why you exist.
You have to know who you are before you can explain it to someone else. Brands that don’t have their core value propositions in place, or have internal discrepancies about what they are even trying to say, will never be able to share their story with the world in an honest and engaging way.
The About Us page is one of the most visited pages of your website.
But what happens after visitors land on it, do they stay on your site, look at your offerings, and contact you for more information? Or do they disappear?
Part of the trick to keeping visitors and turning them into leads is to tell a powerful brand story, one that grabs and holds their attention like a great novel or movie.
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