What is a brand story?
Before we talk about brand storytelling, we should talk about brand—a term that often gets confused with “branding.” “Brand is so much bigger than a logo or a guideline document,” “Brand elicits a feeling.” Seth Godin’s definition of brand describes it as “a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, put together, impact a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
The principles of telling a captivating story are roughly the same across mediums. It’s the quality of what’s expressed, not the format, that determines whether a story resonates.
We can employ and learn from the same storytelling techniques that film directors or novelists use to hook their audiences. I know, literal decades may have passed since you were last expected to painstakingly pick apart The Old Man and the Sea. But understanding the underlying elements of a well-told story is useful as a checklist of sorts.
What are the elements of a good story? Generally, a narrative consists of:
- Exposition: characters, setting, and details that help the reader visualize the story
- Conflict: a crisis or tension point that may change the course of the character’s path
- Rising action: the lead-up to the climax
- Climax: the defeat, rebirth, or aha moment; the inception of something new
- Falling action: also called dénoument or resolution
Great storytelling is determined by form, not format. The right medium is the one that best supports your brand narrative: could you tell your story through video, audio, photography, or design?
The most obvious place to tell your brand story is on an About Us page. It’s a dedicated space on your website designed specifically for this purpose. You can use a combination of written narrative, video, and visuals, all on a completely blank canvas.
But, great marketing is about meeting your customers wherever they are, even before you get them to buy. Storytelling is a powerful tool to build brand affinity and trust at some of these earliest touchpoints, such as social media posts or ads. And don’t forget to remind current customers why they support you—tell your story on packaging and add a personal touch to your customer service communications.
Where to tell your story:
- Social media bios and posts
- Website About page
- Website home page
- Product page
- Product packaging
- Shipping materials or package inserts
- Email communications
- Internal brand guides
- Staff hiring and training (job descriptions, internal learning resources)
- Interviews and press materials
- Blog or publication
- Audio: podcast
- Video: produced or livestream
As a founder or business principal, you draft the first version of your story, closely controlling the consistency of your message. But as your brand scales, you may start to delegate some of the storytelling to partners, freelancers, agencies, or staff. Try and ensure that you keep your voice and story steady and true to your original vision through brand guidelines – the companies guide to constant branding.
How tell your brand story
Start with the basics and define your conviction and purpose. “What does your brand believe? And why does your brand exist? From there you can define your audience’s core desire and the emotional offering that fulfills that audience’s desire.” Only then can you start to dive into the finer details, like voice, tone, and design.
If you’re not a natural storyteller, start with brainstorming exercises to get the creative juices flowing. Answer the following questions;
- Why does your brand/company exist? Why did you start this business?
- What’s your personal history? Include what’s relevant to your entrepreneurial journey or the inception of your brand.
- Who are your main characters? You? Your target customer? Mentors? Partners?
- What’s the setting, if relevant? Is place important to your brand? Why? (This is important for brands that focus on a local community or were inspired by travel, for example.)
- Where’s the tension? What action followed? What problem are you trying to solve?
- What’s your mission? What do you aim to accomplish through this brand?
- Who’s your audience or ideal customer? Be specific. What do they currently believe? What do you want them to believe after engaging with your brand and story?
- How would you like others to describe your brand to a friend?
- What do you stand for? What are your personal values? How will those be reflected in your brand?
Once your brand story is out in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Seek feedback from your customers constantly:
- Run surveys or polls delivered on social, on your website, or via email marketing.
- Pay attention to comments, feedback, and reviews shared across your various channels.
- Ask questions of your audience directly in social content (less formal than a poll or survey).
- Offer free consults via video or chat—you can learn as much from the experience as your customer.
While it’s important to take in feedback, know when to act on it and when to let it lie. Not every customer is your best customer, nor are they a brand advocate. You’ll need to know when to stick to your values.
Enjoy telling the story, be true and enthusiastic with your brand story telling. This will engage with your target audience and start the relationship of business.
Contact us today and let us help you with your brand storytelling.