Brand Storytelling: Why Your Business Needs A Brand Story
A strong brand story means something and in this day and age, that counts for everything.
The Power of a Good Story
Humans have always loved to tell stories. We've been creating them, sharing them and passing them on for as long as our species has existed. There's nothing more powerful than a good story. Stories have the ability to transport us to another world, they help us explain complex ideas and most importantly, they give us a way to emotionally connect with each other.
It should come as no surprise that businesses of all sizes have taken an interest in creating brand stories, given our long standing love affair with storytelling. In the words of Seth Godin, "Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories that you tell." Read on to find out why.
What is Brand Storytelling or a Brand Story?
A brand story is the complete narrative that surrounds a business. It shows not only how you do business, but why you're there in the first place, and how you're uniquely qualified to help solve your customer's problems. The brand story brings heart to a business, which facilitates more meaningful connections between the company and consumer.
Within one complete brand story, there can be a few interwoven storylines:
The first story is your own, and this is usually found on the website's About page, telling your audience who you are and what you stand for. Businesses with a strong sense of why they're doing what they're doing often weave this story all throughout their marketing materials and messaging.
The second story belongs to your customer. Everyone is on a journey, and something made your potential customer start looking around for a solution to a problem or need. There's an extremely useful story hidden there. If you can uncover this story, you'll know why your customers are considering your solution, and how you can best guide them on their journey towards selecting your product or service.
The third way storytelling is used in branding is to tell marketing stories. The idea of 'tell don't sell' means that we use stories to connect with people on a deeper level than we could by trying to convince them they need our products or services. Storytelling holds an important place in modern marketing, because it has the power to reach people on an emotional level that no marketing technique or trick ever could.
Why Stories Matter For Businesses
We can talk about facts and features all day long, but in the end, people make buying decisions based on emotion and use logic (enter your facts/features) to back up their choices. If a business lacks that key emotional component, it'll be nothing more than a commodity, forced to compete on price and features alone. Brand storytelling is one great way to keep this from happening.
Forming an emotional connection with a customer inspires trust and loyalty, leading to sales, referrals and repeat business. We often perceive the same kinds of personality traits in businesses as we do in humans, so living and breathing an authentic story makes it easy for others to see you're operating a real business, with real people in a real way. When someone says, I like what they stand for, you can bet that a good story was responsible for this attitude towards the brand. Stories live on long after they are told.
As Simon Sinek says, "Do business with people who believe what you believe." Brands like Patagonia, Apple and Harley Davidson have incredibly loyal followings, in a huge part because they all have great stories that relate back to each individual who buys their product. A strong brand story means something and in this day and age, that counts for everything.
The Elements of a Good Brand Story
Brand stories come in all shapes and sizes. You can tell them with words, pictures, video and audio. You can have other people tell them through testimonials or you can craft them from scratch with original or user created content.
GoPro is a good example of a company who deeply understands the power of story. The founder, Nicholas Woodman has a great American Dream kind of story himself, and anyone with a GoPro camera is invited to share their own visual story with the entire community, resulting in a massive collection of beautiful moments from all over the world. Imagine if GoPro had tried to sell tiny cameras with fact sheets and feature charts about megapixels alone.. other companies did that but we've never heard of them because they didn't survive.
GoPro's ability to make a regular person with one of their cameras feel like a hero, and to know that they belong to a cool global community of adventurers clearly illustrates the power of storytelling. That emotional component is here, alive and well:
We dream. We have passionate ideas about what's possible in this world. Our passions lead us to create experiences and realities that expand our world and inspire those around us.
GoPro helps people capture and share their lives' most meaningful experiences with others-to celebrate them together. Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone, the sharing of our collective experiences makes our lives more fun.
Crafting Your Brand's Story
Unless you're making a documentary, a brand story doesn't have to tell the entire history of how your great great grandfather started doing so and so back in whenever, and five pages later it gets to you and how you're running the company today. Always remember, people care much more about themselves than they do about you, so your story must both include and engage them.
The most successful storylines in business place the customer at the heart of the story, as the hero. You as the business owner are the guide, not the main character, and your personal story of how the business came to exist proves that you're the right guide for the job.
Entrepreneur Magazine suggests the following guidelines for a brand story:
- It's true
- It's Human
- It's Original
- It serves the customer
Once you have a good understanding of your customer's journey and how your own story relates to theirs, try using some storytelling methods in place of the hard sell. Perhaps there are ways to illustrate what you do with an analogy, a series of customer stories, user created content, or a funny video series.
Remember when those Old Spice commercials with Mustafa first came out? Love them or hate them, they're a good example of how storytelling can be used in marketing, in place of a typical commercial which lists off facts and features (or shouts them, in the case of used car ads). The most well-loved brands don't need to go for the hard sell, they've got us with their narrative already.
In the words of Dave Kerpen, "Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone loves a good story."