Brand Storytelling isn’t Telling the Story of Your Brand – It IS Your Brand

Storytelling is the latest buzzword kicking around ad and brand strategy agencies all over the world.  People often misuse the term brand storytelling to describe stories about a brand. Actually, a true brand story originates from its story platform – the emotional core, the DNA of the brand. The brand story is the very essence of the brand – something you need to convey in order to connect your ideas with your audience. We rarely evaluate companies based upon their products alone.  We’re in a world where a brand’s values and the emotions they evoke are narrative material. The most powerful way to persuade someone of your idea is to unite that idea with an emotion.  The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story.  Your brand’s story isn’t a tagline or a headline. It isn’t the logo or visual representation. Your brand’s story creates an experience and defines the emotional relationship your customers have with you.  Ultimately, the best brand stories are those that intrigue, engage and connect with users on a level that transcends the products or services themselves.

Your brand story is like the glue that will hold all your brand’s actions and words together for a long period of time.  Your audience may not see it, but without it, your brand is nothing.   Sol is doing a series of brand storytelling workshops next week, so it’s timely for me to write about how to create the story of your brand.  Perhaps attend one of our workshops (link to reserve your place is here), or it give it a try on your own with the following tips:

How to write your brand’s story:

1. Define your brand promise:  Your brand promise is a single statement that is the articulation of your brand’s values, the primary benefit you provide and your unique relevance to your brand’s users.  Your brand promise lies in the answers to the three questions below:

  • What does it say about a person that they use your brand?
  • What is the singular thing your brand offers that your customer can’t get anywhere else?
  • How do you make your customer a hero in his/her OWN story?

2. Define your ideal customer:  There is an archetype of the “perfect” customer for your brand.  This is almost a caricature of the singular customer who would be MOST predictive of your brand success – the customer for whom your brand is specifically tailored.  Sure, there are probably multiple use-cases for your brand and even a variety of target audiences who might use your brand, but the archetype is exactly that – an archetype, which serves as a prototype for customer behavior and attitudes.  Understanding who this person is empowers you to understand at a very emotional level the CONFLICT in the brand story.  As I said in this previous post about Brand Swagger, great brands solve acknowledged problems and address real customer needs.  Knowing your ideal customer intimately will help you ensure that your brand addresses significant and real pain and anchors the concepts and language your brand uses to create a vision for what the world looks like when you’ve solved customers’ challenges.  To create your ideal customer archetype, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the person for whom my brand is absolutely perfect?
  • Describe them demographically/firmographically…if you’re a B2B brand, that means focusing on to the very person within an organization who is buying your brand: job title, what level she is within the organization, what that person’s work day is typically like. Also focus on what type of business she’s in -- what’s her workplace like?  What’s the competitive environment?

Then, focus on attitudes, behaviors and other descriptors that help you bring fine focus to the picture of who that person is:

  • Where does she live/shop/learn/play/work?
  • What does she care about most in her life?
  • What are her problems relative to what you’re selling? How significant are those problems?  How is she currently solving those problems?
  • On what metrics do they measure themselves? How does she know she’s living the life she feels she’s designed for?
  • Finally, how does she view herself vis a vis her world, other people, her job, her family, etc.?

3. Explore and define your brand’s personality and character: The best brands in the world have a distinctive point of view and a unique voice that translate into verbal and visual articulation of the brand. The language you use, the colors, images, even the photographic style you use should reflect your brand’s personality and character. The brand personality makes your brand feel human.  To understand your brand’s character and personality, ask the following questions:

If your brand were human, where would it:

  • Go to dinner?
  • Go on vacation?
  • Who would it go with?
  • What would it wear?
  • What would it eat?
  • What would it drive?
  • Where does it shop?
  • Which brand of athletic shoes does it wear?
  • Would it live on a street, an avenue or a road?
  • How old is it?
  • Male or female?
  • What are its personality traits?

You get the picture, right?

4. Create the story arc:  The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another; in other words, to effect change. This change or transformation often takes the form of either tragic fall from grace or a reversal of that pattern. We often find this form of reversal in stories in which a character goes from a situation of weakness to one of strength. For example, a poor woman goes on adventures and in the end makes a fortune for herself, or a lonely man falls in love and marries.  Or a tragic hero falls from grace and then redeems himself in the end or transforms himself.

Great brands have a story arc too.  What’s the story of your brand?  How do you reverse your customers’ fortunes?  How do you transform people’s lives?

Chief Creative Officer of Momentum Worldwide, Jon Hamm (no relation!), recently wrote a piece in AdWeek which sums it up nicely:

“The truly great storytellers have long embraced the fact that the most powerful stories happen in the mind of the audience, making each and every story unique and personal for the individual. They also understand that stories are important because they are inherent to the human experience. Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories.”

So what’s your brand’s story?  How will you bond emotionally with your audience?