Several brands have long recognized the power of brand storytelling to build trust and loyal brand advocates (Think: Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola). Their stories — many of them legendary — help make these brands more relatable and allow them to connect with customers in a deeper, more meaningful way. This, in turn, helps with the retention of customers, as well as the acquisition of new ones. And even though results are usually most visible on the long term, storytelling positively affects the bottom line of brands engaging in it. Take the example of Tiffany’s who saw their stock price rice by $10/share after starting their brand storytelling campaign.
Unfortunately though, most companies don’t even consider themselves brands, let alone wonder whether they have a story to tell. Except they do. They just don’t know how to find or tell. These next few chapters will go over just how to do that.
The fundamentals of a successful brand story
There are several characteristics that make for a successful brand story. Use the following as a checklist when selecting yours:
It’s honest — You will never be able to build trust if your brand stories aren’t built on a foundation of truth. Your stories should feature real people and events, exactly as they occurred. They should be based on genuine emotions and fact.
It’s human — People trust people, not corporations. Therefore, your brand stories should be as human as possible, featuring actual people and events. Use natural language, and avoid sounding salesy. The more forced or unnatural it comes off, the less people will trust its authenticity.
It has personality — Your brand story should be driven by personality. Your story should describe the evolution of your brand, told with personality. Susan Gunelius explains, “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.” (Forbes).
It’s original — In order to stand out, your story can’t be an adaptation of someone else’s. It should be original and unique to you. Offer a new perspective: What makes your brand, and the products or services it offers, different from the competition? Why is that important?
It’s simple — Don’t be more complex than you need to be. Simple stories are better, more shareable, and more trustworthy. Simplicity means having a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should hook them, the middle should educate and entertain, and the end shouldn’t be an ending like the end of the road, but should suggest the beginning of success and continuation (Kissmetrics).
It’s visual — Audiences want to see the story as well as read and hear it. Visuals make a story more compelling and memorable, as well as real. Make sure that you create a setting for your story and utilize the human senses to bring it to life. Some visual elements to use include photos, videos, drawings, gestures and facial expressions.
It’s relatable — The goal of your brand story is to connect with your customers, so it should relate to them. The worst kinds of stories are corporate-centric and hedonistic. Instead, your stories should show customers that you understand them and that you’re like them. That’s ultimately what will prompt them to engage.
Now that you know the essentials, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Customer stories make some of the best brand stories. They are the one’s experiencing your products or services first hand, and if they are pleased, they are more likely to share that experience. Display these stories on your website and other marketing materials. They will help reinforce your brand story.
- Why does your business exist? What is your reason for being in business in the first place? Who are you in business for? What makes you interesting? What problem does your business solve? What makes your product different from the competitions?
- What is your history? What is the history of how your products or services came to be? Was there a special event behind the origin of the company? Where did your first store open? When? What was it called? Who was your first customer, and what was their experience? How has your company grown?
- Who are your main characters? Who founded the company and when did they found it? What was happening in the world at that time? What inspired them? What struggles did they face along the way? Was there an aha moment?
- What is your company mission? What is your company’s ultimate purpose? What are the goals? Who wrote your company mission, and how did they write it? The company mission is critical to the essence of your brand story. If it is in any way weak or unclear, you can expect major holes in your brand story.
- What are your core brand values? What values does your company hold close? How have your brand values changed over time? What is the philosophy behind your company, and how did that come about?
- How do your customers feel? What do your customers say about your brand? What’s the best thing they’ve said? The worst? Why do they buy from you, and what keeps them coming back?
- How have you failed? Sometimes you must fail before you can truly succeed. How you’ve failed. How did you battle it? Being transparent about your biggest challenges and how you overcame them will help customers feel even more connected to the brand.