Once Upon a Time
Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not - your business has a brand story. It’s been in the process of making itself from the moment you opened your virtual doors.
Is it a good one? A toxic one? An exciting one? Or a heartwarming one?
Who knows. But it’s all yours.
Well, maybe not all yours. It belongs to you and the marketplace. Let’s just say it’s a group project.
Whatever it is, you should probably start taking care of it - consciously.
But first, let’s talk about what a brand story is.
Your brand story is a cohesive tale that tells the origins of your business and gives an overall impression of its purpose and impact.
Your brand story follows your business around everywhere. It’s coded into your emails, your web design, and your marketing. It’s not a pitch. It’s the narrative of your company.
And it lives in the collective mind of the marketplace.
Meaning that a brand story isn’t something that exists on a plaque over the desk. It goes back and forth between you and the public. You lay the groundwork, but it keeps being worked on forever.
In this blog, I want to sketch out how building a brand story can help you secure a loyal following. We’ll discuss who controls the story, and what’s the best way to tell the world a tale that really resonates.
A Customer’s Brain on Stories
A big part of marketing is getting people to know and trust you. It’s getting them to count your work as significant to them.
It doesn’t happen by pitching a product. Most of it happens through emotion. And the emotion of what you do and why you matter stays with a client through your story.
Stories are insanely sticky to the human mind. Studies suggest - and I think we already instinctively know this - that stories work better than data. They’re way more easily remembered and understood.
But a lot of the content that’s hurled at consumers is rooted in data. It’s just a lot of offers and prices. If the offer isn’t acted on immediately - the next shiny ad just takes its place.
But not stories. Stories remain long after.
Like Your Favorite TV Show
A brand story is no exception. According to Forbes.com it “offers insight into why the business exists and why it matters. This form of narrative gives consumers a reason to root for your brand...”
Brand storytelling does this by using a lot of the same elements your favorite inspirational dramas use.
Think of the way you feel about your favorite TV characters. When you think of them you get an immediate feeling. You’re behind them. You care about what happens to them.
Successful brand storytelling hits these same notes. The result is a community that has an investment in seeing you succeed.
A good brand story has:
A Theme - A story that epitomizes trust, fulfillment, healing, independence
Characters - You, your family, especially the community you help
Conflict - The problem you came here to change
A Happy Ending - The impact your business makes
We’ll dig a little deeper into the elements of your story later. But can you see why knowing this about your favorite businesses is actually what makes them your favorite?
When you put these together in a cohesive narrative, you give the customer a chance to be on your side. It creates empathy in a way that no product description or offer can.
Who’s Your Narrator?
Here’s a frightening thought - you’re not in total control of your brand story. You do have a lot of power over it. But once you get the ball rolling on it, your story becomes…dynamic. A push and pull between you and your customers.
It reminds me of that game where you sit in a circle and every person, one by one, adds to the story. Well, thanks to social media and word of mouth, your community can add their voice to your version.
They can cry BS if you’re selling a story that doesn’t ring true. They can also add new information to the story with testimonials and glowing reviews.
This is actually good.
As you pass the narration of your brand back and forth, you can still guide it. But the feedback helps you understand what’s resonating and what’s getting lost - deepening the community’s investment in the story.
You can reinforce your end of the conversation through your design, content, website, even your offers - everything you roll out reinforces - or confuses - the story.
The contribution of your audience will help you stay in tune.
Key Elements of a Brand Story
When you consider talking about your company’s evolution, there are a handful of elements that you want to consider.
Flesh out your storyline by running through these key ideas:
Problem to Solution
Accenture Strategy’s Global Consumer Pulse Research says that 65% of consumers are more into brands that go out of their way to communicate their “Why.”
Your story is less about what you sell and more about why you’re here.
It matters how you came to do what you do. What need did you see that triggered the creation of your brand? You fill a hole in the community, but there was a moment you saw it and knew you wanted to take it on. What’s that story?
You should, as the owner, tell a story that has you as the most visible character.
Don’t make yourself the hero, exactly. That can come off as obnoxious. But be willing to be central. Show your struggles, outline your hopes and setbacks.
And remember, though you’re a central character - it’s really about the client. The people you help are the implied star of your story.
Keep It Simple. Keep It Deep
Make the story simple. Simple stories are really memorable. But that doesn’t mean you should tell a cookie-cutter, shallow story.
Make it simple, but truthful and emotional. Use evocative language that creates a real picture.
Personal to the Social
A brand story should start with the personal - a small revelation about a need, a private desire to make an impact. But in the end, it’s gotta be significant to your client.
Take the story from the smallness of your private life and end it in the “town square.” When they root for you, they’re rooting for themselves.
History to the Present
Just as you move from the personal to the communal, it’s also a good idea to move your brand story from the past to the present. “
This is where and why I started. And this is where we are now.” What a ride!
Speaking of the Present…
One of the most important and effective ways to bring a brand story to life in the NOW - is to actively include your happy clients.
We talked about how a brand story’s ultimately a group effort - don’t waste that. Use this crowdsourcing element to plump out and validate your narrative.
Do it through testimonials, live streams, and social media. Bring your satisfied clients, proactively, into the story circle and get them chatting.
When an outside community reinforces your message, it’s the most powerful element of the tale. It is the happiest ending you can give your story.
You Have a Story
Like I said, a brand story is non-negotiable. You will absolutely have one. So don’t just fall butt first into it randomly.
Put your hands on it first, set up the scaffolding, then hand it back and forth with your most valuable clients.
Make a brand story that’s truthful, emotional, and that describes a useful impact.
Let the marketplace into the magic you’re making and the lives you change. I mean, who doesn’t love a happy ending?
Wondering where all your ideal clients are?
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