Storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, make information stick and build meaningful relationships. For marketers, the implications are simple. A great story is the best way to pull people into your brand.
Brands such as Nike and Coca-Cola have long realised the power of great storytelling. When Nike released a one-minute commercial back in the late 1990s that celebrated the career of Michael Jordan, there was no mention of the brand until the closing shot, when their slogan ‘Just Do It’ appeared, followed by the Nike logo. An authentic story, Nike realised, would sell more products in the long-term.
And back in 1995, Coca-Cola aired the very first ‘Holidays are Coming’ TV advert, triggering a cultural phenomenon that would stretch for a quarter of a century - so far. For many, the iconic TV advert signals the start of the holiday season. Just last year it was voted the nation’s favourite advert series of all time.
Marketing has always been about storytelling. But, with so much attention now placed on optimising content for search, it can become easy for the story to get lost. To help you reconfigure and get back to telling compelling stories, we’ve created a guide on how to write a great brand story.
What is a brand story?
According to HubSpot, “A brand story recounts the series of events that sparked your company’s inception and expresses how that narrative still drives your mission today.”
In other words, a brand story is a compelling narrative around your brand that connects you with your target audience.
But this story is more than just words on your website or a fancy video. It’s more subtle than that. It’s what motivates you to do what you do, the history of how your product or service came to be. And it’s a concept that underscores every touchpoint a potential customer has with your brand, from your website to your social channels to your email campaigns.
Why are stories so powerful?
Humans are hard-wired to respond to stories. As Jonathan Gottschall writes in his book The Storytelling Animal, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
Research shows that the human brain responds to the descriptive power of stories in deeply affecting ways. To read or watch a story is to feel an experience.
A great story can trigger your brain to release oxytocin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. Or cortisol, the stress hormone. That's why you feel happy when the two main characters in your book finally get together. And why you feel anxious when watching a horror film.
In a world of information overload, a great story can cut through the noise and stick in people’s hearts and minds.
What does a great brand story look like?
Whether your story is informative, entertaining or inspirational, people need to feel personally connected to it. It’s got to resonate with them. So how can your brand improve their life? And why should they take the time to listen to your story?
Your brand story should be individual to you. It should reflect your unique personality. And it should be consistent across all mediums and platforms.
One of the biggest mistakes is trying to say too much. A simple story will help maximise emotional attachment. So focus on one person or problem at a time. Because if you confuse, you’ll lose.
It has conflict
Every great story has conflict. Conflict is what creates intrigue. Plus, if there’s no conflict, then there’s no emotional journey that people can relate to. And it won’t hold their attention, let alone resonate with them. So be transparent about the challenges your company has faced. The more open and honest you can be, the more people will relate to your brand.
How to tell a great brand story
Know your brand
You may have a great name and logo. But what does your brand stand for? You can’t write a great brand story unless you know who you are. Whether you’re a small business or a larger, established brand, there’s a reason why you exist. And this is where every great brand story begins.
Take a brand like Patagonia, for example. The outdoor clothing brand is on an environmental quest. Their mission statement tells us exactly why they exist - “We are in business to save our home planet”.
So what’s your brand’s reason for existing? Think back to when you started, what was the change you wanted to see? What does your ideal world look like, and where do you fit into that world? Answering these questions will help you to uncover your core values and the message you want to share with the world.
According to Simon Sinek, “the most successful brands start with why”. Sinek’s theory is that communicating the passion behind the ‘why’ will connect with the listeners' limbic brain; the part of our brain that processes feelings like trust and loyalty.
Ultimately, you’re looking to explain who you are as a company. Because that’s what makes you unique, and that’s what will make you stand out to potential customers.
Know your audience
You can’t tell a great brand story unless you know who you’re talking to. The more you know about your ideal customers, the better.
Think about your current customers. Do you know what makes them tick? Do you know their goals and aspirations? The fears they have and the biggest challenges they face?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you can’t possibly know what kind of situations they will relate to. Ultimately, you want to know how your brand can help solve your customers’ problems.
Developing comprehensive buyer personas allows you to get to the heart of the people you want to connect with. If you know them, I mean really know them, then you can determine how your brand can help improve their lives. And you can share that in your story.
Marketing is all about building human to human connections. And storytelling is a powerful technique for building those relationships. A clear, authentic and personal brand story can help separate you from the competition and bake your brand into the hearts and minds of your ideal customers. Creating that brand story relies on having a strong understanding of who you are, why you do what you do, and how you can make your customers’ lives better.