What’s your brand story? It might sound like a tricky question, especially if you’ve never really thought about it or you don’t consider yourself much of a storyteller.
But here’s the truth: We’re all storytellers and everyone — including your customers — loves a good story.
That’s because storytelling is part of our DNA. Folklore has been with our species since our earliest days, long before humans ever wrote anything down. And today, whether you’re watching a sci-fi movie or listening to a dinner table narrative about a bad day at work, you’re still learning and explaining through the art of story.
That’s why your brand story so valuable to your business. And it’s not just me saying it. In 2017, OneSpot found that 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.
Whether you’ve never considered your brand story before or you’re not sure exactly how to tell it, here are a few tips to help you get started:
To really understand how to tell your brand story, we’ve got to go back to the classroom for just a second. In the past, you might’ve heard of the Hero’s Journey. It’s a concept invented by Joseph Campbell which details how most epic stories are told.
Take a look at this image. I’ll get into each section below (briefly) so that we can match it to your brand.
If we’re looking at the roadmap of the Hero’s Journey, you’ll notice that the hero has been called to adventure by forces greater than himself. He has help, difficulties, and failures along the way before he finally accomplishes what he set out to accomplish and returns home completely changed by the experience.
Simple enough, right?
Maybe. There are two ways to market your brand story and how it relates to the Hero’s Journey:
- Your company is the hero.
- Your customer is the hero.
Your company has its own brand story — but your customer has a story, too. We all do, and the path of our narrative goes on as long as we (or our companies) continue to exist.
Quickly, let’s match the elements of that classic narrative arc to your business.
We’re not trying to become masters of the art of storytelling here. We’re just hitting the key points to find a rough frame for your brand story:
Like every great superhero, every brand has an origin story.
If you’re a small business CEO, you might have some idea of what it is already. Bigger brands might have to find owners or founders and dig into the history of the company to learn more.
But every company has an origin story — a point of conception where someone thought it was a good idea.
Every company, especially at the beginning, has mentors and helpers. It might be an investor or a subject matter expert who guides specific parts of the process, or it might be someone who has gone before and can provide guidance along the way.
This step is important for another reason, but we’ll circle back.
Very few companies are who they are when they started.
Most startups pivot multiple times before finding their niche. Executives step down. New leadership steps up. The company cycles through people, missions, and initiatives.
While internal office drama isn’t part of the brand story, talking about where your company came from and where they are now can have a huge impact on the narrative itself.
In this stage, the hero comes back home completely changed after their journey. This one might seem a little tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.
For a company, a better equivalent might be the story of Moses coming back down the mountain with the Ten Commandments in hand. He’s coming back to his people with the solution to their problems: Follow these rules, and it’ll all work out.
We’ve only hit the broad strokes here, but see if you can mindmap the key points of your business to the four major points that I listed above. Those four bits of information are the cornerstone to your brand story, and they’re the key points you’ll need to connect your customers with your brand.
And that connection is important. Adweek featured a study a couple of years ago which pointed out that when buyers knew the story behind a product or service, they were more likely to purchase that product and to do so at a higher price.
As Simon Sinek would tell you, most great organizations and great leaders don’t start with the what or the how.
Great leaders start with why. They figure out what they or their organization stands for, the purpose of their own journey, and how they can share that success with others.
The key to a successful brand story is figuring out the why and matching it up with your customer’s journey.
When a customer understands the narrative you’re telling and that story resonates with them, they’re more likely to purchase from and promote your brand. As the Harvard Business Review points out, customers who are “fully connected” with a brand are 52% more valuable to that brand.
And it works. Just look at Apple’s green initiatives from the past few years. I’m not saying that it’s all marketing, but the tech company is certainly using their environment to change the narrative around their brand.
National Geographic does this all the time, too. Their social media is filled with the stories behind their incredible images. Those stories keep you engaged and nudge the National Geographic brand away from something that just wants to sell you a magazine and more toward a platform where you can feel like you’re part of the action.
Here’s the thing, though: Both of those examples are components to the larger brand story at play.
Apple wants to pivot its brand narrative away from being a stereotypical tech giant. National Geographic doesn’t want to shout at you from a newsstand; it wants to use its platform to talk about incredible photographs and, in doing so, show you what the magazine stands for from an ideological perspective.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to take control of your brand story and show your customer the highlights and key functions of your business.
So far, we’ve talked about what a brand story is and how to begin building one for yourself by matching your brand’s history up with the basic elements of the Hero’s Journey.
Ready for the twist?
As you set up your brand story, remember that while the narrative tells your story, it’s not some egotistical pat on the back. Storyteller marketing is about creating a positioning tool that helps your brand align with the customer’s journey.
But, in the customer’s mind, you’re not the hero.
Remember that section earlier about the mentor and the helper? This is a key part of the classic Hero’s Journey. The hero can’t do it alone. He or she needs help. Frodo needs Gandalf. Luke needs Obi-Wan. Harry and the gang need Dumbledore and McGonagall.
Without help, the quest fails. And your customer is on a quest of their own. The product or service you offer may be attractive to them because of your own brand narrative, but it must also ultimately help them achieve their own goals.
If you can create a brand story that sets you up as a key differentiator based on your history and your ability to assist, you’ll resonate well with your target audience.
That’s one reason that targeted language is so important during the content creation process.
Developing your own brand story is important but, fortunately, it’s not something that you have to do all at once or by yourself.
Great stories dig deep into the company history and flesh out the past, but modern stories are built slowly through content items like white papers, case studies, and other forms of content marketing.
If you’re looking to build your brand story and need an assist, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ll work together to develop a narrative that resonates with your target audience and create a content strategy around the story you want to tell.