Authenticity, humanisation, the new art of storytelling – beyond these buzzwords and far past this marketing talk, the saying that people buy from people first still holds firmly true.
But let’s be honest – do your prospective customers see you as a faceless corporate entity, or do they feel a brand that they can connect with? If it’s the former, you may want to consider re-writing your brand story. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin.
Common brand stories – finding your fable
Despite there being a limited number of brand story themes, they don’t lose their authenticity as long as they’re done well. Take the classic rags to riches story – the one of a business person who built their company from the ground up and ultimately made a success of their struggles. If this sounds similar to your backstory, let people know.
Then, there’s the hero’s tale – a story of adventure, jumping over obstacles, facing challenges and overcoming adversity. Taking centre stage in this brand story is not always who, or what, you’d expect. Whilst it could focus on the CEO, it can also be about the company or a product which has undergone significant changes to emerge as a better, bolder version of itself.
The hero’s tale is somewhat similar to branding that tells a story about overcoming a monster. In this tale, the founder, company or product begins as the underdog to some seemingly unsurmountable force. The happy ending comes when they are victorious against the baddie – think early Macintosh versus PC, or American Express’s so-called ‘Small Business Saturday’ versus Black Friday.
Other brand stories focus on the customer – on true stories as to how they’ve experienced a transformation with the product or service in question. Similarly, other brands publicise stories about the people in their team, and how the unique company culture influences them in their roles.
There are also ways of shaping a brand story around heritage (most commonly used by family brands) or sustainability (which shows how a brand is making positive moves for the environment and/or their community).
The three science-backed cornerstones of exceptional storytelling
Create empathy and you’ll be remembered
Empathy is an incredibly underused technique in marketing, yet when done well the results can be especially powerful. We can thank a small collection of brain neurons for this. Known as mirror neurons, they’re responsible for us being able to feel another person’s, or indeed company’s, pleasure or pain. The best example of empathy in action may be in the emotional Christmas adverts – think lonely man on the moon from the John Lewis; Paddington Bear from M&S or Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ campaign.
What we can learn from these is that your target market is biologically programmed to connect with emotional stories – so make it a tear-jerker or a smile-maker – make them care, and their loyalty and business could be yours for the taking.
Stimulate the release of oxytocin for co-operation
Oxytocin is a neurochemical, and in the simplest sense it signals to our body that all is safe to approach others – this biological process used to be critical for the survival of our Neanderthal ancestors.
Interestingly character-focused brand stories, when done well, result in oxytocin synthesis. In turn, this increases how prepared the viewer is to help others. Research from the Harvard Business Review has found that a brand story must capture and sustain attention and introduce some form of tension – enough for the audience to share the feelings of the character.
Find a way to drive home the pain of the problem
What problem do you solve? What pain do your customers face that your product or service removes? Fully understanding the way your customer experiences pain is key to building a story and ultimately creating a pleasure that is experienced when it’s resolution.
The beginning, middle and end of a brand story written for business growth
First things first – pin down what you stand for
Your brand story is about more than an advert or the copy on a page. It combines facts, feelings and interpretations, and should communicate the following:
– Who you are – How did your company come to be? What is your vision, mission, values and culture?
– What you provide/produce – The service or product needs to be subtly obvious wherever you tell your brand story, no matter the content type.
– Who you serve – The people you help (remembering to drive home their pain points)
– Why you do what you do – The bigger picture – going beyond your product or service to detail how you benefit your customer.
– Where you are headed – The ways in which you’re evolving to always improve your product/service.
With these elements nailed down, it’s now time to understand your (very specific) audience
Who are your audience? The entirety of your target market, or a select type of customer? Designing a story around a well understood persona is key to ensuring you craft a brand story that resonates, and that cleverly interweaves the target audience’s pain points into the fabric of the brand fable.
Grab a notepad and jot down the past, present and future of your company
Your brand story begins with your founder and the original purpose of the business. Make it detailed and follow a blow by blow account of how the business grew. Add to the mix amusing, heart-warming or tense anecdotes, stats, facts and a CEO testimony. Then weigh up how this beginning led to, and influenced, the present day, as well as the goals of the future.
Put blood, sweat and tears into a statement of existence
Now it’s time to create your brand statement – a short, snappy sentence or two as to what matters to customers and what the deeper purpose of the business is. It should answer the questions: “Why are we here?” and “How are we making the world a better place?”. Consider these examples…
– Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
– American Express: “We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.”
– Warby Parker: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”
– InvisionApp: “Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.”
– Honest Tea: “… to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”
PressPoint Pro Tip
Get creative, brainstorm with your colleagues and commit to it. If you’re struggling, come back with fresh eyes, or survey others for their opinion.
Develop your story around this now very refined brand story statement
Print your long brand saga out and pin it up next to your statement. The task now is to create an A4 page to summarise your story – telling a true narrative of your brand, in a condensed format.
PressPoint Pro Tip
Perhaps the most important element of a great brand story is purpose. Remember those neuroscience tricks we were speaking of? They all revolve around emotional connections, and in order for your brand story to work, it must have an authentic purpose, if your audience is to engage.
Make sure your brand story touches every element of your company
The best brand stories are readable through every marketing material and contact with your company – from your logo, to you blog content, to the interactions with your workforce. This means keeping your branding consistent – the colours, the values held by company and workers alike, to the tone of voice that’s shared by both the about page, and CEO.
You want to motivate, engage and persuade, and a powerful brand story can achieve all three, resulting in tangible pence and pounds on the bottom line. Yet creating an effective brand story that resonates is a tough business. If you’d prefer to move onto Happily Ever After, rather than struggling with your Once Upon a Time, you know where we are. We can help pen a brand story that sells. Call our team on 01953 851513, or send a message over and we’ll be right back in touch – [email protected].