Once Upon A Time … How To Tell Your Brand Story

September 23, 2016

Throughout human history storytelling has confirmed shared culture and beliefs, passed knowledge down from one generation to the next, and helped humans understand the world around them. The significance of stories is embedded in our collective mindset, so it’s no wonder that storytelling keeps returning to the marketing spotlight. 

Unlocking the power of storytelling has the potential to enable you to create something that is more memorable than anything your competition is doing.

But how do marketers even begin to tell “The Great Story of Your Brand”?

Ask Yourself Why

First of all, ask yourself why in the world you would want to take on the role of being a storyteller. It is nothing like doing another marketing campaign. The task is laborious. And you will have to look in the mirror lots of times if you want to be ready to tell a believable—and honest—story. 

Storytelling is a great way to help you forge a deeper connection with the people you are trying to reach. But brand storytelling does not mean sharing a narrative where everything is awesome. In fact, if you set out to create an authentic story and your audience sees it as dishonest, this will have a terrible impact on the brand. 

As marketers, you will need to consider what it is you want to achieve from sharing your story. Is it to make employees relate to your brand culture? Is it to prove that your brand is actually living its values? Is it to make people understand your brand by knowing its background? In any of these cases, you will need to decide who it is exactly your brand wants to connect with.

Create The Connection

Great stories are capable of creating real connections: whether between the audience and the hero, people and their heritage, your customers and your brand, or your employees and your brand culture.

That relationship is created with the audience when they find something of relevance in the story. When they hear something that convinces them they should care about your brand. It may be because you share certain values with them, or because they can see something of themselves in your story.

Understand Your Platform

As with any words or imagery you want to put in front of an audience, you will need to design your delivery platform, be it video, online posts, a speech, or something else entirely.

Be true to yourself and your story. And be ready to admit when you need help to tell the story in the right way for the format. This may be from a videographer or a professional writer, and sometimes what seemed the obvious choice for a collaboration may not be the right choice. Just because they work in communications doesn’t mean the specialists that marketers typically work with are necessarily good storytellers.

Messages v Storylines

Chances are that most of the marketing you are involved in is structured as formulaic messages, such as “Look at this great product, it can make you or your life better, buy it now.” Imagine any good story you know forced into this format. Now it is a little less worthy of your appreciation, wouldn’t you agree?

To captivate an audience, you need to present a more nuanced scenario. Often it’s the stories about overcoming challenges and adversities, or coming of age and taking responsibility for one’s faults to grow humbler and wiser that captivate us as an audience.

They are stories of evolution that takes the main character—in this case the brand—forward and adds more dimensions. Many of the fictional characters we stick with may have their flaws, but they become relatable, three-dimensional beings who we care about and even forgive.

Compare this to the typical, one-dimensional talking head proclaiming the authenticity, or uniqueness of a brand. Nobody believes in this anymore. And given the communications overload nowadays, almost nobody is listening.

Don’t Believe The Hype

As new technology and new marketing disciplines emerge that promise the only way forward, it’s easy to become distracted. New technologies can be a great format for telling your story, but technology or special effects will not make a bad story better. It does not matter whether you are putting “digital,” “integrated,” or “non-linear” in front of “storytelling.” If there is no dynamic, no good and bad, no relatable characters, your audience’s interest in the story will quickly fade.

Good Stories Take Time

You cannot whip up “The Great Story of Your Brand” in a few hours, and you cannot expect it to make its impact in the hearts and minds of people in an instant. If you think otherwise, that’s a habit of working in marketing communications.

Remember, “The Great Story of Your Brand” is more than a chronology or a list of achievements. You should go back to the first thing you put down in writing several times over, and put this in front of people for critique.

Furthermore, be prepared to scale when the story starts spreading. Be ready to respond to questions, curiosity, and negativity—another reason why it is immensely important your story is not perceived as a lie. You may not win everybody over, nor should you aim to, but at least you will have their respect for your honesty and transparency.

So, are you ready to tell “The Great Story of Your Brand”?