Stories are told in every culture as a means of entertainment, education or cultural preservation, and when it comes to content marketing, stories are just as important. Storytelling itself predates smartphones, social media, computers, television, even the written word. And yet, a good story can still resonate with many people. Sharing your brand story is one of the easiest ways to connect with your audience. This includes not just what you do and how well you do it, but what you stand for.
A brand story shows the personalities behind your brand, the mishaps and successes that got you to where you are now, and the community involved with your brand. Most likely, something or someone in your brand story will remind your audience of similar circumstances, characters or values in their own lives. In this way, the story of your brand humanises your company and allows readers to engage with you on a more personal level.
The greatest thing about telling your brand story is it’s free. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based, or how much funding you have, telling your story is your prerogative. This does not mean you can slap some text on the page, post it on your company’s platforms and expect everyone to love it. Storytelling takes time, thought and creative writing skills, which your marketing team honestly might not have, if you’re going to present your brand story in a meaningful way that will capture your audience’s attention. After all, brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches. Brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at centre stage. A boring story will never attract and retain readers. That’s a fact.
The dos and don’ts of good brand storytelling
DO: Tell your story
If you don’t have a story, you’re just another commodity. Think beyond the utility and functionality of your product or service, and strive for the creation of loyalty and sincere bonds with your customers.
DON’T: Force the mundane
No one wants to know every last detail of how your company came to be. Before pitching your brand story, pinpoint one or two anecdotes or facts unique to your business, which will ensure your story is a worthwhile read for your audience.
DO: Showcase personalities your audience will root for
People enjoy supporting others whom they feel a connection with. If you keep everything in your brand story generic, no one is going to have that aha moment where they say, “I know exactly how they feel”. This does not mean you have to create fictional characters or brand mascots to tell your story. Try creating buyer personas, such as Soccer Mom Sally or Local Larry, and tell stories from their perspectives. Provide quotes from people on your team or third party observations. The most important thing is to present personalities that your audience will like, cheer for and want to stay involved with.
DON’T: Fudge the facts
Most people can sniff out a story that isn’t genuine a mile away. This makes honesty and transparency vital to your brand story. Yes, you’re crafting “stories”, but they need to be rooted in reality. You want to stand out from the crowd, but still be yourself. Don’t confuse your audience. Basic brand building steps include consistency, persistence and restraint. These not only apply to your brand and products, but also your brand story. Potential customers need to be able to trust you, so it’s not worth the risk to your reputation to pad your numbers, client list, achievements, etc, or embellish what really happened in the company up until this point, either.
DO: Use visuals/photos
If your company has been passed down from preceding generations, vintage photos and memorabilia that show its evolution complement a history very nicely. Otherwise, pictures of employees, candids from a corporate event and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks can add context and colour to your company description. Steer clear of stock photos, though. These professional, posed shots defeat the purpose of individualising your brand image.
DON’T: Write a novel
Unless your target audience is literary critics, it’s hard to get the average online reader interested in a long block of text. We know you might have a lot to say, but try breaking up your brand story into manageable points. Think of section themes like history, about us, our team, our culture, values, how we do business, product evolution, etc.
Ben & Jerry’s is one company that has mastered the art of brand storytelling. Their perfectly crafted story is woven into every step they take, in the business world, in their personal lives and with every new ice cream flavour they make. Their origins are unique: two guys working from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. And their values are admirable and consistent: to make the best ice cream possible in the best possible way.
Spanx by Sara Blakely is another company topping the charts for best brand story. Demand is often a large part of a small business’ narrative, usually coupled with a lack of supply. This is exactly how Blakely became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. She designed, manufactured and sold a product she couldn’t find anywhere else. “Putting your butt on the line pays off!” With an unwavering devotion to “solving wardrobe woes”, Spanx has grown to unimaginable proportions and will continue giving women many more “years of great rears”. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Spanx brand story is brimming with personality to tickle its fun-loving female audience and keep them coming back for more.
Remember that at the end of the day, human-to-human connections are the heart and soul of business. Your company is there to solve problems, alleviate stress and frustration, and provide delightful customer experiences. Since you’re dealing with real life people, not just client profiles on your laptop, you have to focus on what will create a positive relationship between the two of you. And it all starts with a story.