“Storytelling is a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values.”
“Stories are remember up to 22 times more than facts alone.”Standford.edu
When it comes to branding, creating a narrative allows us to promote a brand’s values in a way that feels human and gives us a deeper understanding of the brand and what it represents. It goes beyond what we think of as traditional marketing. It’s not a tagline or a slogan. It’s a deeper understanding of the history and character of the brand and involves environmental factors as well as various voices that have influenced the evolution of the brand until now. For this reason, a brand is more malleable than we’ve been led to believe. Conventional thinking is that a brand is a constant thing; something that must remain unchanged. But that’s not how we experience the world. Even our perceptions are fluid and change depending on mood, environment and situation.
It’s not fickle though. You can’t erase the past, but you can always be adding elements to your story.
According to Skyword’s 2018 Content Marketing Continuum Survey, only 17% of marketers surveyed said they use storytelling in their content. However, of the top 2% of brands, 83% reported that storytelling plays a significant role in their content marketing. Successful brands connect with consumers in a way that allows a relationship to develop.
Authenticity is at the heart of good storytelling, so not only your must your story ring true, it must feel realistic. It can’t be pie in the sky, but it can be aspirational. We’re dreamers. We want to envision the best version of ourselves. We’re looking for big ideas here. Human truths. And it can’t be feature-oriented. We want know what we get out of it.
In the movie “Field Of Dreams”, Ray the farmer who has built a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield, explains that he did everything he was asked without once asking what was in it for him. He ends by asking, “So what’s in it for me?”
Even altruistic behavior is somewhat selfish by the very nature that it makes us feel good to do good.
It’s about fostering a connection with your audience.
Discovering Your Story
Distilling who you are down to a simple narrative is no easy task. It takes some time to absorb the essence of a brand. It’s a lot like getting to know a person well enough to capture their personality.
Research and Analysis
It begins with a broad based research project to understand the brand. What are the positives and negatives? What do people like? What don’t they like? How do they see it. Who are the key stakeholders? Depending on the brand and the need, there might also need to be data-driven research and analysis. Who is consuming the brand, how, why and where?
Talking to both people within the company as well as clients, vendors and end users is critical to understand who the brand is.
Creating The Narrative
This segment involves taking the raw research and beginning to dive in and chip away at the chaff to get to the essence. Developing key words, brand filters and possible narratives.
Once you have a few ideas of possible narratives you want to test them with audiences to see which one resonates best.
Execute with abandon. Be creative. Be Bold. Risk failure.
Tips For Stories That Sell
1. There must be a plotline, which is nothing new. In their story, they tell how “Co-founder Andy Katz-Mayfield went to pick up a razor at his local pharmacy and found himself shelling out too much for an uninspiring product and only a few extra blades. When he told his friend Jeff, they decided there had to be a better way to infuse shaving with an affordable, personable, and creative touch”.
2. Sell an experience.“We want to give our customers all the tools and information they need to go on and talk about Harry’s in their own voice,” says Tully.
3. Create a mood, with ambience. When the company debuted a line of limited edition razor handles, Tully and Morin ventured to upstate New York to film a vignette of a man spending a weekend alone on a lake. “We wanted to capture the moment to describe how the product makes you feel.”
4. Create events and moments. “Last year, Harry’s launched National Shave Day on December 1 to much fanfare — riding on the coattails of another cultural facial hair phenomena: Movember. In doing so, they appealed their target market, and not only appeared timely, but prescient. After not shaving all month, men everywhere were in desperate need of a good razor.”
5. Engage with the audience. I personally discovered Harry’s via Twitter. Their shaver stood out, with its orange color, in the midst of a sea of messages.
6. Plan that campaign that puts the product, the mood and the experience into one seductive experience. Paradise Found. It’s an image of a fairly normal looking guy, shaving cream on his cheeks, coffee cup in one hand, watering his lawn with a bungalow and Palm Springs’ signature mountains rising in the background. “It’s the picture of a weekend. A guy. He doesn’t have a super model girlfriend. He doesn’t want a diamond-plated bathroom. He just wants a good shave,” says Morin.
7. Don’t over do the story. “…make sure your content doesn’t get in the way of your higher objective: making sales,” Tully emphasizes.
Here are some key takeaways when you’re coming up with stories for your brand:
- Develop content that has a human element
- Be sincere
- Ask yourself if you’d be genuinely interested in reading/watching it
- Know what connects your customers to you
- Stories have heroes and characters with unfulfilled desires
- Keep it simple, you should be able to describe a story in one line.
Once you find the human element of your brand, you can start to think about how your company or product can make people’s lives better and craft your story around that. If your customers connect with your story on an emotional level, they’ll want to be a part of it. And that is the whole point of content.
Seven Common Traits Of A Good Brand Story
A brand story isn’t just a valuable marketing asset, it’s also a brand’s guiding principles and impacts every facet of the organization. In other words, it’s not just a marketing message, it’s also a sales pitch and a roadmap for the C-suite.
Momentology surveyed the proverbial landscape and identified 10 brands that truly know themselves and their stories – and have had major marketplace impact as a result.
In taking a closer look at these brands, we discovered seven common traits. Brands that have nailed their brand stories:
1. Start With Problems
From the beginning, many of these brands have identified market needs and/or injustices and, simply, have solved them. The result is a compelling brand story.
“It’s important to have a story that people can understand and connect with,” said Jennifer Eggers, group director of brand communication at branding firm Siegel+Gale. “Especially with newer brands, people care and expect that the brand is coming into existence for a good reason – to solve a problem, to change how we do things, to meet a specific need – and the story is central to communicating the brand’s purpose.”
2. Embrace The Underdog Status
Many of these brands were/are underdogs who were undeterred when it came to tackling titans of industry. They’re the so-called disruptors. And they have good stories to tell as a result.
3. Redefine An Experience
A good brand story is good in part because it has something to say – and, many times, that’s because the brand itself has taken an experience or an industry and turned it on its head.
4. Foster Communities Of Rabid Fans
Brands that have a clear identity and purpose are able to form more meaningful connections that result in truly devoted fans. It’s not just a brand or a product, but rather a means to an end personified by said brand. In other words, the brand is integral to a coveted lifestyle. At the same time, this can also result in detractors, but, branding experts say, that’s just fine.
5. Have Visible Founders
There’s passion in these brands. Their biggest fans, often, are Employee #1. In these cases, the founder does not simply hand the reins over and watch checks roll in after certain objectives have been realized, but rather retains an active role in the company he or she started and holds the title of Chief Evangelist.
6. Know Who They Are And What They Stand For
While many websites have more elaborate versions, each of these stories can be distilled into a sound byte that represents all the company exemplifies.
7. Do Good
Many of these brands incorporate an element of social good into their stories – whether that’s giving back to communities or fostering sustainability or helping consumers find their best selves. And, again, these lofty goals make for good stories.
We Are Storytellers
Your brand needs to be a part of a broader narrative.
We are all storytellers, whether we realize it or not. Everything we do, everything we buy, everything we consume (and everything we don’t!) ends up becoming a part of the stories we tell ourselves. This is who we are, this is what we believe in, this is the kind of person I am, this is the cause that I stand for.
If you want your brand to really stick, you’ll need to clearly define what its role is in the broader scheme of things.
How will you change your customer’s life?