Consumers don’t want to listen to you talk endlessly about the details of your product. That’s boring and lifeless. They want to hear your brand’s story. Customers should know why you care about their problems, how you can help them or the steps you’ve taken to get where you are.
Telling a good anecdote can have endless benefits for your business. Not only will it capture attention, but brand storytelling can also help you truly connect with customers, drive more growth and boost your sales. Start telling stories that captivate people, and they’ll more likely engage with your business.
Brand storytelling is what it sounds like. Michelle Gamble, the owner of 3L Publishing and PR, said it’s not about making lists of features or pushing an idea.
“You’re creating an entire world around the concept and then putting it into a story that everyone can relate to,” Gamble said. “People would much rather hear a story than a bullet point.”
Brand storytelling can also be the simple act of having a company mission and narrative that resonates with your audience, according to Grant Aldrich, CEO and founder of OnlineDegree.com.
“Brand storytelling is important for any company, but specifically, it is critical for startups,” Aldrich said. “Infinite sums can be sent down the drain on failed marketing, and it can crush a small company’s finances. People become advocates for you because they share or genuinely love your ideology, philosophy or mission. That’s where your brand storytelling comes into play. Is your mission relatable? Does it connect your company to your audience? The better mission you have and the more authentic you are, the more your customers will want to speak about your company and help you on your journey.”
Brand storytelling is different from content marketing. Content marketing is for social media and other online platforms, said Megan Brown Bennett, president of Light Years Ahead Public Relations.
Brand storytelling is more of a tool to help create other marketing materials; it’s almost the backbone. Any other advertising or marketing efforts are usually derived from the brand story and used in intriguing ways.
“Content marketing is the act of creating content relevant to your brand to spread the word about your product,” said Amy Suto, CEO and co-founder of Kingdom of Ink. “Brand storytelling is the overarching strategy that imbues every aspect of your business, down to the copy on your 404 page to the style of the newsletters you send to customers. It informs every decision your brand makes, as every piece of content or decision made by the brand plays a role in the large brand story.”
Writing a brand story should be done strategically to get the most out of the story. A company’s storytelling should include certain key factors.
Editor’s note: Not sure where to start? We can help you write the perfect mission statement for your business.
An important part of being a good storyteller is always to be authentic. You’ll never gain your audience’s trust if you aren’t true to yourself. People will be able to see right through the lies you tell or exaggerations you make, and losing the trust of your customers can spell disaster for your business.
In fact, admitting to your failures, talking about your hardships and explaining how your company overcame those failures promotes transparency within your brand, and customers appreciate authentic marketing. Sharing your hardships helps people relate to you and shows your company has great qualities, such as perseverance. People want to get to know the real you, so make sure the brand stories you tell are personal and honest.
When you’re telling a story with the goal of trying to sell your product or service, you can’t just tell people how great it is; you have to show them. No one will be convinced if you make claims about how awesome you are and don’t have anything to back it up — that comes across like bragging. Illustrate to your audience the great aspects of your company instead of just listing reasons.
You can show, not tell, by giving real-life instances of how people have benefitted from your product. Instead of saying, “Our product is the best,” say something like, “Our customers have shared with us that our product has drastically improved their lives,” and give examples. Show your value in stories by giving detailed examples; don’t just tell people how they should feel. This makes you a much more effective storyteller.
Humans seek out stories for many reasons, but they often connect to a story because it resolves something. We know good products fulfill needs; the same goes for telling a good story.
Business-to-consumer companies have long been telling stories that solve their customers’ needs, and business-to-business companies can do it too. Identify the needs of your audience, and think about how you can fulfill them. Craft your stories around those findings. Everyone thinks about how a product will improve their lives before they buy, so make them aware of this through your storytelling.
A good storyteller never wants to bore their audience, so don’t bog your story down with needless details. Get to the point quickly so you won’t lose your audience’s attention. When writing the history of your company, for example, no one needs to know what time of day you thought of your great idea or how many times you changed the business’s name. Leave it out if it’s not important or relevant to the point of your story.
Another trick is to start your story in the middle. Many times when people tell a story, they tell it in chronological order, but when you do it this way you’ll have way too many unnecessary details. Plus, all the exciting stuff happens in the middle, so start there and you won’t put your audience to sleep.
Nobody likes a dry, play-by-play account of events; you need to inject emotion into the stories you tell. Provoking feelings in your audience will make them more likely to form a strong connection with your brand and remember you for a long time. Think about how you feel when you watch a good movie. Whether you cry or laugh, you’re immersed in the story because it’s making you feel something.
Think about what emotions you want your audience to feel when they listen to your story. Do you want them to become inspired, sympathetic or empowered? Include details, information and scenarios in your storytelling that will encourage your audience to feel how you want them to.
There’s no harm in writing a few different stories and testing them to see which people respond best. Businesses hold focus groups to test products. You can perform A/B testing to assess your story’s success. Try different email subject lines and create headline variations to gauge what your audience responds to.
Getting feedback from actual and potential customers is more valuable than feedback that is just from business experts. What grabs an expert’s attention may be different from someone contemplating spending money on your product or service.
No hard-and-fast rule says your brand story has to be a written narrative. You can tell your brand’s story in so many other ways, such as through your logo, website design and email design.
Part of brand storytelling is making sure that your branding is consistent across multiple platforms. Uniformity strengthens your story to your audience over and over again.
“As a storyteller by trade, I know that developing a brand story starts with understanding your customer avatar,” Suto said. “Who are they? What are their values? From there, it’s about creating the stance of your brand on relevant topics, such as how you source your sustainable materials.”
From there, according to Suto, the storytelling really kicks in. What tone of voice do you use in your copy? How dramatic are your new product launches? Do you casually drop a whole clothing line or build hype for months through artistic Instagram posts? Your brand story should be cohesive, and the more you look at the big picture, the better you can define your narrative.
Telling a good story allows you to stand out from the competition and connect with consumers on a level you never thought possible.
Brand storytelling helps you create positive brand associations by consistently weaving your brand’s design, content and identity.
By injecting compelling stories into your digital marketing strategy, you can begin to relate to your audience on a deeper level. Over time, you can build brand loyalty by understanding and solving the pain points of your target audience.
Consumers appreciate when a business shares information, such as explaining processes, and is accountable for their actions, even when they make mistakes. The more transparent you can be, the easier it will be to gain respect and grow your brand.
You need to be relatable to be memorable. Businesses usually have a lot of competition, and standing out from the crowd is difficult. Using storytelling in your marketing strategy can help your content rise above the rest. Once you have a captivated audience that anticipates your next move, you can use that customer loyalty to build sales and expand your brand.
Promotes your human side
Consumers are hungry for companies that positively impact their local and global communities. Creating a memorable brand story focusing on your company’s values and mission — including the charities your business gives back to — can significantly increase your brand’s shelf life.
Warby Parker states in its brand story that every idea starts with a problem, which is one of the main pillars of good storytelling. Identify a problem or need, and try to solve it. The issue Warby Parker sought to fix was that glasses were too expensive. A main aspect of its business model is cheaper but still well-made frames, with free try-ons.
Hitting on another pillar of brand storytelling, Nike has taken a clear stance on social justice issues. Its Equality campaign aims to use people’s love of sports to motivate them to act on issues such as racism and pay inequality in sports. By donating money and encouraging people to become mentors in their community, Nike can impact generations of people, creating a powerful brand story.
Burt’s Bees not only makes it clear what its mission is by how it champions all-natural products, but it has also hit an emotional note by introducing Burt to their audience in a series of videos. This footage features words of wisdom, fondly dubbed “Burtisms.” These communications help consumers connect with the brand as a whole, not just individual products.
We’ve all been consuming stories for as long as we can remember, whether they are films, books, newspapers or tales told around a campfire. Your company’s story can be as moving and memorable as any of those media if you use these tips to become a better storyteller.
Julie Thompson and Syed Balkhi contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.