We can find stories everywhere — in the news articles we read, conversations we have, movies we watch — and often, we expect these stories to form the bases of our relationships. According to a study by Jeremy Hsu, personal stories, on average, account for up to 65 percent of our conversations. They represent our need to understand and connect emotionally with why and how things happen.
Most stories work on an emotional level. In an article published on Smart Insights, Jonathan Gabay notes, “Stories ... activate sensory parts of the brain that help influence the meaning and purpose of what is seen and heard — helping provide a greater personal insight into life and events.”
Storytelling is a skill that every business owner who wishes to build a lasting brand should master. Because when stories are strong and powerful enough, they become a living, breathing part of the brand, which can encourage employees, customers and other parties to unite and act in support. When told well, stories can turn a brand into a legacy, generate substantial profits, create a robust marketing strategy, win the loyalty and trust of users and offer many other benefits.
What Is a Brand Story?
In simple words, a brand story tells the audience what you are and what makes you unique. According to The Story of Telling, “A brand story is more than a narrative. The story goes beyond the copy on your website, the text in a brochure or the presentation used to pitch to investors. Your story isn’t just what you tell people. It’s what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings and interpretations, which means that part of your story isn’t even told by you.”
One example of a good brand story is of the socially-conscious shoe company TOMS Shoes, whose entire brand story can be summed up as follows: “While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Blake Mycoskie (the person behind the idea of One for One®) witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. Wanting to help, Mycoskie created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes bought with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.” After reading this, anyone can tell why the company was founded, and what its mission is.
How Can You Create One for Your Business?
Stories can help change the course of a business. Follow these steps to write your own brand story:
Step 1: Write your past, present and future stories: The story of your business and brand starts with you, and why you started your company in the first place. Don’t leave out any details, and write your narrative as historically accurately as possible. Include interesting facts, anecdotes and testimonies of what has brought the company to where it is. Don’t forget to highlight the parts that reveal the purpose of your business.
Every great brand story builds on the dream and purpose that birthed the company, and understanding what brought you to this point and where your enterprise is going is a great place to start.
Step 2: Create a statement to sum up why your business exists: Your brand statement is neither a vision statement nor a mission statement — it is what matters to your stakeholders and customers as well as the deeper purpose of your organization.
A brand statement sets a perfect future to reach for, driven by ethics and values — it goes beyond the money you want to earn. Ask yourself, “Why are you here?” and “How are you making the world a better place?” By answering these questions, you will find the inspiration from which you can build your brand statement.
Step 3: Build a story around that statement: Use the brand statement you developed in the previous step as the starting point for your brand story. Write a one-page (approximately) document to support it.
An effective brand narrative is succinct and tells the story of your brand, including where you came from and where you are headed. A brand story must be honest, authentic and true — if it’s too contrived, consumers will be able to quickly sniff out false information and may even penalize you for it.
A great brand story is also entrenched in purpose and passion. When there is a purpose behind your story, your audience will be more likely to engage. If written conversationally, it allows them to be part of your journey and make them aware of why you do what you do.
Other Tips: There are many ways you can choose to write your brand story — humor and sentimentality are two common ways to connect with your audience, as these allow consumers to relate with your brand. If you choose to take the sentimental route, make sure to use the correct words so your customers can feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
When setting the tone for your business and building a brand story, ensure that you project your customers as “heroes” in order to make them feel like the center of your brand.
Try to appeal to the feelings and emotions of your audience so they feel a deep attachment to your products and/or services. When things are entertaining for your customers, they are more likely to come back to your brand.
How Can You Expand the Reach of Your Stories?
If your brand story is good enough, it will most likely take care of itself. This is because a good story begs to be shared. That said, consider these pointers to enhance the virality of your brand story:
- Use your story to build your personal brand: Utilize your brand story to establish your own personal identity while creating branded content, and encourage your employees to do the same. Then, leverage these personal brands/identities to grow the viewership for your business’ branded content.
- Tell your story everywhere that you possibly can: Make your brand story part of who you are and what your company is. When you put your brand story out in the world, tell it everywhere you can, such as in your interviews, speeches, tweets, podcasts, guest posts and so on. Find ways to infuse the most interesting anecdotes you have into other forms of media to improve their reach, and infuse those with how your customers perceive your brand.
- Use social media to grow readership: Stories tend to perform better through the power of social media. Use snippets, quotes, excerpts and anecdotes to give your audience a sneak peek into the content of your story. Over time, you will build a presence and a brand that will live in the viewers’ social consciousness.
- Encourage your audience to tell your story: Customers love to promote the brands they love. More often than not, it is the story that attracts them to a company. So when you make your story part of your brand identity, you encourage your audience to share it.