As the digital sphere becomes ever-more crowded, brands are scrabbling over each other in the race to distinguish themselves. To stand out. To be relatable, unique, powerful, and (arguably most importantly) successful. Unsurprisingly, many brands are turning to a force of incredible power that’s been selling people on all manner of nonsense (religion, politics, war, Brexit) since time immemorial.
Yes, I’m talking about storytelling.
You’ll forgive me for being a fraction biased and a little over-zealous on this subject, being as I am an author (of both fiction and non-fiction).
But more and more brands are coming to recognise to inescapable and compelling draw of corporate storytelling. The likes of Coca-Cola and Disney have long-since made the spinning of a good yarn the core of all their marketing. And to great effect (come on, it’s not Christmas until you see that kid chase after the coke truck).
Powerful stories are what make iconic brands so ineffable. Apple, for example, have a brand story that’s tantamount to legend, and it pays off.
There’s a reason they’re one of the fastest growing companies of all time.
But What Is A Brand Story, Really?
How exactly does a great story develop your brand into an authentic, powerful force?
And, more to the point, how does having a brand story give prospective customers that warm fuzzy feeling of trust they all crave?
A brand story is essentially a launching platform for your ideas. It’s a supercharger for your marketing. A catalyst for innovation. It tethers you to a unique identity while simultaneously allowing you to explore uncharted territory, and do things in a way nobody has ever done before. Even if you’re working in an overcrowded, generic market.
While the word ‘story’ conjures images of leather bound tomes and nights by the fireplace, your brand’s tale can exist in any format. It could be a book, or simply a page on your website. At its best, it will exist in multiple place and multiple formats that span every aspect of your marketing (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
It’s not only vital to have a compelling brand story for your marketing. A strong tale will unite and empower your team, allowing them to be more effective, and derive greater satisfaction from their jobs. You’ll find them less likely to move on if they’ve bought into (and feel a part of) the brand story you’ve crafted.
In essence, a powerful brand story will spark growth in your business, from new ideas, to marketing it with real purpose, to innovative ways of delivering your products and services, and creative solutions that allow you to excel where customer satisfaction is concerned.
A consistent narrative will do wonders for every aspect of your business.
Tale As Old As Time…
Human beings have been communicating in stories since they first wandered out of the cave, looked up at the sky, and wondered what the sun was. Stories captivate our attention, and we always learn best when lessons are squirreled away within an interesting anecdote, cautionary tale, or fable.
So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the best leaders, speakers, entrepreneurs, CEOs and managers are also exceptional storytellers.
Well, simply put, great brands have stories that effectively articulate their message, ethos, and the value of what they have to offer, in a manner just as compelling as your favourite show to binge on Netflix.
Great brands tell stories. And they do so authentically.
In the modern digital world of mass flash mobs, viral videos, and hashtags, customers ally themselves with the brand that tells the best story. The brand that has a unique perspective on something they need or care about.
A brand that acts like the charismatic hero of its industry.
Everyone loves a good hero. And the great thing about creating a hero brand is the legions of fans that flock to you like you’re Chris Hemsworth.
All the best stories have heroes.
For the sake of simplicity I’m going to use ‘hero’ in a gender neutral manner from here on out, just as I would say ‘actor’!
Becoming A Hero Brand…
So how exactly does having a brand story make you a hero? Well, firstly, you need to have a powerful brand story.
It’s not a case of any story will do.
If you’re able to brand your marketing using an authentic tale that’s truly engaging, it will reach people on a very deep level.
That’s where the magic happens.
That’s what makes stories so incredibly potent, persuasive, and influential.
The best stories never die. People keep telling them forever.
Take the tale of Achilles as just one example. Homer originally wrote The Illiad sometime in the 8th century BC. That’s c. 2800 years we’ve been regaling each other with stories of Troy, and using the idiom ‘Achilles’ heel’ to indicate a person’s fatal flaw. It’s such a strong story, the term has become ubiquitous and Holywood spits out a new movie every few years.
Prospects decide whether to buy into your business based on the strength of your brand’s narrative.
They may not realise it, but they do.
The human mind responds in a unique way to stories, which makes them incredibly powerful as communication tools. Stories affect us deeply, and influence both our motor and sensory cortex.
To hear a story is to experience a feeling, and sync our minds up to the subject of the tale.
It’s called neural coupling, and forms a bond between you and your audience that’s difficult (if not impossible) to achieve through any other means. The brain of your reader or viewer will mirror your actions and naturally want to do what your story encourages them to do.
If that sounds a little brainwashy, don’t worry. You’re not tricking them.
You’re simply showing them they can trust you.
And trust is the holy grail of marketing.
So how do you create a compelling brand story for your business?
All The Best Heroes Have An Origin Story…
If you’re a fan of comic books (Marvel girl, here), then you already know that all the best heroes have origin stories. Becoming a hero brand necessitates the creation of an origin story – a tale that explains where you can from, and by extension where you are, and where you’re going.
An effective origin story will underpin your whole narrative and ensure you come across as consistent, authentic, trustworthy and…well, heroic.
Consider the point at which the spark for your business ignited. Where did the idea come from? What motivated you to found your company?
Remember, life isn’t all sunshine and buttercups, and no business started without hitting a few stumbling points. Tap into those struggles. Use them to demonstrate that you truly understand where your ideal clients currently are: you’ve been there yourself; you know just how to fix it…
Getting totally honest about how it all began can feel uncomfortable, but it’s well worth it. Just look at the success Sophia Amoruso has achieved for Nasty Gal by telling her story.
And that involved shoplifting in order to stock her startup!
Dig Down To Your Core ‘Why?’
Exactly why does your business exist?
Understanding the ‘why’ of your business is essential for effective business development. But simply knowing the ‘why?’ (and believe me, I know, that can be tricky to figure out to begin with) isn’t enough. A huge part of that is having a story that clearly articulates that the full meaning behind what you do.
Making money is all well and good (it’s why we call it business after all), but there has to be more to it than that. Partly for the sake of finding any kind of fulfillment in life, but largely because the ‘making money’ thing doesn’t work if you’re only in it for the moolah.
People can see a business out to make green at their expense a mile away. They’ll run for the hills the second they see you coming.
But if you stand for something, if you believe in something, if you make other people believe it, and feel good about that belief, they’ll never go anywhere else.
Even if somewhere else is selling exactly the same stuff. Even if the competition is cheaper, closer, or more convenient.
Knowing your ‘why?’ and weaving it through your brand story will compel people to follow you.
You’ll be their hero.
And we all love to worship our heroes.
It’s All In The Personality…
I said before, all the best stories have heroes. And heroes are really just characters. Charismatic, compelling characters with irresistible personalities.
So who is your brand? What’s it like to hang out with them? Are they your best friend? A figure of authority, a mentor? Are they fun, quirky and utterly unpredictable? Or are they serious but caring, the kind of person you’d come to for a willing ear and some sage advice?
Your brand story should be driven by personality. That doesn’t mean your personality (although it can be, and certainly for entrepreneurs it frequently needs to be).
Don’t think of your brand story as part of your marketing materials, a sales pitch, or an ad campaign.
Think of it as a living, breathing personality that’s larger than life and inspiring to be around.
Stories that lack character or focus on two-dimensional personalities are boring. They won’t attract or retain readers, and they won’t achieve your objective.
People trust people. They follow people. Give them a hero they can adore.
Create An Overarching Narrative…
When you’re crafting your brand story, consider the bigger picture. People can’t follow you unless you’re actually going somewhere.
They need a journey.
It begins with your origins but it doesn’t end there. Remember, the goal here is to form a lasting relationship with your readers. To keep your audience coming back to you again and again.
For that you need an overarching narrative – a plot.
Just as you’ve looked at challenges you’ve already overcome and worked them into the narrative, consider the obstacles that lie ahead. What’s the end-goal, and what’s likely to hinder you getting there?
People follow heroes not so much for their triumphs, but for the extent to which they had to struggle to achieve them.
The payoff at the end of the film is great, but it wouldn’t have that feel-good effect if we hadn’t watched Thor duking it out with Loki fighting tooth and nail to get there, suffering losses, and growing along the way.
Your story is constantly evolving, be sure to include your audience in the journey. Share updates, triumphs, failures, tease upcoming chapters, and throw in a good twist occasionally.
What Goes Into A Brand Story?
That’s all well and good, but you’re probably wondering exactly what you should include in a brand story. Well, there are a few things:
The Killer Tagline…
Creating a short, pithy statement that perfectly sums up why your brand exists is incredibly powerful. You may have one, or several that you use interchangeably, all conveying the same core message. Don’t confuse this with your mission statement (in fact, don’t confuse your brand story in general with a mission statement). It’s not about what you aim to achieve.
It’s about who you are, in a nutshell.
If you’re struggling, consider this: how are you making the world a better place for your customers? Give them a vivid, visceral, and very easily remembered line to explains how you’re going to transform their lives.
The Short Pitch…
Think of this as the flash fiction of your brand story. It’s the summary on your business’ LinkedIn page, the ‘About’ section on Facebook, the bio on Twitter and Instagram. It should appear as the description of your company on every employee’s LinkedIn profile and other professional platforms. It’s the mini ‘about’ section when you need it for your website, guest posts, pitches, and proposals.
The Long Pitch…
This is the full whammy. It’s likely that the only place this will ever appear is on your About page, and you may not need it all even there (brevity is often the better course of valour!). But it’s important to have it written up and part of your brand guidelines.
One reason to have the full version on paper (or rather, the Cloud) is that it’s a reference point for anyone creating content, and there will be elements that can be pulled out and worked into everything. Your highlights should be peppered through all your copy, from landing pages to blog posts, social media updates, newsletter and beyond. It should infuse everything you write, not by dominating it, but simply by being a touchpoint you refer to whenever it naturally fits in.
Annoying as buzzwords are they’re incredibly useful from a storytelling perspective. Once you have your full brand story written, pick out the words that best exemplify your brand values and ethos (for example, Acrylic’s are ‘Creativity’, ‘Innovation’ and ‘Growth’). Not only can you use these as literal focal points in your copy (check out our homepage if you don’t believe me….) they help make your marketing message cohesive.
Buying The Story, Not The Product…
You want to make your readers part of the story – that’s what will keep them hooked. But at the end of the day we’re in this for profit.
They need to buy the story, not just listen to it.
Making your clients feel like buying your product or service makes them a part of the heroic narrative they’re hooked on is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve sales and repeat business.
One of the best examples I’ve ever seen of this is from Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand that takes this concept to a whole other level. Their clothing products are described as ‘worn wear’ – hardy items that can be worn for years without getting worn out. They’ve made their products the heroes in their own story, and by purchasing a piece of worn wearn from Patagonia you become a character in that story.
You become the hero you worship.
Pretty compelling, right?
Once you have your story you need to tell it. And you need to tell it well.
There’s still a lot to be said for the written word, but the modern digital age is dominated by multimedia approaches. Video has been the rising star of marketing for a while now and is only going to more important to your success.
Telling your brand story in video form is a no-brainer.
But there are many other ways you can convey the character of your hero brand, simply by choosing the right media.
Consider the possibilities that come with podcasts, animation, virtual reality, or even augmented reality.
The truly savvy marketer thinks outside the box, particularly when it comes to your brand story. If you really want a hero brand, choose something in keeping with your superpower.
Personally I’m a huge fan of driving brand awareness and telling your story through quirky animations or (my personal favourite) comics.
I told you, I’m a Marvel girl.
Joking aside, comics are actually the perfect medium for conveying a brand that’s approachable, trustworthy, a little less corporate and slick, a little more fun and rough around the edges.
If that’s in keeping with your superpower, you’re onto a winner. If not, what form of content will best represent the personality of your brand?
Just remember, the whole aim here is to be heard. Which means diversity is your friend. Try everything, see what works best for your brand and audience.
Ready To Become The Hero Of Your Industry?
Brand stories are incredibly powerful. They’re compelling, have a life of their own, and are fully capable of establishing you as the hero of your industry, if they’re done well.
If you’re desperate for a powerful tale all of your own but have no idea where to start, don’t worry.
That’s what we’re here for!
At Acrylic we offer a full range of digital marketing services to businesses in Northwich and the surrounding areas of Cheshire and the North West. We excel at spinning a good yarn and getting it out there in creative and innovative ways. Book a free, no-obligation consultation today to find out how we can turn your brand into a hero worshiped by your industry.
Our Head of Marketing, Hazel Butler, is an award-winning author, copywriter, and editor. Part ghostwriter, part blogger, part videographer, and part strategist, when she’s not endlessly penning content for our clients Hazel’s happily concocting the perfect marketing plans to propel their businesses forward.
Get to know her...