Finding your brand story
We are storytelling animals. From cave drawings to folk tales, to ghost stories around campfires. Stories are - and always have been - how we communicate. We connect through stories. They are how we make sense of the world. Stories shape us. They change us. They tell us who we were, who we are, and who we want to become.
Stories are powerful because they access the emotional part of your brain. You stop rationalising, let down your defences and allow yourself to be swept up. To fall in love. That’s why a good story, told right, is the most powerful tool in the world. Successful brands know this. They use stories to make customers fall in love with their brand. And you can too.
How to find your brand story.
Step one: Ask yourself some questions.
Finding your story can seem like a challenge. Here are some quick questions you can ask yourself to spark ideas, based on David Sloly’s seven ideas for your first business story in Why You Need a Business Story and How to Create It.
1. Purpose Story: Why your brand is doing what it’s doing?
2. Risk Story: What risks have you taken?
3. Vision Story: What is your vision is for the brand’s future?
4. Customer Stories: Who are your customers; what are their experiences?
5. Launch Story: How did your brand begin?
6. Founder Story: How and why you started the business?
7. Leadership Story: How are you leading the brand now?
Jot down one or two lines for each. Choose the one you responded to most as your starting point. These stories can overlap, they are springboards rather than restrictions.
Example: The Hiut Denim Company
The Purpose Story*: Hiut want to bring jeanmaking back to the town of Cardigan. On their website they proudly proclaim ‘our town is going to make jeans again.’
*N.B. Hiut also uses the risk story, the launch story and the founder story of David Hieatt. Successful brands tell lots of stories at once. Start with one and see how your ideas evolve.
Step two: Find the facts.
A good story is told succinctly. Gather the essential facts. The whos, whats, wheres, hows and, most importantly, the whys. Cut information that does not move your story forwards. If it’s not relevant to your brand and how your brand is evolving: Leave it out.
Step three: Shape the story.
Probe your facts. Find the emotion and heighten this to bring your story to life. Always, keep in mind who your target audience is and what you want them to feel.
Step four: Show, don’t tell.
Know how you’d like your customers to feel but never tell them to feel it. Present your story in a way your audience can engage with and let them make up their own minds. As filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, WALL-E) puts it: “We respond much better when we are given 2+2, rather than 4.” When you let people make up their own minds about your story and your brand the effect is much more powerful.
Example. Toms Shoes blog series #travelingTOMS
In the aptly titled ‘Stories’ section of their website, there is a series of #travelingTOMS blog posts. These are interviews and photographs of customers who wear Toms. Through the stories of their customers, Toms are able to highlight their core values subtly, in a way that shows rather than tells. Potential customers can see how Toms relates to their lives. The brand becomes more relevant, and they’re more likely to make purchases.
Step five: Decide on a form.
You can tell your story through words, images, video. The most important thing is to make sure whatever form you use is one your target audience will engage with and enjoy.
Step six: Know where to tell your story.
A good story is nothing if it’s not shared. There have never been so many ways to connect. So whether it’s your website, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube or Instagram; each story has a place. If you want help deciding which channel could be most useful to you check out our ‘Quick Guide To Digital Video Marketing Channels’.
It’s the shares, likes and tweets that will ensure your story has impact. As Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton point out in Valuable Content Marketing: Good stories resonate. If customers like your story they will promote your business for you.
Stories matter and successful brands use them to connect with their customers. There are many different types of brand story, and the most successful brands use several types simultaneously. Once you’ve decided on your story, establish the facts, bring out the emotion and, always remember: show don’t tell. Use a form your customers will engage with and put your story somewhere they will see it. Earn attention by demonstrating your passion, dedication and vision. Make your story one your customers want to share. The rewards will be beyond compare.