How to Create an Effective Brand Story
Aug 2, 2021
More and more brands are embracing the power of storytelling, and rightfully so. From plain YouTube ads to their mission statement and vision, they see how stories captivate audiences and incite emotional investment. Nowhere can the power of storytelling better manifest itself than in brand stories. "Turn a profit", while pragmatic, doesn't make for a good story or a convincing one that resonates with customers. Optimistic tales of success don't suffice either. So, what goes into creating an effective brand story?
What's a brand story?
At its core, a "brand story" is simple enough; it's the story of a brand. It's the pillar of a brand's very identity and the answer to the existential question of why it's there. Moreover, it's part of what makes branded items resonate with their owners, as it imbues them with meaning. Like any story, it covers three key points in time as regards your brand's journey:
- Where and how it began
- How it progressed and thrived
- Where it is today and what the future holds
It's the answers to these fundamental questions that create an effective brand story. That's because these 3 points serve respective vital functions:
- Its origins humanize the brand, showing audiences the human element behind it
- Its progress informs the audiences' perspective on the brand's journey and values
- The present and future contextualize the brand's mission statement and vision
Like any story, taking one part away hampers the whole. That's why mission statements alone don't make for good brand stories; they're but 1 of 3 parts. They are conclusions promising a bright sequel without having earned it through buildup, conflict, and resolution. They're missing your origin story and the telling of your journey, which would make the conclusion impactful.
What are the benefits of an effective brand story?
Having touched on the functions of a brand story, let us briefly explore the benefits of a good one. Yes, a good story will captivate your audiences – but what benefits will that yield?
In brief, it will enhance the entirety of your sales funnel.
#1 More website traffic
Starting from the discovery phase, a good brand story will attract new visitors to your website. In an age where inbound marketing relies on authenticity, authentic, genuine stories will generate traffic where traditional ads won't. In this regard, consider how a compelling brand story can augment your social media strategies and SEO and PPC campaigns. Where these present your brand to new eyes, it's a captivating story that will convince them to actually care.
An effective brand story will convince more visitors your website is worth visiting.
#2 Deeper brand recognition
Similarly, on to the consideration phase, brand awareness and brand recognition don't rely on visuals alone. Visual recognition is imperative, yes, but how will it actually incite emotional investment? A brand logo in isolation is practically meaningless; it needs a psychological component of positive connotations to function. That's what an effective brand story offers – context to facilitate deeper brand recognition.
#3 Higher revenue
Finally, the two components above converge into the conversion phase. With both larger and more engaged audiences, more conversions and higher revenue can only follow.
Consider how loyal audiences spend more; relatable brands inspire loyalty. Similarly, consider how customer retention dwarfs customer acquisition in terms of cost-effectiveness; it is psychological investment that drives retention.
How to create an effective brand story
Now, concepts and benefits aside, how can you actually create an effective brand story? As with most marketing endeavors, the answer is to work smarter, not harder.
#1 Remember that it's a story
At its core, a brand story differs little from a conventional story. It needs the same attributes any grand tale does. So, we may briefly examine one of the largest, most impactful stories ever told in contemporary media; Game of Thrones. Regardless of how you felt for its divisive ending, Forbes asserted that it "contained one of the best speeches […] on the topic of storytelling."
In essence, a brand story is a story like any other.
The reason why, they say, the speech worked is because we're primed for storytelling from the age of campfires. In Game of Thrones, Bran preserved history – and, "[i]n the corporate world, storytellers keep the brand's history alive." Thus, in much the same way audiences care for a well-structured TV story, they will trust a brand whose history they know.
#2 Keep it brief
However, brand stories cannot mirror the story of Game of Thrones. They have neither the space nor the time for complex, deep narratives because the intended audiences need brevity. Thus, to create a captivating brand story, you must keep it brief, in line with your audiences' expectations. Consider the key questions highlighted above:
- Who are you?
- What called you to action?
- What does the future hold for you?
That's the fundamental structure an effective brand story needs, progressing through these questions to weave a tale. You may enrich it along the way, by all means, but always remember what your story needs to answer.
#3 Focus your brand origins on its people
With the above context in mind, you may start at the beginning. Audiences will seldom care for business contracts, loans, and long-term investments; they care for who you are. An effective brand story is the story of an entity, yes, but also the story of its people.
Thus, you may start with a compelling, human story. Who founded your brand and when? Where was it, and how did it come about? What was their background and occupation that informed this decision?
Still, despite this scope, it doesn't need to be complicated. The main goal of this section is twofold; present the human element behind the brand, and provide a convincing setting for your story. Everything else is secondary.
#4 Highlight the conflict
The next component, which is the most commonly overlooked one, is conflict. In the context of an effective brand story, this is the challenge your brand rises up to. It's your proverbial call to adventure – albeit one you can't refuse, unlike in literature.
Here, the conflict offers a glimpse into what your brand stands for in relation to the status quo. Consider such bare hypothetical examples as:
- "In an age where algorithms dictate copy, we wanted to revisit creativity and write for humans."
- "When inflated music equipment price tags can deprive musicians of their dreams, we decided to provide affordable options."
- "Having seen how clunky, unusable sites stifled our progress, we decided to focus on making websites user-friendly."
These are, of course, bare, single-sentence examples. However, they all highlight a call to action; why the brand came to be. It's this context that will make your mission statement matter, framing your vision for the future in relatable terms.
#5 Leverage the conclusion
Finally, you may now reach the story's resolution. At this stage, the audience knows who you are and why you steered your brand where it is. In human terms, then, your conclusion should answer the questions that sum up your mission:
- What solutions to the status quo do you propose?
- How do you differ from your competitors?
- What does the future hold for your brand?
Here, you may present your accomplishments. You may diversify yourself from the competition, framing your brand as one that cares for the causes it champions. This is what all previous steps were building up to, and only through them does this conclusion make sense. Knowing your history, values, conflict, and solutions, audiences may now embrace your future vision.
Having crafted a compelling brand story, you will then need to leverage it.
Still, it doesn't suffice to just create a powerful brand story. Having crafted it, you then need to leverage it:
- Share it on social media. Good stories thrive on social media and can frame your every campaign. Consider pictures of where it started or ones of your founding members.
- Have it inform your content. Your brand story should be a core aspect of who you are so that it can seep into your blogs, images, and more. Simply referencing it in passing can solidify a piece of content as genuine and true.
- Retell it. Should your brand reach the mainstream, you will be asked to retell your story. That's the clearest sign that it's actually effective, so never shy away from reciting it to incite engagement.
After all, every story worth telling should be told and used. There is no point in stashing your brand story away into your "about us" section when it can offer so much more.
In summary, brand stories relay a brand's past, present, and future. They answer the existential question of why it's here and frame its goals in relatable, human terms. To create an effective brand story, one only needs to remember it's a story like any other. It needs authenticity, personality, and wit. It requires a proper structure, complete with conflict and failure, to earn a convincing resolution. Finally, it needs to serve a purpose and keep its audiences' expectations in mind. It may be no easy task to take up, but the effort will be well worth it.