five strategies for developing a brand story.

 

  • Hero and guide.
  • Problem and solution.
  • Success and celebration.
  • Beliefs and values.
  • Emotion and connection.

 

PHILOSOPHY ON STORY TELLING

I have never been a consistent exponent of story-telling. That said, I understand its importance and have drafted brand stories for many organisations over the last 20 tears. Readers of this newsletter and listers of my podcasts we notice more stories in the months and years ahead. My philosophy on brand stories can be summarised as follows:

  • Stories lie at the heart of what it is to be human.
  • Effective brand stories are all about the customer – not the brand.
  • A brand story is central to connecting with consumers, staff, and other stakeholders.

The latter two of these statements are addressed in some detail later in this missive. The first, I will comment on here.

Yuval Noah Harari (one of the great thinkers of our time), in his book Sapiens observes that human stories are among the few things that set human beings apart from other animals. All human civilisations are built on stories. Stories have been used since the beginning of mankind to pass on critical information from generation to generation. Stories determine how we live today and govern our behaviour. Harari notes that money without the story behind it has no value. Stories are in effect part of the human DNA. They are reflected in every aspect of life.

BRAND STORY DEFINED

A brand story has been defined as:

  • A cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand or business.

 Brand story telling has been defined as:

  • using narratives to create an emotional, value-driven connection between your customers and your brand.

 Here is an example of a great brand story for one of the world’s leading brands – told in a short video: https://www.sutter-group.com/brand-storytelling-by-google/ . In just 60 seconds it communicated the essence of the Google brand – just as a brand story should be communicated.

RATIONALE FOR A BRAND STORY

When developing a brand, few things are more important than the brand story. It is the key to engaging, connecting, relating to and influencing:

  • Staff.
  • Consumers.
  • Stakeholders.

Human beings are hardwired to listen to, engage with and remember stories, and here is just some of the evidence:

  • Storytelling can boost conversion rates by 30%.
  • Facts are approximately 22 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story
  • If people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy the product in future,
  • 44% of consumers will share the brand story, and 15% will buy the product immediately
  • 62% of B2B marketers regard storytelling as an effective contentmarketing tactic

Every brand should have a short, easy to communicate, relatable and inspiring brand story.In the words of Plato:

  • ‘Those who tell stories rule society.’

A more contemporary and marketing commentator Seth Godin said:

  • “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

 Godin is right!

 APPLICATIONS OF A BRAND STORY

There is absolutely no merit in listing your values on your website. Indeed, doing so is more harmful than helpful. If you have to list your values – it can appear that you are not living them – because if you are living them, you should not have to list them – and no one believes you anyway. However, your brand story should be on your website – which may well reflect your values. A brand story can and should be communicated:

  • On your website.
  • In your annual report.
  • In your commercials.
  • In your social media.
  • In your corporate video.
  • In your speeches.
  • Wherever you communicate.

The words may vary from application to application – but the story should remain consistent. The brand story needs to be consistently embedded in all communication.

Highlighting the importance of a brand story in all of these applications, Donald Miller notes:

  • ‘Story brand will help you build a brand that connects with your customers and helps them understand what makes you different.’

STRATEGIES FOR YOUR BRAND STORY

The optimum brand story – includes a hero and a guide, a problem and a solution, success and celebration; beliefs and values; emotions and connection. Each of these issues is addressed here:

HERO AND A GUIDE

Every great story needs a hero – but in the optimum brand story – that hero is NOT the brand or the business. The hero in every great brand story is a personification of the target market. To quote Ken Okonek:

  • ‘Story brand marketing is showing our customers that we also believe they are the most important character in the story.’

Ultimately the goal is to have members of the target market identify as the hero in a similar way that when we read the symptoms of a disease online – we often feel we have the disease. This draws the hero – the target market into the brand’s orbit and helps them to identify with it.

Every great story also needs a guide. Just as Edmund Hillary (the hero of Mount Everest) needed Tenzing Norgay to guide him to the summit, the hero in your brand story needs a guide to identify and find the optimum solution to their problem. To quote Donald Miller:

  • ‘Everybody wants to be taken somewhere. If we don’t tell people where we’re taking them, they’ll engage another brand.’
  • ‘Nearly every human being is looking for a guide (or guides) to help them win the day.’

Your brand story needs to establish your brand as the one best equipped to help the customer identify their problem, find a solution, solve the problem, and live happily ever after – delivering to the customer each of their expectations and more.

PROBLEM AND A SOLUTION

The optimum brand story identifies the problem that confronts the hero. Just as when we are ill, we need a diagnostician or GP to identify our ailment, so a consumer needs a guide to locate or, at the very least, identify with their problem. Customers or potential customers seek a guide to identify with their inner problems and empathise with them. Again, to quote Donald Miller:

  • ‘Almost all companies try to sell solutions to external problems, but customers are much more motivated to resolve their inner frustrations.’
  • ‘When we empathise with our customers’ dilemma, we create a bond of trust. People trust those who understand them and brands that understand them too.’

Having identified the problem, the brand story needs to identify the solution – positioning its own solution as the optimum solution. It is, after all, the solution that the target market is being asked to buy. The best solutions tend to be those that are authentic and credible. Michael Margolis suggested:

  • ‘Storytelling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.’ Once again, Donald Miller notes:
  • ‘The key is to make your company’s message about something that helps the customer survive and to do so in such a way that they can understand it without burning too many calories.’It is essential to identify the problem the consumer wants to solve and the solution the customer will relate to. Again, this requires a thorough and in-depth understanding of the target market.

SUCCESS AND CELEBRATION.

A great brand story paints a picture of what success looks like – or in other words – what life or a specific situation looks like when the solution solves the problem. Some brand stories identify both the positive and negative outcomes:

  • What happens if the customer does not buy the solution.
  • What happens if the customer does buy the solution.

Both can contribute to the brand story – but the second – what success looks like – is the most important. On the first, Donald Miller suggests:

  • ‘Simply put, we must show people the cost of not doing business with us.’

On the second point, Miller notes:

  • ‘The goal for our branding should be that every potential customer knows exactly where we want to take them.’
  • ‘Brands that help customers avoid some kind of negativity in life (and let their customers know what that negativity is) engage customers for the same reason good stories captivate an audience: they define what’s at stake.’

Once success has been delivered, many people want to celebrate that success. The brand story often celebrates success. Brand stories often illustrate how consumers feel when they experience success. Many brands demonstrate this by illustrating how others will see the customer after making a purchase. Johan Sachs notes:

  • ‘The stories that spread today empower us and give us belief in our heroic potential.’Tell your customer what success looks like and inspire them to purchase by highlighting how it might be celebrated. ‘Things go better with Coke’ – remember the young people celebrating on the beach after buying a Coke.

BELIEFS AND VALUES

Research highlights the importance of beliefs and values in a brand. Consumers in 2022 want to do business with brands that share their beliefs and values. Consider:

  • 71% of consumers prefer buying from companies aligned with their values.
  • 64% of consumers will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.

 

 To quote Edelman:

  • ‘Belief-driven buyers are now the majority across markets, including the US (59 per cent, up 12 points), Japan (60 per cent, up 21), the UK (57 per cent, up 20) and Germany (54 per cent, up 17); age groups, 18-34 (69 per cent), 35-54 (67 per cent) and 55+ (56 per cent); and income levels, low (62 per cent), middle (62 per cent) and high (69 per cent).’

Given the importance of beliefs and values, the ideal brand story incorporates, or at the very least reflects, the core beliefs and values of the brand. Beliefs and values are the starting point for a customer to identify with and establish a brand’s relationship. That said – it is naff in the extreme to list values and beliefs in a brand story – or in any promotion. These beliefs and values must be reflected – not articulated – in the brand story.

EMOTIONS AND CONNECTION

While facts and figures are important, emotions are essential for establishing a connection between the brand and members of its target market. An emotional connection is central to establishing a solid brand and central to developing a compelling brand story. Without emotion – there is no connection, and without a connection, there is no brand loyalty. To quote Gayatri Jhaveri Patel:

  • ‘Creative storytelling and emotional connection are the most important elements in keeping brands alive.’
  • ‘Because 90% of purchasing choices are done unconsciously, and 89% of customers have no personal connection to the companies they purchase. This implies that attempting to develop an emotional connection is a great way to set your company apart from its competitors.’
  • ‘Compared to rivals that do not have an emotional component to their brand, brands with an emotional component are more likely to be seen favourably by their customers. Using emotions in your branding and marketing can help you create loyal, life-long brand ambassadors.’

Perhaps there is no better way to communicate emotions and create a brand than a brand story.

CRITICAL ISSUES 

The critical issues to be addressed in developing the optimum brand story include:

  • Structure – a beginning, middle and end.
  • Context – a perspective the market understands.
  • Relevance – relatable for the target market.
  • Inspiration – causing the target market to act.
  • Empathy – demonstrating an understanding of the market.
  • Emotion – is the essential element of a true connection.

A great brand story will inevitably be:

  • Customised – to the brand and the audience.
  • Researched – reflecting an understanding of the customer.
  • Authentic – an accurate reflection of reality.
  • Meaningful – rather than a list of buzzwords.
  • Understandable – in language, the market understands.
  • Short – absent of platitudes and taciturn.

Creating the optimum brand story is not easy – but it is important.

WELL-KNOWN BRAND STORIES

Perhaps the best-known brand story is that developed by Steve Jobs and Chiat Day for APPLE in 1984:

Here is an account of the strategy behind it – CLICK HERE

Another brand that has mastered the art of storytelling is IKEA:

A third brand that uses storytelling very effectively is NIKE:

My brand story is as follows:

Return on investment in marketing is maximised when the customer is at the centre of the strategic planning process. Many businesses claim to be customer focused, but few are – resulting in higher marketing costs and a lower average customer lifetime value. 

A customer-focused business has risen above intuition to understand why consumers do what they do and how to cause them to do what is needed to realise the brand’s potential. I work with clients to leverage the power of consumer behaviour to maximise their ROI in marketing. 

INSIGHTS

  1. The optimum brand story has a hero (the customer) and a guide (the brand).
  2. The optimum brand story has a problem (driver) and a solution (the brand).
  3. The optimum brand story highlights and celebrates success.
  4. The optimum brand story communicated core beliefs and values.
  5. The optimum brand story engages the emotion and establishes a connection.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

RECOMMENDED READING

TIPS

  1. To create a great brand story – make the customer the story’s hero.
  2. To create a great brand story – identify the problem and the solution.
  3. To create a great brand story – define success and celebrate it. 
  4. To create a great brand story – communicate your beliefs and values.
  5. To create a great brand story – establish a strong emotional connection.

 

QUESTIONS

  1. Given that – 80% of consumers are interested in a brand’s story, what is yours?
  2. Given that – 44% of consumers will share a brand story, how well is yours being shared?
  3. Given that – storytelling can boost conversion rates by 30%, how does your brand story feature in your strategy to maximise conversion rates? 
  4. Given that – 53% of consumers are happy to read or view a brand-sponsored story, how are you using brand stories in your social media?
  5. Given that – 62%of B2B marketers regard storytelling as an effective content marketing tactic – how does your communication strategy leverage your brand story?

STATISTICS

  • 55% of consumers hearing a brand story are likely to buy the product in future.
  • 15% of consumers hearing a brand story are likely to buy immediately.
  • 44% of consumers will share a brand story.
  • 62%of B2B marketers regard storytelling as an effective content marketing tactic.
  • 80% of consumers are interested in a brand’s story.

Return on investment in marketing is maximised when the customer is at the centre of the strategic planning process. Many businesses claim to be customer focused, but few are – resulting in higher marketing costs and a lower average customer lifetime value.

A customer-focused business has risen above intuition to understand why consumers do what they do and how to cause them to do what is needed to realise the brand’s potential. I work with clients to leverage the power of consumer behaviour to maximise their ROI in marketing. 

 

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