Whether you are in the business of selling soda, sneakers, or search results, if your marketing efforts are limited to describing the standout qualities of your products, you've already lost the sale.
It means you don't have an intentional brand storytelling strategy, and as a result, you're giving up sales to a competitor who already understands that we don't buy just products; we buy into stories that allow us to become who we want to be.
In this guide, we will discuss the fundamentals of brand storytelling.
If you prefer to listen to this guide:
What are brand stories? Why is brand storytelling important for business success? How do you tell your brand story in an authentic way that resonates with your consumers and leads to a successful business outcome?
These questions and more will be answered as we go over how to create a strong brand story and begin to craft a strategy to define memorable, unique branded content.
What is a brand story?
The most valuable asset your company has is your brand story. It's what differentiates you from your competitors. But it's also the hardest thing to get right.
The key to brand storytelling success can be boiled down into two words: authenticity and consistency. Just as important as having a unique story to tell is being able to tell it in many ways, over different channels, in a manner that remains consistent.
These are the tenets of brand storytelling that will help build your brand and ultimately boost business success in any industry.
Why does it matter?
Storytelling matters because it is the most powerful way to communicate what you do as an organization and why you do it. It's how you convey essential information about your brand, build brand loyalty and drive business success.
It matters because storytelling is how we communicate to each other on a deep level - stories connect us and inform our lives in ways that data can't.
They're also more memorable than bullet points or lists of features. Stories are exciting; they invite participation through listening, thinking, and feeling.
How do I use a brand story in practice?
Your brand story provides your company with a framework in which to create consistent content. It gives meaning to everything you produce—whether internal or external—and allows people who don't know much about your business to become interested in learning about and engaging with you.
A good brand story serves as a guide, a map personalized to each business that defines how you will connect with your audience and how your people will connect with your brand on an emotional level. It's important not just because it will help bring customers closer to you but also because brands need to be willing and able to adapt their narratives along with changes in social dynamics over time.
Storytelling also helps build trust among customers by humanizing the brand. It ultimately creates empathy and emotional connections between brand and customer through meaningful experiences - connections we form long before deciding whether or not we want to buy something from someone else.
Where can I find a brand storytelling template?
Brand storytelling is not rocket science (unfortunately). If it were, there might be a tangible pathway to success, paved with formulas. If you're here looking for a brand storytelling template, you're out of luck, because there isn't such a thing.
Brand storytelling is an approach, a way of thinking about your brand that guides the development and execution of all aspects of marketing. It requires you to abandon standard tropes like telling your founding story or origin story in favor of recognizing that brands are living, complex entities that have many stories to tell (and most of them are not actually about the brand).
Even though there are no formulas or templates, there are plenty of examples of successful brand story implementations that can serve as inspiration.
Nike is known as the brand that tells stories of athletes who have overcome obstacles, achieved greatness, and proven that anything is possible.
Nike has developed brand loyalty not just because they make quality shoes but also by telling compelling brand stories through their advertising campaigns. The classic example is their "Just Do It" campaign which focused on facing and overcoming personal challenges as a way to succeed in life. But they don't only tell stories about superstar athletes - their campaigns inspire through their ability to make all of us feel like we could achieve more.
Their core brand story - supporting and uplifting great athletes - also shines through timely moments like their support of Colin Kaepernick. The brand has been publicly vocal about its support of an athlete known for protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
Is brand storytelling the same as brand marketing?
Brand storytelling is more than just brand marketing - it's the keystone of your entire brand strategy, which includes the business (or product) story, positioning or point-of-view, customer experience, and brand voice.
You need to have a clear understanding of your brand before you even consider what type of content should go out under its umbrella.
First, you have to figure out who you're talking to and why they should care about what you say - then you figure out what stories to tell them to grab and hold their attention.
The three types of brand stories
At the core of a brand storytelling strategy belong three categories of stories:
- brand origin stories (the history of how you got started)
- brand identity stories (who you are and why)
- brand purpose stories (why you matter to your customers and the world).
Brand origin stories are the stuff of "about me" pages and company presentations. A fantastic founding story can be rocket fuel to a company.
Yvon Chouinard establishing Patagonia, or Oprah Winfrey's tale of being fired from her first TV job and the subsequent series of events that led to The Oprah Show, are excellent examples that reflect a brand's essence, direction, and excellence, in its origin story.
Many times, these stories reflect a rebel founder's distaste for the status quo and the bravery to do things differently. But origin stories aren't necessarily about the birth of a brand - they can also echo and underline how a company has historically responded to challenging times.
The origin stories brands share are not always about how something was created, but rather they highlight what business is all about: connecting with people and building lifelong relationships to drive positive change for both stakeholders and society as a whole.
Origin stories are an integral part of any successful brand strategy because they define where your brand comes from and why it needed to exist.
The brand identity story is an opportunity to build brand mythology: why were you founded? What do your founders believe in? This provides an opportunity for your brand to be placed into context, speaking directly with customers on what it values most and why they should care.
Brand identity stories are about putting brand values into action, bringing brand personality into focus, and creating a relationship between a company's purpose and customer identities and desires.
This type of story is about how your brand views itself in relation to society as whole or other brands on the market: what it stands for and why it matters. Identity stories highlight the impact a brand has had over its lifetime through meaningful changes made in response to societal challenges.
Dove built their brand identity around the idea of positive body image. Through its "Real Beauty" campaigns, the brand challenged social norms and sparked a global conversation about beauty standards.
This type of storytelling often focuses on a brand's philanthropic work or sustainability efforts, showing that it cares about the world. It's no longer sufficient for companies to self-promote as ethical and socially responsible - they also connect with people on an emotional level by giving back through meaningful contributions that inspire customers to make change in their communities or create broader social impact.
With these stories, brands can not only craft an emotional connection with their customers and create competitive differentiation from other brands.
Brand purpose stories are possibly the most misunderstood of the three. A brand's stated purpose, values, and mission should be reflected in origin and identity stories. But purpose stories should focus on the customer more than the brand.
A key story you need to tell is how your product or service makes life better for people. That's the brand story that differentiates and sells - the narrative that engages potential customers, brings them into the fold, and builds a relationship with them over time.
That kind of brand storytelling can't be implemented in a few minutes; it takes careful study of your customers to understand what works best. It's an investment in both creativity and data-driven decision-making. And most importantly, it's not done overnight. Brand stories take years to build.
In order to tell these stories effectively (and with authenticity), businesses have to constantly invite and spotlight success stories from their customers.
It is a given that brands should be able to clearly articulate why they matter and how they're making life better. But to build authentic connections with consumers and reinforce brand loyalty, you have to bring your customers on stage and tell their stories.
Ultimately, brand storytelling is important because we connect to emotion over data, experiences over product features, and people over companies.
Brand storytelling is the keystone to success in business because it not only defines how your company stands out in the marketplace but is the bedrock for emotional connection with a customer.