Storytelling is not just another buzzword. There’s a good reason for its popularity among brands and entrepreneurs. It’s the one thing everyone has in common – we all have a story. Businesses have the advantage of perfecting their brand story and using it as a marketing tool to communicate their vision and purpose to the world.
One thing that 90% of the world’s most successful brands have in common is that they know how to tell a compelling story. They know how to transport an audience into a narrative that is bigger than them, and connect with them on a personal level.
Here’s how to write a brand story that moves customers and compels them to purchase from you. In this complete guide, we’ll cover the esesntial story framework, why brand stories work so well, and examples of stories that you can use as inspiration for your own brand story.
What is a brand story?
A brand story summarizes the series of events that led up to your company’s founding, and signifies how that narrative still motivates your brand’s mission now.
A brand story is not:
- A super long, five-page essay about your company
- A fragmented view into your business
- A PR stunt or tool reserved for the marketing team
- A tactic to manipulate people and customers
Then, what is a brand story? It’s the way you tell customers who you want to be – who you’ve been, who you are, and who you will become. It is much more than just a souped-up version of the “about us” section of your website. Rather, it’s a digestible and creative way to communicate your brand identity and get buy-in.
A great brand story shapes and defines your brand’s relationship with every major stakeholder and customer – providing an opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level.
Why your company needs a brand story
Now that you understand what counts as a brand story, it’s time to break down why your company needs one. Here are our top five reasons why you should write a brand story.
1. Brand storytelling makes you stand out.
What makes you better than the rest? There’s a reason why your product or service is unique, and people want to know about it.
You might see it as boasting, but it’s a vital part of your brand’s story. How your brand came about, grew, learned, and chose to stand for – are more attractive to your target audience than you think.
2. It humanizes your brand.
Everyone loves an underdog. Sharing your personal story provides your audience with a chance to connect with you in a whole new way.
Unfortunately, most brands focus their storytelling on features and miss the opportunity to make a personal impact on their customers. Making your brand story a little more transparent is a great way to build more authentic relationships with your audience.
3. It helps you communicate your value.
The most iconic brands use story-branding to ingrain their beliefs, core values, and emotions into your psyche. Story-branding is a brand strategy that is slightly different than your brand story – with businesses putting their brand’s beliefs and deeper meaning before their customer to evoke a strong emotional connection. A great example of this is Nike, “Just do it.” While this a “value first” tactic, the meaning and beliefs behind it are the same as their brand story, just amplified.
4. It helps you attract the right people.
Authentic brand storytelling allows you to communicate more than just what you do. It helps you simplify your mission, and makes it easier for people who are moved by that mission to connect with you. This not only helps you connect with potential customers, but helps you attract potential employees as well.
5. It helps you build trust in your brand.
All of the above elements make brand stories a great way to build trust in your brand. The human element, focus on values, and stand-out features of your brand are wrapped up in a way that’s easy for your ideal customers to process. Plus, people interact with, and react to, stories in a way that they don’t react to any other information your brand may present.
Here’s more on why brand stories are such a compelling way to build trust, based on the way our brain processes stories.
Why are brand stories so effective for building trust?
When we receive information in a business setting, such as a report or hear statistics, the Broca and Wernicke areas of the brain are activated. These two parts of the brain are where a majority of our language processing is performed, but not much else is happening in these areas.
But something fascinating happens when we hear a story. While the Broca and Wernicke areas are activated, a wide variety of other areas, such as our sensory and motor cortex, are activated as well. In fact, when we read a story, the events in the story activate the same parts of the brain as if the experience was real.
This synchronizing of our mind and story is known as neural coupling. When our brain sees or hears an interesting story, our neurons fire in the same patterns as the storyteller’s, allowing brands to connect with their audience in a dynamic and interactive way.
A good story can trigger the release of oxytocin (aka the feel-good chemical) or cortisol (the stress chemical). This explains the adrenaline you feel watching an action film and the feeling of joy when two lovers finally get their happy ever after at the end of a good book.
And different mediums can affect how we perceive stories in different ways. For example, a video can trigger emotional contagion, which is when our emotional response mirrors what we see on the screen. Similarly, listening to a podcast or TedTalk could trigger mirroring, where our brain activity mirrors that of the speaker.
But it isn’t just about pretty pictures and a nice voice. At its core, the story itself is all that matters. When you can create a compelling brand story, people naturally connect with your brand, whether it’s a story about how your company was founded or the story of how your product or service improves customer’s lives.
Finding your brand’s voice and crafting a unique brand story is one of the most effective ways to attract, engage, and encourage your audience to build a relationship with your brand.
Questions to ask before crafting your brand’s story
Although a brand story is a compelling trust-builder, you’ll only be able to write an effective one if you’ve given deep thought to your brand’s purpose and how customers can relate to it. Ask and answer these questions first to lay the foundations for a strong brand story.
1. Who are you?
Your business isn’t some faceless drone. A real person (you) or some people created it – they work in your office, provide your service, and run your marketing. Put a face to your brand to give it some more personality (ideally, your customer).
2. What do you do?
Think beyond your product or service page. Ask yourself, are there any unique features that would drive the most value for my customer? Are there any hidden benefits that customers have found? Are there any creative ways I can showcase my main feature/benefit?
3. Who do you do it for?
Think about why you want to help your ideal customer. Why do you care about them? How do you want to help them? Think of your brand story as a fairytale – they are the hero, and you are their guide/sidekick.
4. Why do you do it?
Whether you’re a startup or been in business for a hundred years, there’s a reason why your company exists. Think about all the ways to share your “brand heart,” which is made up of your brand’s vision, mission, purpose, values, and the causes you care about.
5. How do you do it?
Do you use some form of new technology? Are your materials eco-friendly? Is there some form of innovation in your process?
Much like your mission statement, people want to know what you do, who you serve, and most importantly – how you do it. Creating this type of content is a great way to both educate and provide the transparency that many users crave.
6. What does your future look like?
Think of all the ways to show how your brand is evolving. What you’re working on next or towards, and how you plan to assist your users in the future. Creating this kind of content generates excitement and invites people to build a long-term relationship with your brand.
Essential elements of a brand story
Now that you’ve asked the right questions, you’ll need to make sure your story relates to the audience you want to reach. Here are the elements that you’ll need to cover in your brand story:
- Who you set out to help
- Your mission and brand values, as well as actions you take that reflect them
- Key benefits of your brand/products/services (both functional and emotional)
- The driving forces behind your brand (why you do what you do)
- The pain points or problems customers face, and how your products/services solve your customers’ problems (the “conflict and resolution” elements)
- Factors that make you different from other companies in your niche
- Elements that show your brand personality
- Elements that appeal to customers’ emotions
- Vivid details that stick in your audience’s minds
- Elements that are highly shareable, to encourage customers to tell your story to their friends
Remember, though, that even with all these elements, you’ll need to keep your story simple. Cut the fluff – only include elements that serve your brand’s purpose.
How to write a brand story: 5 easy steps to success
Your brand story can positively influence the way consumers feel about your business better than any other method or marketing strategy.
If you can make your audience feel how you intended, their behavior will follow. A person buying your product is a natural response to how your messaging makes them feel about your brand.
Personality drives the story, but your story shouldn’t be about a specific individual. It should be based upon an evolution of an entity told with personality.
People trust people – it’s the main reason why your story should be personality-driven, so your audience has someone to trust and relate to.
If you act as if you’re writing an epic drama for your next ad or marketing strategy, you’ll be amazed at how much more engaging your content will feel.
Here’s how to tell your authentic brand story in five easy steps:
Step one: Introduce the hero
This may be surprising, but your brand actually isn’t the main character of your story. Rather, your customer is the hero and your brand is just a guide. An important aspect of telling your brand’s story involves drawing your audience in and enticing them from the start. Your first few lines must be powerful enough to make them feel like the story is something worth sticking around for. Connect your story with your heroes (your customers) and set the stage for their quest.
Step two: Define the problem
Present the everyday problems that your customers might face, and that your brand can solve. These are the “villains” that your heroes must overcome.
- For instance, if you’re a shipping company, the villain might be stamps and post office hours.
- Or, if you’re a marketing agency, the villain might be a lack of leads and difficulties web presence.
By making their pain points seem larger than life, you’re able to remind your audience of the frustrations that come with dealing with these obstacles.
You almost want to make it feel like all hope is lost – until their trusty sidekick (you) comes to the rescue.
Step three: Introduce your brand as a guide
Your brand is the guide that will help your hero (the customer) face the villain (the conflict). It’s time to outline your driving forces – your values, and why you do what you do – so your hero trusts you and lets you direct them on this quest.
Keep things brief in this part. After all, you’re not the hero of the story. You want to keep things framed from your customer’s perspective.
Step four: Show how you solve the hero’s problem
It’s time for your hero to face their villains head-on. As their guide, your job is to give your customer a plan to conquer their obstacles.
Your solution is Excalibur, the tool your hero will use to bring peace to the land. How does it work, and why should they rely on you to conquer their villain? How does your solution stand out from the other options available?
Step five: Resolve the story with your product or service in the hero’s hand
Now that you gave your hero a solution, things start to go their way. How does your brand help them achieve success and escape failure?
With the power of your solution, your hero defeats the villains as they are crowned a new customer – a happy ending indeed.
That’s it. If we try and pack more into our saga, we might lose momentum, which is integral to a story’s success.
The simpler storytelling model: Conflict and resolution
If you’re strapped for time or not feeling particularly creative, remember that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This three-part model is a more simplistic solution for how to tell your brand story. Here’s a look at what a three-part model looks like:
- Status Quo: the beginning
- Conflict: the middle
- Resolution: the end
People understand short, simple, and to the point. See for yourself.
Examples (broken up into the 3 stages of a story)
1. How Moz created its brand story
Moz is a SaaS company that offers everything you need for effective SEO strategy and implementation. Their platform covers all the basics like keyword research, link ranking, and competitor analysis to make your inbound marketing more effective.
Status Quo: Brands want their audience’s attention and have focused their efforts on acquiring it for years – often paying for their recognition, instead of earning it.
Conflict: With more ways to reach potential customers than ever, many businesses rely on invasive ads rather than generating compelling content to educate and convert users. But most companies don’t know how to build their online authority and think SEO is some complex magic.
Resolution: Moz believes there’s a better way to do marketing. A more valuable, less invasive way to connect with customers. They focus on search engine optimization (SEO), which is one of the least understood aspects of great marketing. Their mission is to simplify SEO for every marketer through their platform, education, and community.
2. Grado Labs’ story places passion over profit
Grado Labs is a Brooklyn based, family-owned headphone company. They have operated in the same building for over a hundred years, don’t believe in advertising, and make every pair of headphones by hand.
Status Quo: Music plays a massive part in all our lives. Without it, life can seem pretty dull, and we believe quality headphones amplify the emotional experience of listening to music.
Conflict: In a market where brands like Beats by Dre or Boss have massive marketing budgets, and high-tech factories that mass produce headphones, why do we choose to remain the same?
Resolution: We’re passionate about sound. We’re craft-driven, meaning we put producing the best quality product over generating hype. We use what should be our ad spend on better quality material to provide a better experience for our customers.
3. The story of Unthinkable Media
Unthinkable Media is a narrative-driven podcast for B2B brands. Their mission is to create captivating and entertaining shows for their guests that actually retain their audience’s attention – not just acquire it.
Status Quo: As creators and entrepreneurs, we want to be seen, and for years most small businesses have had to pay for their audience’s attention.
Conflict: But today, thanks to the internet and social media, the buyer has endless options and complete control. They choose the experiences they wish to have and what content to consume. It is no longer enough to simply advertise.
Resolution: We need to shift our goals from impressions and clicks to community and subscribers. It’s much easier to convert a person that spends minutes or hours with your content, not seconds. To be successful in today’s market, you don’t need to acquire people’s attention – you need to hold it.
What to do after you write your brand story?
After you’ve drafted your brand story, it’s time to edit and refine, like you would with any written piece. Make sure it aligns with your brand voice and tone, and check that it’s compelling, relatable, genuine, and worth sharing. Also, confirm that the conflict-resolution structure comes through.
Then, test your story on a new audience (either a select group of customers or a few trusted peers from outside the company). Make sure they find the story moving and interesting to read, and that they understand the elements of conflict and resolution that you’ve included. Also, ask if any parts need refined or deleted.
Once your story’s ready for the world, you’ve reached the publishing stage. But just like any book, you need to promote your story. Tell your story on social media, place it on landing pages, and encourage your current customers to share your story with others.
Now that you have the tools to tell your brand story, it’s time to write, refine, and publish it. A brand story is one of the top tools for generating brand awareness and word of mouth, so if you use the tips we’ve shared, you’ll reap plenty of rewards.