Storytelling. We know it works. We know it’s vital. But we often don’t know where to begin. The truth is that storytelling is at the core of most successful brand efforts today. Whether it’s content marketing, advertising or word-of-mouth, brand storytelling can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line and consumer affection. So powerful is storytelling, we led a strategic session at ICBA to help community bankers tap into their brand’s potential through storytelling. The truth is that a brand’s story is intrinsically linked to a brand’s identity. Your story illuminates who you are. So why aren’t we telling better brand stories? We should be.
While it’s true that storytelling has been part of our lives since childhood, we’re not all necessarily equipped with a writer’s wit and wisdom. The good news is that you don’t have to become a celebrated author to create a captivating tale. At this year's Emma Marketing United Conference, Global Marketing Communications Expert, Kindra Hall, laid out the core tenets of strategic storytelling. She believes that “the irresistible power of strategic storytelling will build stronger relationships, increase engagement rates, and amplify your marketing ROI.” Sounds great! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started. Below are our five fundamentals to crafting a compelling brand narrative.
“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
- Native American Proverb
The best brands have a very clear-eyed vision of who they are and who their customers are. As a brand, not only are you thinking about what you want to say to an audience, but you are self-reflective about what kind of brand you are today and what you want to be in the future. The best brands live out their purpose, core values and mission on a daily basis and encourage their employees to strive to be the best embodiment of their brand in every interaction and every experience. Defining your brand in these terms is never a one-and-done scenario. As our culture experts advise, “To affect cultural change, sustainment has to be baked in to the process from the outset” and an ongoing iterative brand process.
We believe that brands have relationships with people the way people have relationships with people. And those relationships are built on stories – the ones we tell each other to become better friends – about who we are, where we come from, and why we do what we do. Brands are no different. Anyone can sell a product or service, but what makes a brand special is that they do what they do with heart. The best brands care about their customers and community and have their own special way of showing it. Your brand story should capture that heart at core of what you do, and in return, your customers will want to build a relationship with you. Caring is contagious, after all.
Authenticity matters more than ever today. Everyone can spot a faker from a mile away. That’s why it’s critical to be authentic, especially if you’re a brand. With corporate crises coming from every corner, uber-skeptical consumers today generally don’t trust big companies, so the only way to win hearts and minds is by being truly you. Your business processes should be transparent and upfront – don’t hide anything – and if you make a mistake, own it and make it right. Don’t pump yourself up to be more than you really are when what you are is already good. As Dr. Seuss says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Brand stories shouldn’t feel like homework assignments. Your brand stories should have a pull – some spark that keeps people engaged. Using narrative devices like humor, surprise, and heart can carry the consumer through the arc of your story. One glance at social media shows you what people respond to. Everyone wants to see the clumsy dog have food hit his face or children amazed by a returning soldier parent. That doesn’t mean you have to invent stories – in fact, you shouldn’t (see authenticity above). All you have to do is take a look around you, and you’ll realize there are stories everywhere. Employees have them. Customers have them. Your brand has them. Use them.
Brand stories don’t just rely on a dose of inspiration and a dash of creativity. Story structure is the glue that holds it all together. In any story, people want a protagonist, some tension and a resolution. That means every brand story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. You won’t necessarily tell your whole brand story in every installment, but each chapter should flow out of your central brand thesis at its core. Use the arc of the story to carry your audience from beginning to end and reaffirm your brand’s meaning, value and personality throughout each episode. If done right, you’ll encourage story enthusiasts to remember, return and refer their friends.
We’re so inspired by storytelling, we’ll be sharing Adrenaline’s story in an upcoming perspective piece. To learn more about making the most of your brand, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.