Storytelling for Brands
By Taylor Martin
Brand Storytelling. You’ve probably heard the term before, but what exactly does it mean?
Every brand, product, and service has a story. Something that shapes who/what they are and why they do what they do. But not all brands tap into that story when it comes to their messaging. The focus of brand storytelling is to tap into the “why”, rather than the “what”, as a way to make an emotional connection with your audience.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what brand storytelling is, why it’s important, and a few best practices to help get you started.
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is the act of using an emotion-evoking narrative to connect your brand to your target audience, with a focus on creating empathy by linking what your brand stands for with the values you share with your audience.
We know that building an emotional connection with your audience through storytelling is more effective than just shining a light on what your product or service does and how great it is. Without a relatable story, people won’t connect with your message, meaning your audience is more likely to simply overlook your product or service.
A great brand story takes what the brand stands for, what it does, and what value it provides to consumers, and translates that into something that their potential customers can relate to in a human, honest, emotional way. One example of great brand storytelling comes from GEICO and their It’s Not Surprising campaign. By using humor, they broke the stereotype of being just another boring insurance agency, which helped position them as an approachable insurance option that was there for everyone. You can hear more about GEICO’s work with The Martin Agency from their very own CEO, Kristen Cavallo, on her episode of our Brand Story Podcast.
Why is Brand Storytelling Important?
The digital age has brought a new problem for marketers trying to promote their products — a wealth of informational content that buyers don’t know what to do with. The competition in the marketplace is fierce, making brand loyalty a hard thing to come by. Buyers are exposed to up to 10,000 ads a day* and targeted by multiple different businesses all marketing similar products and highlighting the same features.
So how do you stand out?
Benefits of Brand Storytelling
Your brand is the center of your entire organization, and brand storytelling is one of the key ways to connect with your audience on an emotional level.
“People make decisions as a result of emotions, not necessarily intellect or logic, and stories are what evoke emotion. So the ability to tell an interesting story about yourself, about your business, about your background is what allows you to create that positive association with you and your ideas and the solutions you provide in a way that talking about characteristics and qualities and services just can’t accomplish.” — Jay Harrington | Brand Story Podcast Episode 5
Human beings consume and convey information through storytelling, and the key to creating those breakthrough stories? Empathy. By creating an emotional bond with your audience, they will be able to picture themselves in your story, leading to better brand awareness and customer loyalty.
Another company with a history of great brand storytelling is Nike. From their Michael Jordan commercial in 1999 to their Best Day Ever ad in 2021, they have a strong track record of building a powerful brand story that puts athletes in the spotlight. In the case of the Find Your Greatness campaign, Nike told their brand story by showcasing brand values through the stories of everyday athletes. Nowhere do we hear anyone talking about the company or even see their products, and the only presence of their brand identity is at the end with their logo. They let the athletes’ actions tell their brand story for them.
How Can Brands Use Storytelling?
“I think people are missing opportunities to think bigger and beyond their product and their company. Sitting down, going through that thought process and thinking — can we tell a bigger, better story about who we are, what we’re doing, the impact we’re having, and how it improves people’s lives? I think more companies could do that.” — Terence Szuplat | Brand Story Podcast Episode 30
Every great story has the same three components — a beginning, middle, and end. When looking at this from a marketing standpoint, we can break this down even further.
Beginning — set the narrative, introduce your main theme/message and character(s).
Middle — address the problem or challenge your character (and ultimately your audience) is trying to solve.
End — bring the story together. Answer how to solve the problem with your product or service.
By using these story components and focusing on the “how” and “why” of what you’re marketing, you can create memorable, engaging stories for your audience that can be shared in a multitude of ways. Content marketing, such as video ads, newsletters, social media, and even print and digital ads can help tell a single story, or work together to tell one larger one. And by using storytelling in everything you produce, you will have better success capturing your target audience’s attention and being top of mind when they’re looking to make a purchase.
Every brand has a story, from the national chains to the mom-and-pop shops. You just have to find the right way to tell yours. For Acoustical Sheetmetal Company, a manufacturer of on-site power generation equipment, their way was through visual storytelling, in this case, video. Large-scale projects are their specialty, and finding a way to showcase their capabilities in a unique way with added commentary from employees was important in sharing their story — especially for customers who aren’t able to visit their facility in person.
Brand Storytelling Tips & Best Practices
Now that you know what brand storytelling is and what’s involved, it’s time to get started. As you start to think about your story and how you want to tell it, let the following advice help guide your plan.
1) Remember who your audience is. Your messaging should focus on the problems they’re facing and how you’re going to solve them, not just what you think sounds good in the writers’ room.
2) Great stories are not complicated. Trying to tell too much is one of the easiest ways to lose your audience. Remember they need to be able to picture themselves as the main character of your story, so this is not the time to dive into all the bells and whistles. One of our favorite pieces of storytelling advice comes from writer and publisher of America Comes Alive, Kate Kelly. “Be curious and be simple. Make sure you walk through the stories in as simple a manner as you can so that people will have a full understanding.”
3) Don’t tell an incohesive story. It’s one of the biggest mistakes with brand storytelling. Without a clear point for people to emotionally connect with, your message will be lost in the sea of content people pass over every day. You also want to make sure you aren’t telling the wrong story, otherwise, you may become memorable for all the wrong reasons.
4) Every great brand story should be authentic. This means no false promises or unrealistic expectations. One way to go about this is to rely on stories from your customers themselves. Pulling from reviews or case studies can be a great way to make sure you’re telling accurate stories that will resonate with your customers.
5) Make sure you’re consistent with your storytelling. Don’t say one thing in your commercial only to have your landing page reflect something different. Not only is there a chance to create confusion, but it will create distrust in your audience. Make sure you have a system in place to ensure consistency across every aspect of your messaging.
Remember that brand storytelling is all about uncovering the “why”. Focus on the problem you’re trying to solve for your customer by creating a compelling story around your product or service that puts them in the center. By incorporating storytelling into your marketing strategy, you will be able to break through the millions of other marketing messages and build a connection with your customers that will have them thinking of your brand when they’re considering a purchase.
Ready to start telling your authentic brand story? Our team is here to help.
* Source Lunio
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