- Make your customer the “hero” of your brand storytelling to develop a strong emotional connection
- Place your brand at the climax of your brand story to position your products or services as life-changing solutions
- Incorporate pieces of your brand story throughout your marketing content to create a clear picture of what your business does and stands for
If you’ve ever memorized facts for a science test only to forget them within a month, you know that data can be pretty dull. On the flip side, you may remember lines and characters from your favorite movie for years. Why the difference? A movie tells a story—one with heroes that you relate to and a plot that evokes emotion—while a fact has little memorable context or emotion involved.
Brand storytelling is powerful because it humanizes the brand without directly selling. The consumer therefore is free to associate any commercials or other advertising with emotions rather than the demand to buy. When you use a consistent narrative to promote your company, you can develop a highly memorable brand. Here’s what you need to know about creating and using your own brand story.
What is brand storytelling?
Brand storytelling is the use of an engaging narrative to help customers connect to your brand. It’s the practice of turning your company history, core values, business mission statement, and brand purpose—the reason your business exists—into an emotion-evoking story that inspires clients to purchase from your company.
When you weave your brand story into your marketing campaigns, you show your target market why your business is relevant to their needs, wants, and beliefs. It puts your brand’s value on display. Customers are able to envision how your products or services can improve people’s lives.
Elements of a successful brand story
A great brand story should always spark an emotional connection. It’s what makes brand storytelling so powerful. While rational factors like price and product quality can inspire a single purchase, emotional responses are the driving factor behind brand loyalty.
Crafting a brand story that evokes the right feelings can be simple. The elements of a brand story closely mirror the structure common in popular movies, books, or shows.
The hero of your brand story should be your customer, not your company. Potential customers will feel the strongest connection to your story if they can easily step into the shoes of your main character. When the hero faces struggles, they’ll be able to relate—and when the hero finds a solution (your product or service), they’ll believe it’s the right solution for them too.
To make your main character as relatable as possible, do research before crafting your brand story. Conduct surveys, host focus groups, or simply chat with real people in your target market to understand their needs, motivations, interests, values, and other characteristics.
For example, small business owner Wesley The Keeper sometimes invites core members of his target audience—called the honeyloves—over to his home to test new recipes and provide feedback on what they’d like next from his urban honey brand, Akron Honey.
When several honeyloves asked for a fruit-based honey, Wesley slated hibiscus next for development. Nothing says “main character” like creating your own flavor. “One of the things we constantly do is make our consumers the heroes of our story,” he said. “We don’t move unless our consumers tell us to move.”
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Once you understand who your hero is, you can start building the plot that moves your story along. An effective plot for a brand story can be broken down into four key sections. Use these sections to build a template for your story.
- Exposition: Capture your audience’s attention with a brief introduction to the main character and their current situation. For example, a residential cleaning business can paint the picture of a working professional with a successful career and happy family life.
- Rising action: Introduce the problem with an inciting incident or a moment of conflict that sparks the start of the hero’s journey toward a resolution. For instance, as the professional balances their work, marriage, and kids, they might feel stressed about dishes or clutter piling up around the house.
- Climax: Your hero discovers your brand and makes the life-changing decision to purchase from you. The climax is your chance to insert key facts about your company—like how you came about and what your business does at its core—now that your audience is fully immersed. For instance, you can mention that the cleaning company was created in 2014 to help working parents cherish every moment with their families.
- Falling action and resolution: Explain how the main character‘s life improves after using your product or service. This is an excellent place to insert a call to action (such as calling for a free quote or submitting their email address) for your real-life potential customers.
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Great stories typically include a takeaway, such as an insight or moral, that’s more abstract than the story itself. When you’re telling stories about your brand, your theme can be your core values. Continuing our previous example, the cleaning company could use stories to convey its family values, which makes the brand much more meaningful than its service. Customers with similar values can easily connect to this underlying theme.
For Wesley The Keeper, his product is about more than just providing honey—his brand is also rooted in his values, like supporting the community around him. He directly contributes to the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods in Akron, Ohio, doing things like turning abandoned lots into apiaries. He also makes regular school visits to educate kids about beekeeping. “The product is satisfying their hunger, but there are other problems that a brand satisfies,” Wesley said.
Every author has a unique style of writing that readers appreciate from book to book. Similarly, companies should have distinct brand personalities that remain consistent across all marketing efforts. For instance, a brand tone can be charming, friendly, cheeky, or intelligent.
When writing your brand story, keep your brand voice—which is an expression of your personality—in line with the voice that your company uses to write emails, post on social media, and even respond to reviews.
How to leverage brand storytelling in your marketing
Many business owners publish their brand stories on their website—often on their “About” or “Our Story” page. However, the most powerful brand storytelling occurs when you incorporate your narrative into every piece of content you publish and every marketing campaign you launch. Whether you’re running social media ads, recording a podcast, or using another marketing approach, you can use recurring themes and parts of your core plot to captivate new customers.
A good example of brand storytelling in digital marketing comes from Apple. In one recent ad, “The whole working-from-home thing,” Apple introduces relatable characters who represent members of its target market: remote workers who face many distractions.
Although the video ad doesn’t dive deep into Apple‘s history, it uses visual storytelling to show how Apple devices improve the characters’ remote work lifestyle and help them bring ideas to life.
Apple‘s ad doesn’t incorporate its full brand story, but it uses key pieces—like the theme of innovation—that remain consistent across ads. Much like Apple, you don’t have to flesh out your entire brand story in one campaign. Simply ensure your content stays true to your story.
Captivate your audience with a great story
When you want to build brand awareness and a loyal customer base, stories are more memorable and easy to connect with than facts and figures. If you want to make a stronger impression on customers, give them a compelling narrative—one that allows your target clients to step into the shoes of the main character.
Then go beyond publishing your brand story on your website. Weave brand storytelling into your marketing strategy by incorporating consistent themes and plot points into your campaigns. While your marketing will evolve over time, your brand story will continue to feel familiar to your customers.
To give your brand story more chances to shine, use our tips for building an effective content marketing strategy.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.