I know what you’re thinking: Brand story? What do I need a brand story for? Is a brand story going to make me more sales?
Is your brand story the first thing your prospects are looking for? No. There are some customers who won’t even care what your brand story is —but there are many who will.
Your brand story is that special something that sets you apart from your competitors. Your brand story is what we’re talking about when we say that your brand is not your logo. Your brand story is so much deeper than your marketing materials, and it goes beyond your visuals. It’s your culture, your perception and what people feel connected to.
Because ultimately, your product is only part of what a customer connects to. The rest of it has to do with who you are as a brand, and for that, you need a brand story.
Where to start
Your brand story is not necessarily your origin story, but it will at least have components of your origin. The why you started the business is at least part of the why people need your business.
Your brand story definitely starts with what the customer sees—your name, logo, website, whatever. But prospects probably aren't going to connect so strongly to your website theme that they immediately pull out their wallets. Sales is a wooing dance, and it’s the connection to your brand that will win over many undecideds and keep them loyal.
Your brand’s purpose
To have a brand story, you need to know what the purpose of your business is beyond selling stuff and making money. Ask yourself:
- What pain points does your product or service alleviate?
- How does your business solve those problems?
- Why did you decide that your business should alleviate those pains?
Your brand story should also think beyond yesterday and today. Your purpose should be big enough to think into the future and evolve and scale with your company. Because ultimately, your brand story and purpose are part of the overarching strategy of where your business is going. You can’t get anywhere without knowing who you are and why you exist.
What does your brand believe in? Is it sustainable products? Quality? Treating people fairly? Helping your customers succeed? Your values are inherently part of your brand story. They help shape how you relate to both your employees and your customers. They firmly establish what your brand is and what you stand for.
A story that resonates
The catch is that your brand story has to remain faithful not only to your brand, but also to your customers and prospects. The story has to intrigue them and ring true with them. After determining their price point and needs, many consumers will make decisions based on how they feel about a company, whether they realize it or not. That’s why your story needs to explain not only how your business is unique, but how it’s solving the problem your prospects and clients need to solve.
Chances are you’re going to have a lot of stuff after thinking through your origins, values and purpose. That’s good. But you can’t throw all that stuff up in the “About Us” section of your website and hope it will stick with your prospects.
You need to keep your story both brief and vivid. 1,500 words about who you are and how you came to be? Too much: It doesn’t take that much to connect and frankly, most people won’t spend that much time on your site anyway.
Make it stick
In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, brothers Chip and Dan Heath use the acronym SUCCES (the last S is silent) to explore what makes an idea "sticky":
Simple: People aren’t going to remember a long, complicated story. How many people have you met who are able and willing to synopsize, say, War and Peace? Most people just move on. Don’t be the War and Peace of brand stories.
Unexpected: Don’t give people exactly what they expect—an original twist or left turn will make your brand story far more memorable.
Credible: Use statistics to back up the issues your prospects and clients face, or how much time, money or energy you can save them. Numbers underscore your value.
Concrete: Abstract concepts are tough to grasp. Keep your story and solutions concrete.
Emotional: People respond to emotions, so tap into them. If they’re coming to you, they’re looking for a solution to a problem, and all problems come with some sort of emotion attached to them. Hook their emotions, but be genuine about it.
Stories: People inherently want to know the story behind something. That's why newspapers write long articles instead of publishing fact blurbs. People want to know why— in fact, the brain is hardwired to tell stories. And if we’re hardwired to tell stories, we’ve probably got a natural affinity for hearing them, too.
What a brand story needs
Sincerity: If your brand story is false, people are eventually going to catch on. Running a good business means adding value to the lives of your customers, and if you aren’t doing that, your bottom line will start to show it.
Voice: Your brand voice should be consistent with your brand story. It may help you to develop them in tandem, but if you build them separately, make sure that they’re complementary. Nothing comes off more discordant and insincere than a voice that doesn’t match who you are.
Humanity: You need to show how your product or service impacts the lives of actual people. Those examples should showcase universal struggles, but be specific and unique enough to reveal truths.
A call to action: Once most of your story is crafted, you’re going to need some kind of call to action. Remember, your brand story is selling something—not your product, but who you are. And that includes the lifestyle your brand promotes, your brand’s benefits and savings.
The perennial example here is Apple. The Apple brand is about far more than products. It’s about the lifestyle its products promote—a lifestyle of innovation, appealing aesthetics, simplicity and aspiration.
On the other side of things, a brand like Walmart might easily and successfully represent value and discounts with just as much success. So it’s all about finding what works for your brand, what resonates with your target and what you stand for.
As you’re crafting your brand story (or even just thinking about it), remember that it’s not just the elevator pitch you give to people when they ask what your business is, or how it got started. It’s about how your brand relates to people and why it exists.