Storytelling has been the primary way humans have communicated for millennia. Our brains have evolved to love a good story. It’s now baked into our DNA. This is why it’s critical that you tell a compelling brand story.
Why Tell a Story?
Ever since the first cave paintings 27,000 years ago, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental methods of communication. Storytelling is a big part of who we are as humans. How does this relate to you and your brand?
Storytelling captures our attention. Studies have shown that people’s brains are more active when listening to a story, so your message is more likely to be understood.
Stories are easier to remember. We’ve been hearing stories for thousands of years so they make sense to us. People are much more likely to remember a story than a list of benefits or bullet points.
Stories are easier to share. We have also gotten very good at passing stories on to each other. Before we had written communication we told stories. People are much more likely to recall and share your brand story than something like your company’s mission statement.
Stories make your brand more relatable. A good brand story helps you connect with people who share your ideals, your values, and your worldview. People will see you as more human and more relatable.
Stories don’t tell, they show people how their lives could be better. As opposed to just telling them the benefits, a good brand story will pull people into the narrative and show them how their lives can be transformed.A good brand story will pull your customers into the narrative and 'show' them how their lives can be transformed. Click To Tweet
The Building Blocks of Your Brand Story
Context is simply the who, what, where, or when of your story. Context provides a place of reference for your readers, a starting point. Context also makes your story more believable. Here are two possible ways you could start a story:
- A woman started a business.
- In 2013, Susan, a 37-year-old mother of two, started her own sourdough bread bakery in downtown Seattle.
Which sounds more relatable and believable?
Give your readers a reference point. Make sure your story includes enough context so that everything afterward makes sense to the reader.
What was wrong? What issues did you see that needed to be addressed? Your audience will most likely have faced these same issues, or something similar. Be sure you understand where they are coming from.
For Susan, she may have noticed that she couldn’t find any high-quality, authentic sourdough bread anywhere in Seattle.
The conflict is the struggle in your story. What did you do to try to solve the problem? What didn’t work? What continues to not work? What has your audience tried that did not work?
Susan tried every bakery in town, but they all fell short. Their ingredients were not organic, the bread was tasteless, no one specialized in sourdough. She just couldn’t find a decent loaf of sourdough anywhere in town.
What did you do to solve the problem? What have you created? What is the solution your brand now provides to solve this problem?
Susan created the only organic all-sourdough bakery in Seattle. She uses the finest organic ingredients and her starters have been handed down through generations. Her artisan sourdough bread is simply amazing and now her brand is the talk of the town.
Examples of Great Brand Stories
Here are a few examples of how brands use story to communicate who they are and what they’re all about. Notice how each story contains the building blocks—context, problem, conflict, solution.
Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. (We don’t recommend this.) The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options?
It turns out there was a simple explanation. The eyewear industry is dominated by a single company that has been able to keep prices artificially high while reaping huge profits from consumers who have no other options.
We started Warby Parker to create an alternative.
By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price.
Context: Student lost glasses on backpacking trip
Problem: Glasses are too expensive
Conflict: Too expensive to replace, squinted and complained through grad school, hard to find great frames at low cost
Solution: By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price.
When Chipotle opened its first restaurant in 1993, the idea was simple: show that food served fast didn’t have to be a “fast-food” experience. Using high-quality raw ingredients, classic cooking techniques, and distinctive interior design, we brought features from the realm of fine dining to the world of quick-service restaurants.
Over 23 years later, our devotion to seeking out the very best ingredients we can—raised with respect for animals, farmers, and the environment—remains at the core of our commitment to Food With Integrity. And as we’ve grown, our mission has expanded to ensuring that better food is accessible to everyone.
Context: Chipotle first opened in 1993
Problem: Eating fast food is usually a bad experience
Conflict: Poor-quality ingredients, no respect for animals, farmers, environment
Solution: Chipotle is devoted to seeking out the very best ingredients–raised with respect for animals, farmers, and the environment. They want to ensure that better food is accessible to everyone.
In 2007 Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia moved from New York to San Francisco. They were having trouble paying their rent and were looking for a way to earn some extra cash. They noticed that all hotel rooms in the city were booked, as the local Industrial Design conference attracted a lot of visitors. They had an idea. They bought a few airbeds and quickly put up a site called “Air Bed and Breakfast.” The idea was to offer visitors a place to sleep and breakfast in the morning. People slept on air mattresses on their floor and were brought coffee and bagels in the morning.
Today, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.
Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.
Context: San Francisco, 2007
Problem: People needed a place to stay, they needed extra cash
Conflict: Hotel rooms all booked, nowhere to stay, only one price point
Solution: Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point. They make it easy to monetize your extra space.
Day 16 Action Item—Tell Your Brand Story
Grab your 21 Days to Build a Better Brand Workbook and write a sentence or two for each of the building block sections above.
Next, turn it into a short story (1-2 paragraphs) that conveys the heart of what your brand is all about.
Keep it short. We don’t need to know where you were born or what your college days were like (unless those things are vital to your brand’s story). Be brief and your story will have more impact.
Keep it conversational. When someone asks “What do you do?” or “What is your brand all about?” you should be able to easily tell them your story (or a version of it).
Get comfortable. Read your story out loud. Tell your story to a bunch of different people. Get comfortable telling your story and it will keep getting better.
Coming up: Tomorrow you’ll learn how to start telling your brand’s story by creating a more compelling website homepage.
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