A great brand story does so much more than sell products. With any business, new or old, one of the biggest challenges is making your brand stand out in a sea of sameness. You can do this by designing a superior product, crafting a distinctive brand identity (e.g., using colors, fonts, slogans, etc.) and attracting high-profile, top-tier talent. But one key strategy that I’m seeing winning companies use is brand storytelling.
What Is Brand Storytelling?
Think of brand storytelling as a more purposeful approach to word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of waiting for customers to experience your brand and tell others about it afterward, your company uses a series of relevant, relatable and easily repeatable brand stories to connect with your target audience.
It’s highly focused storytelling, with the purpose of creating an authentic emotional connection between your brand and the customer. A great story shows off your brand’s personality. It proves that your company has more at stake than simply selling a product — you have a mission.
Take Warby Parker, for example. The renegade eyewear company already had a unique value proposition — it would cut out the middleman in the eyewear industry and sell glasses directly to consumers at lower prices. But I think where Warby Parker really hit a home run was with its brand story.
The history page of the company’s website reads like a blog post written by a close friend. It describes how one of the founders lost a pair of glasses on a backpacking trip and waited an entire semester of graduate school to replace them because of the prohibitive cost. This personal mishap, and other experiences like it, was the driving force behind the brand. Customers — perhaps people who need but can’t afford new glasses — can instantly relate. And with just a few sentences, the brand is humanized. Warby Parker isn’t just some startup with its eye on disruption; it’s a company designed to serve a segment of the population that’s being ignored.
The company’s effective brand storytelling has paid off — as of March 2018, it was valued at $1.75 billion.
Why Brand Storytelling Works
Brand storytelling isn’t a marketing trend — it’s a proven strategy that delivers for three primary reasons:
1. Market Differentiation
Even if you have the most superb product, with sleekly designed packaging and unmatched capability, you still face the challenge of proving to the customer why you deserve their hard-earned dollars over other brands. An effective brand story can give you a competitive edge. ThirdLove, for example, is a direct-to-consumer lingerie company that launched in 2013. Instead of gaining market share by projecting a sexy image, like many of its competitors, ThirdLove focuses on what it believes is the most pressing issue facing its customers: fit. The company’s brand story is about the frustration of owning poorly fitting bras, and it offers its own bras as a solution, along with a wider selection of sizes and an intuitively designed website. Instead of using sexuality to sell its product, the company solves a problem, and it does so in a relatable way that provides great value. As of February, the company had a more than $750 million valuation.
2. It Reinforces Brand Loyalty
Telling your brand story gives consumers and other businesses alike insight into your journey and values. I’ve found that it allows them to connect with your brand in a very humanized way and promotes brand loyalty on an emotional level.
3. It Shows That You’re More Than A Profit Machine
In an era when customers and politicians alike are expressing skepticism about big business, it pays to showcase your brand’s human side. Of course, the ultimate goal of any business is to generate revenue and run a profitable operation. But at the core of what you do, you’re attempting to fill a void in the market. A great brand story gives you a chance to communicate that mission directly to the customer instead of just trying to sell them things.
How To Tell An Effective Brand Story
You can use any number of mediums to tell your story. You can craft meaningful and provocative videos, like Nike’s 2018 ad starring activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. More than selling its shoes or apparel, the ad reinforced Nike’s commitment to social justice, a move that upset many but motivated many others to buy.
You can also use your company biography, your social media accounts, your publications and any format, really, to communicate your story. The only requirements are:
• Make your brand story real. Speak in terms that evoke emotion and that speak to your customer’s journey. Drop the statistics and industry jargon; talk to your audience like they’re your friends.
• Keep it simple. Use snappy, concise sentences or narration. Create short-form videos. Use tiny paragraphs. The shorter and more pointed your brand story is, the easier it will be to remember and share.
• Make it relevant. What problem are you solving? Why should the viewer or reader care? When they walk away from your brand story, you want them to have a clear idea of your mission and feel compelled to place an order right away.
Brand storytelling is an emotional, powerful way to not only set your company apart from competitors but also form a long-lasting relationship with customers. Your product matters, but I believe your brand story matters more.