What is A Brand Story?

Posted by Leisha Jenkins on January 3, 2017

What is A Brand Story?

Everyone has a story to tell. Your history, your passion, what makes you unique. All of these combine to define you. Think of your brand not just as a provider of goods or services, think of it as an interactive entity for your audience to connect with. Brand storytelling connects brands to the human experience. When a brand story is crafted well, it connects hearts and minds of customers to the shared values of the brand.

What is brand storytelling?

Not everyone who lands on your site is at the same stage of the customer journey. Someone might just be learning about your brand. Someone else may be ⅔ of the way through the buy process. Still, someone else may be a returning customer looking to make an additional purchase. By understanding where someone is on their journey, you can enhance their buying experience.

“Effective marketing is about mastering the art of storytelling. Facts tell, but stories sell.” Brian Eisenberg

Brand storytelling is the application of a narrative to define brands. It gives a brand meaning and conveys the reason for it’s existence in a purposeful way. We all know stories are more relatable than facts and figures. We all use them to spread ideas, express values and preserve history. Applying a narrative to a brand experience resonates with audiences in a way that gives the brand more than a name or service, a story gives an identity.

“A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.” – Jonathan Gottschall

What storytelling isn’t?

Brand storytelling isn’t a hard sell. Of course there’s an invitation to engage, but a good story pulls the reader through the brand experience before trying to move them to action.

Brand stories are also not made up. Be authentic, trustworthy and relatable. There seems to be an association between the term ‘storytelling’ and falsehoods. But your brand story isn’t about fabricating an interesting narrative, it’s about telling your story well. This doesn’t happen by chance. Writing a brief overview of how your business came to be and what you provide is not compelling. It doesn’t create an experience and does not relate to audiences. Your story should make readers feel something, not just learn.

Who is using it effectively?

AirBNB

This is a particularly interesting brand to examine. Where do people feel the least at home? At a stranger’s’ house. But somehow AirBnB made the concept of staying in a stranger’s house (and a stranger staying in yours) more comfortable than staying in a hotel. How? By humanizing the experience. They used the real stories and experiences of the people using the service to make it approachable for everyone else. Now, this is a unique example, but it does illustrate the power of the story. Not only is AirBnB an alternative and competitor to the hotel industry, it’s an experience people want to be a part of. It’s not a cookie cutter hotel, it’s an experience and the brand makes your experience part of their story.

Burt’s Bees

Most people are familiar with Burt’s Bees signature yellow packaging. Hearing the name probably evokes feelings of health, sustainability and chemical-free products. This is all true, but Burt’s Bees worked hard to cultivate that brand personality and they did so through their brand story.

More On Burt’s Bees’ Brand Story

Burt's Bees brand story is focused on where they came from and where they want to go.

Yes, Burt is a real person, yes he is the old bearded man on the label and yes he really is a beekeeper. The honesty of the brand story resonates with audiences. You can trust the product because the story is true and authentic, like their products.

Burt's lives their story in all they do.

Burt’s Bees takes this to the next step in their web storytelling. They are dedicated to preserving the environment and part of their mission and story is protecting bees. Their brand story is evident on every page. From the language to tone and all the bee puns, you get a strong sense of their personality. These elements create an experience. One that people want to buy into. They could just go buy any old chapstick, but if they buy Burt’s they are buying into the story, mission and values of the brand.

Their content everywhere carries the tone and voice of the brand.

What storytelling is in 2017

We’re all familiar with the Hero’s Journey as a way to tell a story. There are twists, turns, and plenty of drama. There is also a big time investment. For a lot of brands, the hero’s journey structure is too involved and the story falls flat. Aside from not having enough meat in the story to support the hero’s journey archetype, audiences don’t have a very long attention span. Your story would have to be VERY intriguing to keep someone interested for more than a few seconds. Keeping this in mind, storytelling in 2017 is about hyper-focused relevance, brevity, and engagement.

Once you’ve identified your unique story and what makes you stand out in the crowd, it’s time to start thinking about how to tell your story. As we mentioned, long and complex stories are not typically effective when writing for your website. Keeping the attention of an audience necessitates concise writing with a strong, identifiable tone.

In part two of our storytelling series, we’ll discuss how to tell your story. The strategy used to convey your story is just as important as the story itself. The concept is powerless without the proper implementation.

Is your brand telling its story effectively? Rethink the way you communicate with audiences.

What are you waiting for? Let’s talk!

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Leisha