Telling your brand's story

By Robert Brown

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Opinion Social marketing Branding
A white book with the title 'Telling Your Brand's Story'

This week is National Storytelling Week, an annual occasion that recognises the oral tradition of storytelling – our very first way of communicating life experiences and creative imaginings.

Nowadays however, storytelling is used in a more general sense to encompass not just the oral tradition, but other forms of media too. This can be anything from the pages of books to online sources such as social media. But what about brand storytelling? Whilst the term is becoming ever more popular within the branding world, it can often be misleading and result in incorrect assumptions.

So what is there to know? First of all, a brand story should never be fictitious. It should be genuine, telling of who you are and what you’re about. It should be built upon consistently with the things you say, but more importantly, do. 

The beginning

The most important question to consider when first crafting your brand’s story is not necessarily where and when your brand came to be, but why.

Aesop, a creative agency that carry out a yearly survey on brand storytelling techniques, cement this through one of their criteria: to have a clear sense of purpose. Usually, there is a problem you want to provide a solution to. And hopefully, other people will want a solution to the problem too.

For the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks, it all came down to the need for ‘a third place between work and home’. So essentially, not just coffee, but an environment that promotes good company and conversation too. This then forms the basis of their other beliefs, core values, and the way they choose to connect with their audience. So, for them, everything is about showing that they offer great coffee as part of an experience as a whole. 

The middle

It then becomes a matter of consistently weaving this purpose into your brand story. An example of a company that do this well is shoe manufacturer, TOMS, whose sole purpose is to improve lives through business. They act upon this by donating one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair that you buy. It is how they fulfill their purpose.

The other thing is that you need to make people aware of your brand story. A perfect example here would be Airbnb, who use a whole host of marketing techniques to reinforce the notion that ‘you’re home anywhere and not in a home, but truly home, where you belong’. They do this by sharing stories through the communities and offering free neighborhood guides to members. It all seems quite simple when put like this, but again, the challenge is to keep it continuous and consistent at all times.

The end

Roald Dahl says ‘If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams’. In some ways, this stands true within branding; by having a strong reason for being, with positive beliefs and values that are shared internally, this should translate externally too. What Roald Dahl didn’t say however, is that sometimes it takes clever ways of highlighting this and getting it out there for the public to see.

A final example of this is Apple, who take a consistent approach in everything they produce. Through clever brand communications and marketing, their original launch of the iPod catapulted the company from a ‘computer business’ to a mass-market entertainment brand. They drew heavily on people’s emotional attachment to their music. People may forget what you tell them, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

So whatever your brand story, ensure that it is consistently applied to all your offline and online marketing communications in order to obtain maximum impact with your target audience.

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