Even till a decade ago, the business world was product and company-centric. Push marketing with the brand dominating the conversation.
A brand story was not even a thing.
Now, unless your brand is authentic, emotional, and centered around the customers and solving their problems, you can't continue to win.
So you need to build a powerful brand with the right messaging, to help you connect to your audiences.
This post will clarify what a brand story is, and guide you through the 3 steps of creating your brand story.
It will also help you understand how to write your story for a website or other brand material, so you can attract the right audiences for your business and grow your small business.
What is a brand
A brand can have many definitions, and it is difficult to pin it down to one specific thing. But in general, a brand can be explained in this way:A brand is a promise of value. An identity. Click To Tweet
A brand has to have a promise to deliver some benefit to its target audience, through each product or service.
Usually, this promise is of 2 kinds:
- Solve a problem: Meet an existing need
- Generate desire: Create a craving/ new need
The audience absorbs the brand message consciously and subconsciously while engaging with the brand and the people who mention it.
This creates a perception in the audience’s minds about what the brand stands for, about its competitive positioning.A brand is a go-to expert. A catalyst for growth. Click To Tweet
A brand needs to establish itself as the expert or as one providing the ‘best value’ in its specific expertise.
If the business actually delivers the value it promises, it can generate investment from its target audience, which over time leads to growth.
What a brand is notA brand is not just a logo, a product, or a website. It is an experience. Click To Tweet
What is a brand story
A brand story is the core essence of a brand, expressed through simple brand narratives and design, that evoke emotional reactions in the target customers and helps them to connect to the brand.
Here are some brand storytelling examples to inspire you.
Why is brand storytelling important
Brands build awareness and set you apart
A brand is a promise of value and experience that makes an impact. It is a personality, a purpose, a message, a voice, a set of values and beliefs. It is YOUR value, and it is unique. Brand life cycles are longer than those of products.
Stories connect to the heart
Stories promise emotional experiences and benefits for consumers, whereas products promise primarily direct functional benefits. Research shows that people buy based on emotions, then use rationals to justify the emotional decision. So investing in brand storytelling, instead of simply creating marketing messages about your products, can move your target audience from considering your product, to actually purchasing it.
Brands can attract investment
Besides attracting clients and leads, a well-told story through a brand, with a clear vision, also has the ability to gain trust and investment from venture capitalists and other financial investors.
Brands inspire repeat purchase
Have you ever experienced a situation, where you just liked a product, but it was one of many? But the service was so great, and you think the people really understood you, and you connected to the brand, believed in it, that you just retained your loyalty to it? And maybe even went on to recommend it to others?
Think about the recent Coepernick campaign by Nike. That is the true power of brand stories.
Essential elements of a brand
1. Customer Focus
A brand’s biggest objective should be to match its core offer with the needs of its specific audience. So your customer should always be at the center of all that your brand does.
A brand needs to stand out. Every brand should have a differentiated positioning and a unique value proposition, even for a niche audience.
The core offer, positioning, and promise of a brand have to be simple, clear, and easily understood. If your brand offer and messaging are too layered, your audience will have to work hard to understand and connect with you, in which case they simply won't.
4. Authenticity & Heart
A brand needs to be honest, transparent, meaningful, and true to its stated values. Only then can it touch the audience’s hearts with its story. 77% of consumers buy from brands that share their values.
A brand needs to have a reason-to-believe on why it can claim a particular expertise. Your brand can claim that it creates the best or the most low-cost product, for example, but how it does that, needs to be believable by your audience.
A brand should maintain the same tone and message at each touchpoint. Together, all the messages will create a consistent image subconsciously in the minds of the audience, about what the brand stands for.
7. Fulfillment of the promise
A brand promise is the core offer of a brand, about how it can make the lives of its audience better. To gain and retain the trust of your audience, just ensure that your brand consistently delivers the value you promised.
Read more about these in detail: 7 Essential Elements of Strong Brand Equity
How to grow your business with your brand story
Your business will grow if your audience buys from you. And they will buy from you if they trust you. 81% of consumers need to be able to trust a brand before they buy anything from it.
But how do you gain consumer trust with your brand?
There is a 7-step formula that you can follow to connect with your audience and grow your business, irrespective of your industry. Just follow these steps repeatedly and consistently.
Read the whole process here in detail:7 Steps to Keep Growing Your Brand Continuously [Infographic]
How to create a brand story
There are 3 steps to developing a brand story.
1. Define your story
Identify what your brand truly and proudly stands for. What it wants to achieve, why it exists, what value it offers, what its personality is like, how it wants to change the world. It is very important to be true and authentic at this stage. Otherwise, your business journey may not be impactful or sustainable.
2. Design your brand
Develop an external brand identity that represents your story perfectly. The brand identity, the tone of voice, the customer experience, will translate the story from paper to a real-life existence.
3. Craft your message
Create the perfect way to talk about your brand. What your brand offer is, the benefit you offer your audience, the actual story woven together with a specific set of words, that you can share at any networking event or 5 min conversation.
DEFINE YOUR STORY
Every brand has a story. In this step, you just have to define and structure the story, so that it can be expressed with a visual and verbal identity. The most important principles of a brand story definition include the following:
1. Market understanding
Build deep knowledge of your niche market
Understand the ‘real’ market you are operating in. Within a broader market you can have a smaller one, so understand those specific group dynamics.
Understand your competition
Identify your core competition’s offer, strategy, marketing channels, promise, and communication.
2. Customer insights
Focus on a niche group, with a specific problem. Solving that problem will help you to build a specific identity and positioning, in their minds.
Understand their biggest unmet needs (pain points) or desires, their purchase behavior. This will clarify how you can solve their problems best and create your communication.
Get an idea of their lifestyle, where they hang out, where they go to find information, their customer journey. This will help in your marketing.
Again, if you need help with what your audience is looking for, try out SEMRush's Topic Research. Now that you have all this info, put it down in a structured format.
Download a FREE template to create a buyer persona.
3. Brand purpose
Your brand purpose is essentially your ‘why’: the reason for your brand/ business to exist, the contribution you will make to the world through your brand.
4. Brand mission statement
Your brand mission statement is the overarching benefit you want to provide for your audience. You can derive it from your brand purpose.
Here are some examples of mission statements:
Google: Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Paypal: To build the Web's most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.
5. Brand vision
Your brand vision refers to the changes you want to make in the world. What would your brand stand for, a few years down the line?
Some brand vision examples:
McDonald's: Be the best quick service restaurant experience
Southwest Airlines: Become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline
6. Unique value proposition
Your unique value proposition is essentially the uniqueness you bring to your audience. What you stand for, what you deliver that is different from your competition, and why your audience should believe you. See the template below to guide you on how to write a unique value proposition.
7. Brand personality
Define the personality of your brand, almost like it were a person.
Is it more playful/ fun, or more serious and formal? Is it more classic and elegant, or more modern and tech? Is it an everyday, relatable, human brand, or more chic, upscale, and aspirational?
Check out these brand personality examples to understand how very different and unique brands can be, just like people.
8. Brand promise
Your brand promise is your brand's unique value proposition captured in 1-2 lines. Eventually, a story is defined by words and media. Use the right words to describe your brand.
9. Brand values
Identify the core values that your brand stands for. What it believes in, what it stands up for, the principles that guide it.
Here are two brand values examples:
DESIGN YOUR BRAND
Now that you have determined what your brand stands for, its differentiation, its mission, and its full story, you have to bring that story to life. You have to express your brand description with the relevant visual and written representation.
This includes the name of your brand, the design, the tone of voice, the colors, the actual messaging, are all different aspects of your brand identity. But that's not all.
You have to define your customer experiences too, because as you saw above, a brand is essentially an experience for the customer, so at every touch point, this experience is very crucial.
1. Brand name
If you're wondering how to come up with a brand name, these are the most essential factors to keep in mind:
- The brand mission and promise
- Emotional connections that the brand can form with the audience
- The brand personality and the values
- Any other references that your audience may identify with. Like local or cultural references
An ideal brand name is the combination of the above. Of course, if you are a service-based solopreneur, your business brand can also be your personal brand.
But if you would like your product brand to be different from you, and not just have you as an identity, try to brainstorm for a few names that represent all that your brand story stands for.
2. Look and feel
Your brand look and feel is not just a logo. It’s an entire persona. It includes but is not limited to:
- Stationery (Business cards, letterheads, envelopes)
- Store design and furniture
- Powerpoint template
You can hire a graphic designer to create all these elements for you, or even do them yourself, with a tool like Canva.
3. Brand tone of voice
For a consumer, it’s not just what a brand says that’s relevant and important, but also how the brand says it. So this is essentially the communication style that the brand will use. Identify one that will help you connect best with your audience. Here are some brand tone of voice examples to get inspired by.
4. Customer experience
Define the experience customers will have at each interaction with the brand. The key topics to address are:
- Detailed info & explanation
- Questions & contact
- Purchase process
- Ease of product/ service use
- After-sales support
CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE
There are 3 kinds of messaging you could create for your brand:
1. Brand Message
3. The full one-page story
1. Brand message
The brand message is the direct brand benefit, the specific problem solved by the brand. This you MUST have.
Here are some examples:
FedEx: The World on Time
Citibank: The Citi Never Sleeps
Subway: Eat Fresh
2. Brand tagline
A brand tagline is the state of being/ feeling that the brand helps you attain. Creating this is optional. But if you want to clarify your message further with a tagline, look at your mission and take it one step further, with a few powerful words.
Adidas: Impossible is nothing
Nike: Just Do It
Apple: Think Different
3. Brand story
The final step is about how to write a brand story, and the words you choose to describe your business or brand are particularly relevant. See the brand story framework below, for the different elements of the story you should create, and which section of your brand story definition you can draw inspiration from.
Element: Who the brand (the protagonist) is, and what are its origins.
Inspiration: positioning statement
Element: Why the brand was launched: to solve which problem? For whom? Why does it do what it does?
Inspiration: audience, brand purpose, mission, values
Element: How does it solve the problem now?
Inspiration: Unique Value Proposition, brand promise, marketing message, brand tagline
Element: What is the character of the brand? How does it conduct its business, how does it behave, when it offers the solution to the problem? What does it believe in, feels strongly about?
Inspiration: Tone of voice, look and feel, personality, values, customer experience
Element: What does the brand plan to do in the future? What change will it create in the world?
Inspiration: Brand vision
In the end, remember, every single thing you say and do is a reflection of your brand.
What makes a compelling brand story
As you craft your brand story, remember that a story that connects best with its customers will have the following aspects in common:
1. It is human
Stories that connect best are those that have a human(is) in the brand background. After all, businesses don't just appear in the world. Someone, somewhere, starts one. A brand story that can talk about the origin and value of the people behind a brand, is one that can easily connect to the target audience.
2. It is emotional
Don't you remember and share with others those stories best that make you laugh, cry, or surprised? It is the same with brands. A brand that has a powerful mission and vision, based on changing the world, making a difference, genuinely providing value, will draw at your customer's heartstrings and inspire more connection.
3. It is memorable
As mentioned earlier, a brand has to be unique. Otherwise you're just one more entity in a sea of billions. And it is this uniqueness that makes you memorable. You don't have to be unique in all aspects of your story. You could share a mission with another brand, for example.It is the combination of your brand definition, design, and messaging, that will create a completely unique and memorable brand story. Click To Tweet
Here are some brand story examples to inspire you.
1. Share your story
Creating a brand story is just one part. To get maximum benefits out of it, you have to share your story with your stakeholder. This could include your customers, suppliers, influencers, and anyone else connected to your brand, and anyone else you need to trust you.
You could share your story on social media, on your website, via email, and on any other marketing material you create to promote your brand or boost your SEO.
2. Create content
A fantastic way to create more understanding and buzz around your brand story is telling your brand story through content. You could create blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, or any other kinds of media, or a mix of all of them. The common element in all of them would be to uphold your brand story in each piece of content.
3. Be consistent
Trust takes time to build. Brand recall maybe even longer. It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand. So be regular in sharing your content and your story, be present in the channels where your audience is.
Over time, your brand will build a perception and impression in the minds of your audience, and eventually gain their trust.
Get the full brand storytelling guide with worksheets and templates to develop your unique and powerful brand story.