You brand story is the core essence of the brand, expressed through simple narratives and design, that evoke emotional reactions in the target customers and helps the brand to connect to them.
Earlier, the business world was very company-centric. Push marketing with the brand dominating the conversation.
Now, unless your brand is authentic, emotional, and all about the customer and their problem-solving, you can't continue to win.
So you need to build a powerful story with the right messaging, to help you connect to your audiences.
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:
It is a promise of value. An identity.
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
It is an experience, an association in people’s minds.
The audience absorbs the brand message consciously and subconsciously, while engaging with the brand and people who mention it.
This creates a perception in the audience’s minds about what the brand stands for.
It is a go-to expert. A catalyst for growth.
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 an investment from its target audience, which over time leads to growth.
Benefits of Having a Strong Brand Story
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 in fact, especially in the B2B world, people buy a product or service because of how it would make them feel.
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 experiences 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.
It is key to have a Unique Value Proposition, even for a niche audience.
The core offer, positioning, and promise of a brand has to be simple, clear, and easily understood.
4. Authenticity & Heart
It is important for a brand to be honest, transparent, meaningful, and true to its stated values. Only then can it touch the audience’s hearts
A brand needs to have a Reason-To-Believe on why it can claim a particular expertise
A brand should maintain the same tone and message at each point, to create a consistent image subconsciously in the minds of the audience
7. Fulfillment of promise
To gain and retain trust from 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
3 Steps to Building Your Brand Story
There are 3 core steps of developing your 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 here to be true and authentic at this stage. Otherwise your business journey may not be impactful or sustainable.
2. Design your brand
Develop an identity that represents the 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
1. Market Understanding
Build a 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, purchase behaviour. 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.
Download a FREE template to create a buyer persona
3. Brand Purpose
Identify your ‘why’: The Reason for Your Business to Exist
4. Mission Statement
What specific benefit do you want to provide for your particular consumer? That is your mission statement.
You can derive it from the purpose.
Here are some examples:
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.
What is your vision for your business? What changes do you want to make in the world? What would your brand stand for, a few years down the line? 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
7. Brand Personality
Define the personality of the 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?
8. Brand Promise
Write down your value proposition in 1-2 lines which capture the essence of your brand value.
Identify the core values that your brand stands for.
Here are two 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 with the relevant visual and written representation.
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 it's not just that.
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
An ideal brand name is the combination of a few factors:
- 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
Of course if you offer a service, 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 represents 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
3. 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 below which direction suits more, to help you connect best with your audience:
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. Marketing Message
3. The full one-page story
1. Marketing Message
The direct brand benefit, the specific problem solved by the brand. This you MUST have.
FedEX: The World on Time
citibank: The Citi Never Sleeps
Subway: Eat Fresh
The spiritual journey. The state of being/ feeling that the brand helps you attain. This is optional. But if you want to have one, 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
2. Brand Story
Put the story together using the different elements:
Who the brand (the protagonist) is, and what are its origins
(Hint: positioning statement)
Why the brand was launched: to solve which problem? For whom? Why does it do what it does?
(Hint: audience, brand purpose, mission, values)
How does it solve the problem now?
(Hint: Unique Value Proposition, brand promise, marketing message, tagline)
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?
(Hint: Tone of voice, look and feel, personality, values, customer experience)
What does the brand plan to do in the future? What change will it create in the world?
In the end, remember, every single thing you say and do is a reflection of your brand.
Get the full guide with worksheets and templates to develop your unique and authentic brand story.