7 Steps to Telling a Really Great Brand Story
A really weird thing happened to me on the way here today...
That was the first sentence. In copywriting, the sole purpose of each of sentence is to carry you onto the next one, and then the next one until finally you’ve finished reading the article and eager to find out more information on the topic.
Becoming an Authority in your niche requires your audience to want to know more.
To want to know what else you have to say. For them to want to do this, they need to be told a compelling story. Last time I looked we were still human. And human beings love a story. Paying attention to a compelling narrative is hardwired into our DNA. Its how we learned from the elders of the tribe about the dangers outside the cave, while natural selection took care of those not listening and messing around down the back.
Myths, legends, dreamtime and fables became the medium for conveying these messages through time. Telling your own unique and interesting story taps this powerful human trait, your audience remembers you and when the time comes for them to buy what you sell, your business will sit near the top of their list.
You’re a business owner, an entrepreneur and a creative professional and while your ear is tuned to how the pointy end of your business works, you'll have noticed how your clients tend to pay a little more attention when you talk about why you do what you do, adventures along the way, victories and defeats, the mud you had to wade through and the chasm you had to cross in order to be standing in front of them selling something.
Marketers carry on about your brand story as an essential component of your overall marketing strategy. It’s a big component. Perhaps the biggest. It’s debatable. Either way it helps you answer the most important question: why should your customer care about you? They’ll care about you because they will have begun to get to know you.
Use your story as an anchor to base your marketing activities around.
Creative entrepreneurs are the best Storytellers.
Take a look behind every uber successful company or endeavour and you’ll discover a great storyteller. Steve Jobs is dragged out all too often as an example but he remains a compelling one. Apple's story, products and brand are so tightly woven together it’s hard to think of one element without the other. We all know the garage startup history, design philosophy and the battle of the Titan’s, Apple Vs Microsoft story of the ’80s and ‘90s. Why does it work? Because it’s authentic and compelling. Whether we admit it or not, we’re drawn to watch a fight. We can’t help ourselves. And Apple’s famous 1984 advertising campaign took their story and their fight and turbocharged it. Their audience cheered on the under dog, the ‘Freedom fighter’.
Yes, it’s a different story today as all entities with power tend to fall for the same vices eventually but ‘story’ has served the company well to get it here. How ‘story’ is used in the future without the storyteller around is hard to say. What is certain, though is that there will another small company with a big story coming up to challenge their authority.
Be strange. Be a little off centre.
The stranger your story, the more compelling your brand will be among your audience, standing out from your competitors. As a visual creative offering your services to media saturated prospects, you already have a rich source of material for sharing your values, showcasing your skills and your offer. Injecting a little backstory into the mix will set you apart. Let your prospects into a few little known secrets about your past, present or future.
Tell them something that creates a bond between you. As a business owner keeping your P&L in the black and fighting daily fires, I’m guessing your time to reflect on story would be limited. But you’ve got one. Everyone has. It doesn’t need to be a grand fairytale. It just needs to be real, explain why you’re here and include a dramatic event or two along the way. As a business startup, the little guy, your best story to take to your audience is ‘David & Goliath’.
Vulnerability is not an obvious choice but confiding in your audience and revealing a side of yourself that is naturally human and imperfect is a powerful way to nurture your relationship. Don’t push it too far though or the message becomes too emotional and tips the balance and you’ll come across as a little off centre yourself.
This just scares people - you don’t want to do that. And not everyone will care. Most probably won’t. But your story will hit the right note with the right people - your target audience, who become your high margin, paying customers, the only ones who matter.
Summarise your story in 140 characters. Make it Tweetable and memorable.
Pick a hero - usually you, the founder.
Have an Antagonist - your arch enemy! If you don’t have one, get out there and find one.
Why should your audience care? Basically, what does your story mean for them - does it lead to a better product? Better experience?
Use the power of 3: three distinct events, chapters, parts, ideas - no more, they won’t remember them.
Structure your story:
in the beginning - where it all started, why you started;
the middle - the dip, your lowest point;
into the uplift - reveal your ‘ah hah’ moment, the point after everything turned to custard and you came out of it thinking ‘ah, now I’ve got it!’. This makes for a good climax as everyone’s been through one and will relate.
Remember, your story sells you and your dream, the why - not the what (your product). Happy writing or talking or filming.