Storytelling in branding

A crucial, yet often overlooked part of the brand building process is determining your brand story. As humans, we respond to stories. We’re emotional creatures, driven first by how we feel, rather than what’s logical or reasonable. In a period in which there are innumerable parties competing for our attention, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the noise. Storytelling is a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It almost doesn’t matter who has the best product anymore. It’s become, who has the best story?

You’ll already have started developing this by defining different elements of your brand, from your mission statement, core values, brand voice and personality, to delving into and understanding your competitors, your target audience and deciding how you can position your business to set yourself apart. By doing this groundwork, it becomes easier to develop a compelling story that will appeal directly to the people who need your product or service. Start by asking yourself, what is the biggest problem/challenge your customers face, and how do you solve it? The reason this question is relevant to your story is because it fulfils the key roles in any good story. 

All stories need a few key ingredients. A hero, a villain or obstacle, a plan to overcome that obstacle, and the outcome, either good or bad. In our case of course, we definitely want our story to have a happy ending. As it relates to business, we can think of the hero as our customers, the villain or obstacle as the problem/challenge our customers are facing, the plan as the solution your business offers them, and the outcome being whatever benefit they derive from your product or service. Here’s a quick example.


The VILLAIN/PROBLEM - Busy schedules

The PLAN/SOLUTION - Short, meaningful workouts

The SUCCESS/OUTCOME - Health and renewed energy

Brand story example: “We provide busy mums with a short, meaningful workout they can use to stay healthy and have renewed energy.”

The reason this story is so effective is because it clearly and succinctly outlines who you are talking to, what problem you are solving for those people, and how you are solving it. Most importantly, it highlights the outcome and the benefit. It’s key to ensure you understand what you’re really selling. In the above example, you’re not selling the short meaningful workouts. You’re selling health and renewed energy. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, famously said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.” 

It’s important to remember when constructing your story, that it should be simple, honest and authentic, and consistent. Let’s talk more about consistency. As we’ve already understood, branding is the sum of all of a person’s interactions and perceptions of your business. This means that your visual identity (logo, colours, fonts etc.), your website, the words and images you use, the tone of the staff member who answers the phone, the promptness of your reply to a support email, all contribute toward your brand story. This is what I mean by being consistent. If your business sells high end jewellery, then there will be certain expectations from customers as to how they are communicated with and what the business looks and feels like and if there is disharmony in the story, they will distrust it. 

For this reason, developing your brand story doesn’t end with the above exercise. It relies on all aspects of your business and its communications being aligned in telling the same consistent story. When this is done effectively, it is the single most powerful tool in growing your brand and your business. The most successful companies in the world have told a compelling and consistent story for many years, and the results speak for themselves. It is ingrained in our subconscious that we associate creativity with Apple, or athletic performance with Nike for example.

So here again are the key things to remember in developing and telling your brand story.

  1. Define the hero, villain, plan and outcome of your story.
  2. Combine these into your brand story statement as in the above example.
  3. Ensure all of your touchpoints, from visual design to your website and marketing communications are aligned in telling the same consistent story. (There’s much more to talk about here which we will dive deeper into in future articles.)

It’s not a simple process, and the results don’t come overnight. But a commitment to developing and consistently telling a compelling brand story will elevate your business like nothing else can.