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BrandingContent MarketingBrand Storytelling

What the heck is our brand story anyway? How to find and tell your best stories to deeply connect with your clients

Brand storytelling is one of the most misunderstood communication strategies among geospatial industry leaders. While most brands recognise its importance, many remain puzzled about how to do it (let alone do it effectively.)

The idea of telling stories and making emotional connections seems far removed from the typical 7 Ps of Marketing: product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people.

And that’s a good thing! Here’s why:

We’re entering an era where Millennials and GenZ are the largest generations of consumers. These tech-savvy, digital natives demand a different kind of customer experience.

One that is seamlessly integrated on- and offline, across various platforms and mediums. One where brands demonstrate activism and take a clear stance on social issues. And one where customers and brands are positioned eye-to-eye and can have a two-way conversation.

In short, today’s customers are seeking an emotional connection with brands that transcends the traditional buyer-seller relationship. A relationship akin to “becoming friends”, so brands who want to remain competitive need to be decent “friend material.”

The 7 Ps of marketing are not equipped for the job of relationship-building, and this company-centric messaging strategy may not land well with the modern consumer.

We need to shift our approach from writing at our audience and start writing for our audience. In other words, create emotional connections and foster meaningful relationships.

Enter brand storytelling.

What is brand storytelling?

“The idea is to write so that people hear it, and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart”

Maya Angelou

In short, brand storytelling is the emotional transfer of information by means of a theme, character, and plot.

Although this description might bring back distant memories of your creative writing class at school, stories don’t have to be “woo woo”, “intuitive”, or even “creative”.

In fact, a great brand story is something you can design, measure, and replicate in different ways to spark emotions (and evoke responses!) from your audience.

By connecting information with emotions in a way that no other form of communication can, brand storytelling helps you make your content compelling and memorable.

In fact, research suggests that stories can be up to 22x more memorable than other types of information (Rodriguez, 2019:7).

Because all people are hardwired to enjoy stories, it makes sense to integrate brand storytelling as a central part of your integrated marketing strategy. Instead of seeing it as an isolated process of developing a set of brand narratives, begin to see brand storytelling as the glue that holds together every step of your customer journey.

By designing every customer interaction to tie in with your brand story, you start to create a cohesive bigger picture, both internally and externally. This helps your customers build trust with your brand and paves the way for meaningful customer-brand relationships.

How to find your core brand story

Every great story has three main ingredients: A theme, characters, and plot.

To find your core brand story, let’s take a look at what each of these elements could look like.

Theme

Your story’s theme is the overarching universal truth that it relates to. And you can find this nugget of messaging gold buried in your brand’s mission statement.

Your mission statement should outline why your brand exists and speak to a human emotion we all understand. This emotional driver is your universal truth or story theme.

For example, Microsoft’s mission statement is “to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.” This is both a practical and emotional promise. Practically speaking, Microsoft customers can expect to “achieve more” (this is their outcome), while emotionally speaking, they can expect to feel “empowered” (this is their emotional driver.)

If your mission statement has these two components, then you’ve got the theme of your core brand story.

Every brand story you tell should always tie back to this central theme.

Character

Once you have your central theme, it’s time to define your stories’ characters.

This is where brands often go wrong and assume that their customer should be the main character of every brand story.

Although it’s a good idea to make the customer the hero of your brand stories, they’re not necessarily the main character.   

Making your customer the hero means that every story you tell should tie back to their hero’s journey. That is, their quest to achieve a certain outcome with the help of your product or service.

Your stories should be centred around their quest, and your products, services, and team are merely there to help them on their journey.

So, depending on what kind of story you want to tell (more on this in the next section), your character(s) might be your team, your customer, your products, or services, or even an event.

Plot

Now you have your theme and characters.

The next step is to decide on the plot (or storyline).

The basic recipe for a winning storyline goes like this:

  • Everything is in order in the protagonist’s life
  • Something happens that disrupts the order (inciting incident)
  • The protagonist goes through highs and lows to restore order
  • Their worldview gets reshaped in the process
  • The “after” is generally better than the “before”

So, to design your own brand storyline, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the inciting incident that made your customers seek you out? Why now?
  • What is the conflict your customers face on their hero’s journey? (emotional)
  • What highs and lows do they go through? (practical)
  • How can your product or service help them restore order and achieve an outcome that’s better than before?
  • How does this reshape their worldview?

Once you have a plot outline, you can start developing your story concepts that all relate to your central brand story.

types of brand story you can tell

Once you’ve got your core brand story elements, you can brainstorm different story concepts and narratives to meet your marketing goals or reflect different aspects of your brand.

As long as you tie each narrative back to your core brand story, the stories you tell will paint a cohesive picture of your brand, which helps you connect and build trust with your audience.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration for the types of stories you can tell, here are a few categories to get you started.

Origin stories

Just think of the good old tech start-up defying their humble odds (in a garage, perhaps) and taking the world by storm. That’s a classic origin story.

But even if your brand’s origin wasn’t spectacular or odds-defying, it was no doubt driven by a clear vision and purpose. And, chances are, that you’ve experienced your fair share of ups and downs along the way. Sharing these stories makes your audience see the people behind the brand and helps build trust and connection.

When crafting your origin stories, think about…

  • Your victories
  • Your defeats
  • Things that inspired you
  • Things that frustrated you
  • Lessons you learned
  • How you got out of a tough situation

Mission stories

These are the feel-good, service to humanity stories that demonstrate your corporate social responsibility​ and show your brand’s values.

When crafting mission stories, think about…

  • Your company’s mission or vision
  • Your corporate social responsibilities
  • The manufacturing process (especially if products are sustainably sourced or ethically made)

Product stories

These stories are low hanging fruit, even for the most uncreative marketers!

You can tell all kinds of stories related to your products or services to show how they help your customer on their hero’s journey.

For these types of stories, think about…

  • The product’s maker/inventor (and the problem he or she wanted to solve)
  • How the product is made
  • What sets it apart from similar products
  • A demonstration of your product

Consumer stories

In these types of stories, you can let the customer do the talking for you! This is where your potential customers can read about the struggles that your previous customers have overcome by using your product or service.

You can showcase your customer success stories through…

  • Reviews
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials

Integrating brand storytelling into your marketing plan

While a once-off narrative can potentially be very effective if it reaches and engages a wide audience, the buyers of today value continuity and ongoing relationship-building. So, it pays to make storytelling a key part of your marketing plan.

Consider:

  • What goals are you trying to achieve through storytelling?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your key message?
  • What channels are you going to use? (Consider where your audience hangs out)
  • What KPIs are you going to use to measure the success of your strategy?

Then, get your organisation on board first before sharing your story and narratives with the wider world.

Your team should identify with the core values and messages being conveyed. The core brand story should become an authentic part of the company culture and it should serve as a constant reminder of what the brand stands for. Every narrative should relate back to the core values of your brand story.

Based on your marketing plan, you can then create storytelling assets and conduct training with the team.

Wrapping up

If you want to create a powerful brand that lives up to your customers’ expectations, brand storytelling should play a central role in your integrated marketing plan.

By putting your brand story at the heart of your brand narratives and sales messages, you paint a coherent picture that builds trust and fosters meaningful relationships with your audience.

To figure out your core brand story, start by looking at your mission statement. Which human emotions does it speak to?

Then, think about your hero’s journey and how it unfolds to figure out your characters and storyline.

Once you have these basic elements in place, you can play around with narratives and story concepts on topics like your brand’s origin, mission, products, and customers.

If you’re prepared to put in the required effort to design your compelling brand story, the payoff will be better leads, happier clients, and more conversions.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you, and we’re here to help!

References

Miri Rodriguez (2020): Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story. Kogan Page Publishers.

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