Remember when your were just a kid and your grandparents would sit you down and tell you this "true" story about some other kid just to get you to wash your teeth or eat your peas ? Well that was a brand storytelling just as any other that a company uses now a days. They told you an interesting tale, but in a way that was captivating, you'd never forget it and maybe it would change your behaviour. But why was it important, to create this whole story around a simple little fact ? They wanted to you to do that one single thing. They could have asked. Unfortunately, kids listen to what their parents and grandparents ask, just as people listen to what ads tell them to do. Eat your peas ! Buy our product ! Yeah right. So, in comes the brand storytelling to change the impact of the information. In the next lines I will explain to you how it does this and why should you care.
The trend of brand storytelling
If you take a look on the internet every company or organization will say that they are shifting their marketing strategies towards brand storytelling. Most of them don't, some of them do it poorly and there are cases that have been doing it right for years before this crazy trend had surfaced. The reason this marketing wave has appeared it's because it works. It has always worked.
There a few basic principles of psychology that justify the great impact it actually has. As human beings we are naturally curious. That means we want to know, we need to find out information. But the solution is not through at us big bulks of data. "Our company is the best, because: long list of statistics". What a brand needs to do is to keep us curious. To make us want to find out more. To not just be the receivers, rather to search for that information. And taking how we live in an internet era, making sure your leads and customers search for you on search engines is quite important. And here enters brand storytelling, to give your future partners the motivation to search. Andy has told us more about why this should be included in all content marketing strategies.
The second principle that has make this strategy work since the cave man, is identification. As humans when we encounter the tale told by a another we need to identify with something, preferably someone in that story. Why? Because even if we don't know the details of the situation, what we'd do in that position, our conclusion in many cases will be "I'd do the same. I'd react like that too." That's what happens because we identify with that set of values, that character, which in terms makes us identify with the outcome. So good brand storytelling has to find the common ideas we have and present them in a way that the audience can relate. This is why every time a Virgin company launches something new or announces something amazing there is always a focus on the people - the featured image above shows the key brand figure, Richard Branson, is present but the photo is about the crew and aircraft, it creates a connection between you and the brand (not just you and Richard).
Now the final principle why this strategy has worked before the term was even invented, is familiarity. What do I mean with this is that it creates a coherence in the message you are sending about an organization, which hard to do. Your audience understands you as a whole. Not just a product or a service, but a whole team with a common goal and set of values. This doesn't mean you should never change your brand. Your macro evolution is part of the brand storytelling. There would be no tale to tell, if there would be no changes. The steps you take, even if they strike curiosity, they should be easily understood for your existing audience and from the perspective of your core values.
Understanding your brand
So now that we have established why so many companies out there try to jump on this train, let's see how they manage to do it and what you can apply in your own brand storytelling strategy.
Why does Apple have a greater success than any other company at selling the same kind of products ? You might say "because they're Apple." And you would be right, but what those that mean ? Simon Sinek does and excellent job of explaining on Ted what they are actually selling, what makes them Apple. Based on his explanation you need to find out some very important information in order to make your brand storytelling work.
Why are you doing it ? How you do it ? What are you doing ? Now just as Simon brilliantly exposed it, people buy the WHY. They can get what you are offering from anybody else on this planet cause they have an internet connection and shipping get's easier by the second. Your audience does care how you create your product or service because it makes them determine if they consider it qualitative enough. At the same time they understand the major concept of your process and most of the time won't see the little difference between you and your closest competitor. But the selling point is the answer to the why question. And that's where your brand storytelling comes in place.
People don't buy a product any more. They buy an attitude, a feeling, a membership into a different society. But how do you sell them that ? Well first of all you need to establish what your brand is. Harriet Cummings does points out the concrete steps you need to take in order to find the solution to this problem. From this point of view there are two major aspects that determine the impact of your brand storytelling.
First of all you need to know what you are. Each person in your company, each department may have different goals, ideas, pieces of the larger image that they take care of. At the same time you have common concepts and values that you treasure and which are there every step of the way. It might be something you all stand for or something about your work ethic, like in the case of FedEx. The unforgettable tagline "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight " shows that they made a promise toward their customers about the way they work and they deliver on it each time. :) And that makes for a positive brand storytelling.
Just as important is to understand what you are not. You can't make everybody happy. And that's ok. Your job is to deliver on the promises you make as an organization. When you establish the image you are presenting, pin point these aspects as well. When someone gives you a negative feedback because you don't do those things, explain to them, that they are not part of the promise you are making to your audience in your brand story. How they aren't connected to your core values and why you are not working on them at the moment. But make sure that they truly aren't.
The second important aspect of your brand storytelling is understanding who you are speaking to. You don't have to please everyone but you need to know who you want to touch with your product. Understanding this, pin pointing your buyer persona, acquiring the right information about them will make your work easier. You will know what they want from you and how they understand your message. Integrating their feedback into the process of creating the story will make it more efficient.
Owning the impact
The great magic of a good brand storytelling process is the impact it creates. The changes it makes on both sides. In your audience behaviour, because that's what you were after in the first place. But also the changes in your organizations work ethic, your definition as a brand and the evolution of the company. Making sure that you own those changes, is the step where you make your audience realise you are responsible for those change in their lives and they are responsible for the evolution in story.
So does your business own the impact of it's brand storytelling ? And what is your next step ? Waiting for your answers and questions in the comment section bellow.