What is brand storytelling?
In a world full to the brim with competition and even copycats, the old adage ‘survival of the fittest’ has never carried more weight for today’s brands. And with brands battling for every nano-second of consumer attention, your chances of survival can be hugely boosted through brand storytelling.
But what is brand storytelling and why should you be sitting up and taking notice?
Brand storytelling is the narrative that links you with your customers on a far deeper level than your product or service alone can manage.
It’s why you exist.
It’s why you matter.
It’s what makes your customers feel something.
That emotional connection, which encompasses the values you share with your customers, is a powerful thing and it’s what can help you stand out from the copycats and competition we alluded to right at the top of this piece.
It’s what makes your brand unique – because they can copy what you do, but they can’t copy your story.
That’s the power of brand storytelling…
Why is brand storytelling important?
The relationship between a brand and its customers had always been traditionally seen as something of a one-way street. You know how it used to go…
1. Customer makes enquiry, sharing lots of information about themselves.
2. Brand embarks on a hard sell to customer without giving them anything meaningful in return.
Of course, this was accepted many moons ago when companies had no real way of communicating effectively with their customers. But now, with more than 91% of businesses using content marketing strategies, the noise you’re battling with to capture your customers’ attention has never been louder. And even more importantly than that – customer demand for meaningful stories has never been higher.
As recently as 2015, research from The Brand Storytelling Report revealed how 80% of UK adults wanted brands to tell meaningful stories as part of their marketing output.
Yet 85% couldn’t recall a single memorable story told by a brand.
All of which tells us that while many brands are attempting to jump on board the brand storytelling train, many are derailing themselves right away through the actual content they’re creating.
How do brands use storytelling?
Think of some of the great books that have sold millions of copies all across the globe. How about:
• Harry Potter?
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
• The Lord of the Rings?
Those examples have all been made into films, too, and here’s what they all have in common:
• A hero with a goal or mission
• Something that our hero has to battle against in order to succeed
• A positive emotional development in our hero
As humans, we’re all wired to emotionally connect and react to stories – after all, we’re taught them from the moment we emerge into the world, from bedtime tales to picking apart Jane Eyre in GCSE English.
Brand storytelling example: Airbnb
Airbnb is some way from Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte, but as a brand, it’s one that places connective storytelling at the very heart of everything it does.
By providing a picture of an Airbnb host’s life, as the brand has done with Jonathan’s story, Airbnb is able to tell a ‘hero’s tale’ of a single dad of three, who was working 60-80-hour weeks as well as looking after his kids – before he started generating an income from letting his spare rooms to Airbnb guests and changed his life. The hosts, essentially, are Airbnb so rather than focusing their content marketing efforts on telling the story of the business, the brand’s approach focuses on their customer’s own stories and experiences.
What better way to resonate with their customers, than through people who are essentially just like them?
How to tell the story of your brand
The story of your brand, your values and what you stand for already exist – it’s how you project them into the emotional make-up of your customers that’s key. It’s also important to remember that your brand story is an ongoing evolutionary process, with plenty of sequels to come.
Your brand storytelling strategy should be driven by people and personalities – just like a good book.
• Who you are – how did your brand come to be and what is your vision, mission and values? What did you go through to get to where you are?
• What you do – but not only that, consider how what you do improves the lives of your customers and why you do what you do
• Who your customers are – your customers have stories to tell which stem directly from their experience with your brand. Make use of those authentic, honest stories
• What’s next – how will your brand evolve and how will you take your customers on that journey with you?
You should also:
• Focus on the problems your customers have and how what you do solves those problems – that’s the way to craft your hero and the story of how they overcame the odds with your help
• Make sure your story is educational, entertaining and inspirational – but most of all: make sure it’s believable
• Concentrate on the emotional touchpoint with your audience – how did what you do help someone and what were they struggling with before you stepped in?
• Let your personality shine through in your stories – it’s what sets you apart from the competition and your customers should know something is ‘you’ simply from reading the first line of your content
The Harrison approach to brand storytelling
We love telling the stories of the brands we work with. They’re intriguing, aspirational and encourage discovery from your customers.
Here are just a handful of the great brand story projects we’ve worked on:
Intrigue formed the basis of our work with The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, an imposing 12th century Georgian coaching house full of history and mystique.
Author Charlies Dickens stayed at the venue and referenced it in his acclaimed novel The Pickwick Papers. We created a concept of ‘fables and tales’ to inject a feeling of ESCAPISM and ADVENTURE in every corner of the venue’s historic footprint.
We built Giraffe World Kitchen’s brand story around the characteristics of the animal itself. Customers would ask why is this restaurant called Giraffe?Those characteristics align with the brand’s own values and beliefs:
• Giraffes have the biggest hearts of all land animals – OUR BRAND IS FRIENDLY AND WELCOMING
• They’re explorers, roaming the plains of Africa – OUR BRAND IS EXCITING AND ADVENTUROUS
• They have different view of the world, due to their height – OUR BRAND IS FUN AND LOOKS AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY
The brand challenge for this Mediterranean pizza concept was to find a narrative arc that would forge a connection between the many varied cultures around the region, and connect with the brand with the wholesome and healthier way of life that the Mediterranean is synonymous with.
Our solution was to ensure Gallio Pizza became a true EXPLORER brand telling the story of a food odyssey that followed in the wake of the ‘Galley’ ships of the early Mediterranean trade routes. It is a brand which collects stories and recipes from chefs, staff and customers – recommending places to find incredible food and telling stories of ingredient provenance – quite literally taking customers on a journey. This story gives the brand licence to combine ingredients and influences creating an inspiring new and innovative menu.
Find out more
We’re brand storytelling consultants – but so much more than that, too.