Essentials for Powerful Brand Storytelling

Nobody wants to be told to buy something. However, everyone loves a great story. Telling stories is how humans have shared knowledge, built trust and developed authority since the dawn of time.

Scientific research has shown that as a species, we are wired for stories. They can trigger emotional and physiological responses in our bodies. One study by neuroscientist Paul Zak found that a compelling narrative releases oxytocin, a chemical associated with empathy and trust. When it is released in the brain, it can influence a person’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

As a business, if you can’t tell a good story, people aren’t going to connect with you or even recognize your brand. 

What makes a compelling brand story?

Powerful brand storytelling shouldn’t be viewed as just a marketing tactic. Stories are the fabric of your business. They communicate to investors, customers, press and competitors what your company values and what makes it unique. At 10twelve, we craft stories for our clients and our own businesses every day. Here are three essentials that powerful stories have in common: 

1. It is honest and authentic.

Stories are meant to be engaging and intriguing. They should be relevant and capture your audience’s attention. However, don’t “embellish the details” to draw a crowd.

Brands need to be authentic and transparent if they want to build long-lasting customer relationships. In fact, today’s consumers, especially Millennials, demand authenticity from brands. If you are lying or exaggerating, your customers and others will discover the truth one way or another.

2. There’s a problem and a solution.

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end, and a challenge to overcome. In the beginning, you explain the problem and why your audience should care. The middle covers your solution and how you developed it. The end often paints a picture. What does success look like? How did your solution fix or improve the situation?

Another way to view it is as a hero’s journey. Your story should have a hero and a weapon or tool that helps them face some problem or challenge. For instance, Thor has his hammer, Mjolnir. Wonder Woman has her Lasso of Truth. Captain America has his shield. You get the idea.

Who’s the hero? Many times, it could be your audience or your customers. The tool is what you offer them--your product or service. Remember not to blow your own horn too much. Focus on the reader.

3. Highlight what makes you unique.

No one is perfect all the time--even a successful company or founder. In fact, most businesses are created because of a problem or setback.

Embrace failing forward. Find your angle or what makes you stand out. If you are a startup or a small business, you could be considered an underdog or disruptor. Comeback stories, in which you experienced failure and learned from it, are inspirational.

Companies that are built on goodwill and started to fulfill a need have a huge emotional impact. For instance, the shoe company TOMS, donates a portion of each sale to provide shoes to those that can’t afford any. Purchasing a pair for yourself also gives customers a sense of helping others.

Tips to Craft More Powerful Stories

Now that you know the essentials, you can develop narratives that not only engage your audience but build and keep those relationships for the long-term.

Get to know your users and audiences.

Powerful narratives compel the person consuming them to react, to take action or change their behavior. Who should hear your stories? What value do you offer and what types of people would benefit the most from it? 

One person may have a deep, emotional connection to a story, while another person is completely indifferent. This is why it is critical to know your audience. What are their interests and dreams? What challenges do they face? The stories that you tell should address their specific needs and interests.

Tell stories in fresh and creative ways.

You need to pay attention to what you say and how you say it. The narrative is important, but don’t underestimate presentation. For instance, you can repurpose a blog into a video or a podcast. A video may be more appropriate and engaging for your audience. It may also help to simplify a more complex situation and make your story easier to remember. Statistics estimate that 80% of people will watch a video from beginning to end, whereas only 20% will read content in its entirety.

Your main messages can stay consistent with your brand and values. However, keeping content fresh is crucial to keeping your audiences engaged. It can also boost SEO and add value.

Combine stories with hard data.

At times, adding some real numbers to your brand stories can make them more powerful. If you say that you helped a customer increase their sales and save their business from going under, be specific and back it up with some data. However, don’t get too lost in the numbers. Remember that great stories connect with people’s emotions and beliefs.

Iterate and iterate.

You may not be a natural storyteller from the start. It may take some time before you really know your audience, as well as the channels, tone and content that works best for you. Don’t play the guessing game.

Track how your content performs. How many people viewed it? How long did they spend on a page? Did anyone share or comment on it? Data can also help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Keep iterating your content, so that it gets a little better each time.

Encourage feedback and shares.

One of the greatest tests to determine if you have powerful brand stories is to see what others are saying. If others are sharing and talking about narratives that you created, then you know that it is reaching them on a deeper level.

Include a call-to-action.

If your goal is to get users to take a specific action, you need to tell them. A call-to-action is a clear message that tells your audience what they can do next. They may want to get more information, sign up for a free trial or make a purchase.

You don’t have to be pushy, but give them the option. Even if you want to raise awareness for your brand, you should include your logo and encourage them to connect with you on your website or social channels.

Every successful company--from Apple and Disney to Nike and Google--is built on powerful storytelling. Compelling narratives give your business personality and life. They help you connect with your audiences and build relationships that last. When customers make a purchase, they aren’t just buying a tangible product. They are buying your stories and what they stand for--those will keep them coming back more than anything else.

It may take some time and iteration before you become a master storyteller, but the benefits are immense. You can also seek help and advice on crafting stories and growing your business by contacting us at 10twelve.