Since the earliest civilizations, storytelling has been an effective method for passing on history, values, emotions, customs and more. Today, it is one of the single most important ways for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition. The most powerful brands have established stories that connect with customers as well as employees. These compelling narratives create brand advocates and promote loyalty. Over time, sharing a consistent brand story builds a positive reputation, trust and empathy, as well as drives differentiation.
What’s the ‘why?’
First and foremost, a brand story communicates the purpose, values and goals of a brand. Why does it exist? In what ways does it fulfill the needs of its customers? What are its beliefs — the standards it aspires to uphold above all else? When a brand’s values and beliefs align with those of its customers, it’s well on its way to building loyalty. Harvard Business Review states 64% of customers attribute the trusted relationships they have with companies to the values they share with them.
Convey the heritage
A brand’s history is a significant part of its story. Is it a 100-year-old brand that has withstood the test of time? Was it started after several initial failures? Who are the people behind the brand?
Were they mavericks in their field? What challenges did they have to overcome? Do they still utilize the same time-honored process to produce their products? A brand story should convey what makes the company unique in the industry. It’s those nuggets of information that humanize brands and help them better connect with their audiences.
Advertising pioneer William Bernbach once said, “You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut.
Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.” The same is true for brands. The most powerful stories evoke emotional responses that engage customers on a much deeper level. It’s significantly more difficult to forget emotions than it is to forget words. In an increasingly impersonal world, brands that convey a heartfelt story will be more likely to connect with audiences and differentiate themselves from the crowd.
Keep it relevant to customers
When creating a brand story, keep the customer in mind. Is what you’re telling relevant to them? Does it build value in their minds? Will it help them better connect with the brand? If it’s not relevant to customers, they won’t care about the story no matter how well it’s written or how consistently it’s communicated.
Put it to the test
The best litmus test for a brand story is a company’s employees. If they don’t connect with the brand narrative, it’s doubtful customers will. They are the chief storytellers. Employees need to buy in to the story in order to effectively share it with others. That’s why when a brand story is created, it should first be shared with internal teams. Communicate the thought behind it so they can fully connect with the narrative and embody the story in their interactions with customers.
Brands can also share their story with a select group of customers to test it and ensure it is connecting with them on all levels.
A good brand story captivates, connects and differentiates. It is human, memorable and sets the tone for the customer experience. But to have an impact, brand stories must be told. Share them in brand videos, on websites, social media, sales materials, etc. Brands that consistently reinforce their unique narrative will strengthen their relationships with customers and give them a reason to care. Ultimately, inspiring stories increase brand value and help companies stand out in a crowded marketplace.
BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.