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  • Writer's pictureGemma

Harness the power of brand storytelling for your marketing

Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate your brand message to your customers. It helps to connect on an emotional level, which is how to resonate deeply and be remembered.



The History & Science behind storytelling

Storytelling has been the primary way to communicate messages from one generation to the next for centuries and has become part of our DNA.

Although the way in which we take in stories has changed over the years, the desire to read, listen or tell stories hasn’t changed and it plays an important role in our daily lives.

When we hear a story it encourages us to pay attention because we have an innate desire to know what happens – especially if we can see ourselves in it.


“When information comes from a story rather than just simple facts our brains light up. The neural activity increases fivefold, like a switchboard has suddenly illuminated the city of our mind. Scientists have a saying: ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ When more of your brain is at work at a given point of time, the chances that your brain will remember the work it did increases exponentially.” – Hubspot

Stories help us see into the past, we see the triumphs of the winners and the trials of the losers. They allow us to learn, develop and evolve.


When we can relate to a story on a personal level, our brains release the chemical Oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known as the love chemical and increases our feelings of trust and empathy. It also encourages co-operation which is why it’s an important piece of the brand building puzzle.


“Stories (not ideas, not features, not benefits) are what spread from person to person.” ― Seth Godin, All Marketers are liars.


Storytelling for Business

So how do we harness storytelling for brands? A common misconception of brand storytelling is that it’s to communicate the history of the company and founder, but actually the purpose is to tell the story of the customer.


Don’t get me wrong, the founders story has it’s place in the overall brand building, but the purpose of storytelling is to communicate the problems your brand can solve for your customers.


This helps potential new customers see themselves in the story and connects with how the brand can fit into their lives.


The structure of a brand story should place the customer as the hero and the brand as the guide.


Story telling for your brand can be fiction or non-fiction. Case studies are a great way of telling the story of your customer in a real world scenario.


“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories” – Jonathan Gottschall

Story Framework

Wether you are telling a real world story (case study) or a fictional story, an effective brand story should follow a structure which tracks the journey of your customer/hero like this:


  1. The Existing World

  2. The Obstacle

  3. The Call to Action

  4. Meeting the Guide

  5. The Challenge

  6. The Transformation

  7. The Successful Outcome



#1 - The Existing World

Understand your hero’s life – get a good idea of who your customer is and what their life looks like. Think about age, gender, geographic location and life stage. Also think about psychographic profiling like; views and opinions, how they behave and what could potentially be happening in their lives.


Creating a hero character that effectively portrays your customer will help them to be draw into your story and pay attention.


#2 - The Obstacles

What obstacle stands in the way for the hero? What’s the problem they need to solve and what are their wants and needs? What conflicts do they face and how does it emotionally impact their lives. Get into their mind set and empathise with how issues could arise. If you can paint the picture of what the paint points are, your audience will be able to resonate with your story on a deeper level.


#3 - The Call to Action

This is the reason that sparks your hero character to act. What triggers the journey to begin? What motivates your audience character to take action?


#4 - Meeting the Guide

This is where your brand comes in, as the guide who assesses the situation, calms the mind of the hero and shines the light on the path to glory. The guide enlightens the hero and sets out a route to success, helping the hero gain confidence and have an epiphany realising the potential of the new path.


#5 - The Challenge

Now we outline the challenge the hero is faced with, what inner fear do they have to overcome? Communicate the vulnerability of the hero, the emotional investment and the desire for a resolution.

#6 - The Transformation

This is a key part to the story because it’s what your audience wants to see for themselves. It’s the bridge connecting the 2 parts to the story from current state to future state. Describe what your audience wants to achieve.


#7 - The Successful Outcome

The final part of the story is to paint the picture of success for your hero. What does their new world look like? What is the dream scenario? Think about aspirations and goals of your audience and make them come true via the hero. Focus on feelings, how does your hero feel having overcome the obstacles and achieved success?


“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.” - Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge

Now amplify your story

Remember the diminishing attention span of your audience. People are busy and could be digesting your brand story on a bus or train with minimal time to take the information in. If you just post the story on your website as text, a very small percentage of people will have the time to read it. So instead you could divide it up to use as snippets on social media, or create an animation, or a short film to communicate the brand story. If utilising a case study format, ensure it’s engaging with pictures and evidence, to help to support the story. Go one step further and feature a testimonial to communicate the successful outcome in their own words. This will give maximum effect for resonance and social proofing.



Example

Here’s an example of the story framework in action using our brand. I’ve marked out the numbered stages so you can follow the structure of the framework as the story unfolds…


#1 Adele is the new marketing manager for a beauty brand, she’s only been working at the brand for 1 month and has been thrown in at the deep end. The brand is a mess, the marketing lacks clarity and doesn’t resonate with the audience. The sales figures are down, departments are working in solitude and everyone is blaming each other for poor performance figures. There’s no unified message or anything foundational to bring the staff together on the same page.


#2 Adele is tasked with planning a marketing strategy but without clarity in the brand, she’s not sure where to start.

#3 She knows she needs help from somewhere, so she starts doing some research online and comes across our website. #4 She reaches out with a phone call and we start to help, guiding her through brand strategy and collaboratively building the brand.


#5 Adele is confident and excited by the work she’s been doing with the branding agency, but she still doubts herself and worries if she has made the right decision in taking the job in the first place. There’s no choice to go back to her old job, they’ve already recruited someone else so she has to push on and try to make it work.


#6 Together with the agency she creates the tools to forecast and plan ahead of time, to execute her marketing strategy. She’s able to brief us clearly and we help her create a marketing campaign which is much more empathetic to the customers pain points and feelings. It resonates with new customers and the campaign is a huge success.


#7 Adele feels proud of herself and confident with the new brand, her boss is very impressed, as is the rest of the team. They celebrate her and the brand makes huge profits that year. Adele receives a nice end of year bonus and soon after she’s promoted to Director of Marketing.


“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but the stories you tell”― Seth Godin, All Marketers are liars.

Summary

Brand storytelling is a great way to connect with your audience and show them how your products can fit into their lives. It also gives your brand the best opportunity to be remembered long term and embeds your brand in the minds of your audience, making brand recall easier in a retail or online environment.


Another huge benefit of brand storytelling is – it will help you get into the mind set of your customer, which will help to bring in more ideas for ways to connect with them.


The golden rule to remember is to keep the limelight firmly on the customer. Your brand must be the guide and not the hero that swoops in to save the day. Your audience needs to see themselves as the hero, so they can connect with the good feelings the character has at the end of the story, which your brand will help them to achieve.


Get in touch to find out more about brand storytelling and how we can help to market your brand.


 


About the Author

Gemma is a logo and branding designer at Emotion Brands and enjoys working across strategy and design. During her 20 year career she has worked with global brands, such as Davines, Secret Escapes, Wella Professionals and L'Oréal. She's constantly evolving her skills and enjoys taking a holistic approach to branding, with a particular interest in sustainability and eco print practices.


If you're looking for Branding or Design Agencies in Bournemouth get in touch.


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