By Kate Hughes
Perhaps your company has evolved and the story you’ve been telling about the founders (all long since retired) is out of date and falling flat with a new generation of customers. Or maybe the business grew in such a way that these things were never nailed down at the start. And – particularly if you’re a small or medium sized organisation – you may not have the skills in-house to make it happen.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what a brand story is, why your organisation needs one, and the best way to go about creating it.
Your logo is not your brand identity
There’s often some confusion around the terms ‘brand’ and ‘logo’. But they’re not the same thing. While your logo is a visible symbol of your brand, it’s just one piece of your brand identity. In fact, if the other elements of a brand’s identity are used consistently and working in harmony, you should still be able to identify the brand in a piece of communication, even with the logo covered.
We’ll look in more depth at the other elements of brand identity in future posts, but for now we’re going to focus on a fundamental, yet often misunderstood part of brand identity: the brand story.
What exactly is a brand story?
A brand story shares how you do business, why your company exists, and how you respond uniquely to your customer’s needs, or solve their problems. Most importantly, it creates an emotional connection with your ideal customer. A successful brand story is authentic (yet aspirational), reflects the needs of your customers and articulates why they should choose you.
And do you really need one?
More often than not, people will buy based on their emotions, using rational reasons to justify their choices. If your brand can’t make that emotional connection, it’s competing on features and pricing with everyone else.
Humans love stories. Our ancestors told them around the fire and painted them on cave walls. Great stories make us feel powerful emotions, and connect the audience with the teller. All good stories have a hero/protagonist, conflict, and then, because we love a happy ending, resolution. In the case of a brand story, the hero is your customer, the conflict is their goals, pain points and triggers, and the resolution is your unique, life changing response to that ideal customer.
Your brand story is something to live up to
By telling your story, your brand is making a promise. Therefore, you need to be sure that what you say is backed by your people, products (or services), policies and processes. For example, if your brand story is all about your dedication to your customer, it becomes a benchmark for the way you treat not only potential but existing customers. Confusion is a brand killer, so a story needs to be consistent with your brand’s behaviour and other messages to create trust and loyalty.
What a successful brand story does
- Speaks directly to and resonates with your ideal customer
- Authentically represents your brand on its best day
- Sounds like you (i.e. a company making handcrafted skateboards will use different language to a blue chip financial services firm)
- Shows how your brand makes your customers’ lives better, makes them feel safe, empowered, informed, part of a movement…
- Shares a unified, consistent vision with the outside world
- Clearly communicates what you do, how you do it, and why that matters
- Uses emotive engaging language and metaphor to show rather than tell
- Manages to be both unique to your brand and universal enough to apply across all your products and/or services.
How do you create a good brand story?
Your brand story is not the place to get down to the technical nitty gritty of your products or services. Think emotion and meaning, ahead of facts and figures. Of course, do include salient facts when they reinforce your message. But what you really need to get across is what your organisation stands for, what makes it different, and the ‘big idea’ or core values at the heart of the brand. It’s human nature that your audience cares more about themselves than they do about you – so make sure you engage, empathise with, and involve your customer.
Creating a great brand story is an investment. So if your team is struggling to tell your story – it may make the most sense to bring in a specialist agency to help you co-create your story. They have experience with brand strategy and writing, and know the right questions to ask to bring out the real gems that will resonate with your customers. Look for an agency partner that can bring fresh ideas to the table, while really getting to know your business inside out.
Kate Phillips is a senior writer and brand strategist who works closely with Engaging Partners to help us tell our clients’ stories in a compelling way.
If you’re struggling with articulating what your brand is about and why that matters to your customers, please get in touch.