Brand storytelling is gaining momentum in the marketing world, and with good reason. Stories are scientifically proven to get a person’s attention. In fact, stories stimulate brain activity. When we read or hear plot points our neurons start firing—and not just in the part of the brain that controls the language center.
But there’s a lot of confusion around the idea of brand storytelling. It’s becoming a term that is getting thrown around a lot—like content marketing—but agencies, companies and thought leaders don’t agree on a definition. So, we want to solve that. Here’s our definition.
Brand Storytelling is “Using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers.”
Let’s break it down:
By narrative, we mean storytelling elements. A story includes characters, setting, conflict, rising action, climax and dénouement. Creating these points allows your audience to easily follow along with a story—and remember it.
Importantly, the main character in your brand story is not you, it’s your customer. Your customer has to be the hero to make this work. Your brand is the guide.
By what you stand for, we mean the essence of your brand. It’s not the product you sell, and it’s not to make money. It’s the driving force behind your business, and it differentiates you from the competition. It’s why you exist.
Ideally, you can encapsulate what you stand for in just two or three words. Nike stands for athletic excellence—not sneakers or sports equipment. Disney stands for family happiness—not theme parks or movies. Scribewise stands for trust through storytelling—not blog writing or social media.
Values are the character traits of your company that define it. A lot of companies randomly say their values are words like integrity, innovation, etc., but they choose these words because they sound nice, not because they truly reflect who they are. A company’s values are the best behaviors of your best employees on their best days. In other words, if you highly value that salesperson who will bend the rules to land the big deal, then “integrity” is not your value; winning is. If that’s truly what you value, embrace it.
The Case for Brand Storytelling
So, why does brand storytelling matter? The marketplace is more crowded than ever—and competing for attention is more difficult than it was even a decade ago. Combine that with a buyer’s journey where the customer is in control of the path to purchase; buying is now social, self-directed, trust-based and transparent.
The best way to reach a customer who’s deciding what and when she’ll buy is to stop pushing your products so hard and focus more on why your business exists at all. When you tell this story and explain your values you’ll engage the customers who share your values.
When you find the people who share your values, there’s a much better chance they’ll stay loyal to you (though we know that even brand loyalty has changed).
Your story then becomes your company strategy, which propels your brand forward. It’s an idea well-known venture capitalist Ben Horowitz introduced.
He said: “You can have a great product, but a compelling story puts the company into motion. If you don’t have a great story it’s hard to get people motivated to join you, to work on the product, and to get people to invest in the product.”
Figuring out why your company exists, and then telling that story to your prospective customers through marketing messages from social media posts, to your blog, to advertisements and videos, is the goal of brand storytelling. Having a brand story and what you stand for at the core of your company strategy does more than just help guide marketing activities and create consistent messages that connect with your audience. It gets your team on the same page It energizes them so that they know where they’re going and why they’re going there.
It gives your company a purpose.
And that purpose will drive you forward.