Every business needs a brand story, including startups and e-commerce brands

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  • Every business needs a brand story, including startups and e-commerce brands

Start telling your brand story

People recall stories way more reliably than facts. This fact is relevant for all types of brand; everyone from sole traders like artists, through to startups through to large companies.

The goal is the same for everyone, to be noticed and remembered. And the way to be noticed and remembered is through effective and consistent brand storytelling. 

These days people are bombarded with targeted product offers. This has made ad networks very wealthy but as the cost of acquiring the traffic gets bid higher, it becomes hard for anyone else to make that type of advertising work unless it’s used to acquire a loyal set of repeat customers.

The way to acquire repeat customers, rather than one-off customers is to build a relatable human story about your brand and tell it through your marketing. This will mean people remember you, and come back to you.

So what is a brand story?

Brand stories communicate the passion you have for what you do, which of course communicates to people that your products or services are good, much more so than reeling off a list of product attributes (there’s a time for that, but only once people have been engaged by the brand story). 

The brand story gives the brand meaning for the consumer. Ultimately this means loyalty, if I buy into your story then it becomes part of my identity.

A brand story can be how the brand came about but it doesn’t have to be that, it could instead be what drives it to do what it does, why it is different, and what the brand’s aims are. Imagine your brand is a person and it was asked; how did you get here, or where are you going and why? Or, what drives you?

If the response is a coherent narrative that would take less than a minute to tell, and that provokes an emotional reaction in the questioner, then you have your brand story. 

Examples of how to tell brand stories

This story can then be told in lots of ways, and can inspire and inform your brand values, brand character, advertising, marketing activities, partnerships, tone of voice etc. A brand story gives you consistency to all of the ways you communicate as a brand.

You don’t necessarily tell your story all the time, as this might become a bit repetitive, rather your content and advertising can tell stories that conform to your brand story. When all those ads and content all looked at as a whole, they should have a meta-narrative which conforms to the reason you exist or came about, but they each stand alone as an interesting and different story in themselves.

Let’s examine this through an example, let’s take Nike. Their brand is about performance, empowerment, victory, irreverence and giving the power to everyone, whether a Sunday runner or Mo Farah, to break personal barriers. When you wear Nike apparel or shoes this should give you the feeling of performance and power whatever level you are at.

The name Nike is the winged goddess of victory in greek mythology, and the Swoosh symbolises speed and movement. The tagline ‘Just Do It’ was created by Dan Wieden, co founder of the famous ad agency Wieden and Kennedy. Interviewed by Dezeen he said he wanted a tagline that would be as relevant and inspiring for anyone getting into shape as it would a world class athlete. The brand connects personal performance and world class performance under a shared goal of pushing for better.

The focus on uniting everyone in sport under the shared goal of pushing for greatness, whether personal or on a world stage, has naturally led Nike to celebrate the breaking down of racial and gender barriers in sport, i.e. that it should just be about performance and talent whether that is personal performance or performance on the world stage. This ethic has been communicated through notable incredible stories, such as that of the Williams sisters and Colin Kaepernick.

The thing with Nike, and with any effective brand story, is that it is not just about presentation, the ethos runs right through the customer journey and of course most crucially it shows in the type of products the company makes. Nike has focussed on innovative designs and using technologically advanced fabrics and materials to give people, for example, the best performing lightest, springiest or reduced impact running shoes, or using new materials to allow people to train in all weathers in breathable fabrics.

So, it is important to walk the walk, if you want to be truly successful over decades then your brand story should be a genuine expression of your core values and therefore this of course translates to your products.

Are brand stories really memorable?

Research has shown that we forget things quickly, unless they are wrapped up in a story. Experiments have shown that after 20 minutes people forget 40% of what they have just actively learned. And the key there is ‘actively learned’; when you factor in that most people have learned to ignore ads online, the task to be remembered becomes even harder.  

However, when the same facts are learned in the form of a narrative this increases the likelihood of recall by more than 6 times! So telling your story not only helps you gain attention, it helps the people watching, listening or reading it to recall it.

Exercise 1: Think of brand stories you identify with

As a warmup exercise for working out your own brand story, try this exercise. Think of 3 brands you love, whose products you genuinely love. Write down the most immediate things you remember about them? Research them, look at their content like we did with Nike above and you can start to see how a brand ties together everything they do under the banner of a meta-narrative or ethos. You don’t have to think of huge brands with big budgets, small e-commerce brands can do this just as effectively.

Exercise 2: Start to think about your brand story?

Hopefully you love what you do. But why? How did you come to be doing what you do? The chances are there’s a backstory to you or the company that shows your passion. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why did you start the brand? What was the objective you had in mind. Not just what problem did you want to solve but why did you want to solve it?
  • Describe the events that led to your starting the brand, or what you do (e.g.practice as a designer), and what challenges you have overcome to get here?
  • What do you stand for? When you eventually stop doing what you’re doing now and look back, what values will you be proud of? How did you change things?
  • What do you stand against? What did you see in the marketplace that you didn’t like, something you felt had to change?

If you can answer these questions then this is a great start. Now you need to take the best bits of the above and create your story. 

If you want to go into more detail on how to develop your story, follow our interactive exercise to develop your brand story.

Ready to start telling your story? 

Once you have a story, One powerful way to tell that story is visually. Visual storytelling tends to evoke a big emotional impact, which again is a huge factor in recall. Artists like photographers, illustrators and designers can help you to tell your brand story effectively. 

When you are ready to find an artist to help craft your story, try our /find service that matches brands and agencies with the world’s best visual storytellers.