We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.
Jimmy Neil Smith
Brand storytelling is not about you, and it sure is not about selling. It’s not about showcasing your brands, products or services, but a chance to build emotions, create experiences and strengthen connections, in relation to what your brand stands for.
Like every great tale, a captivating brand story must have relatable characters, an issue/conflict, and an underlying message. These three elements do not have to be clearly spelt out – they could be inferred, but they must be woven into your story.
Your entire story depends on the characters you choose to use. Think about your audience; what character are they most likely to relate with? And let that guide you.
Begin by characterizing your customer. You are telling a story to a person; not a stereotype or demographic. Use your buyer persona to create the perfect character for your story/ ensure that they play the central role in the story, and that they are the hero. Everybody wants to be a hero!
Next, you characterize your brand. Your brand is the support actor in the story, helping the main character be the hero. Here, you determine how your brand helps your customer be a hero: do you provide guidance, are you the loyal sidekick, or are you a tool? Determine how your brand helps the customer in the story.
Amazon’s ‘Alexa Loses Her Voice’ story (featuring CEO Jeff Bezos and a handful of celebrities) is a perfect example of both customer and brand characterised. The customer is the everyday person who needs a reliable source of information and IT support to excel at everyday life, and Alexa is this support they need.
There could as well be the possibility of characterising the pain point or the issue the customer faces. Can the issue be characterised, or does it remain an idea? Pain points can be characterised like the Allstate Insurance Company did with the characterization of Mayhem in their commercial campaigns.
This is where you highlight the pain of the character in your story; the reason why they need you. The issue should reflect a struggle the character experiences, which the audience can relate to. Simply put, the issue is the need. This issue could be conflict (between man and society, man and man, or between man and a brand) or the desire for something better than they have. Whatever the issue is, it must speak to your target audience. They must be able to see themselves at the same pain point to relate with what your character experiences. Spotify nails this with their story showing conservative music students thrust into a world of hip-hop, breaking the somewhat boring cycle they have been accustomed to.
Now hit home with your message. Your message is the solutions your brand, or brand values bring to the world. The message is the theme of the story; the underlying memo you intend for your audience to leave with. This is where you convey the values of the brand, and with campaigns, must be reinforced with each chapter of the story told. Take a look at how Pfizer does this.
Your product is forgettable; it can be replaced by something better, or can just become obsolete. But what your audience will never forget is the characters in your brand story they can relate to. They are what reminds them why they should remain loyal to you.
There, you have it. The must-have elements of every great brand story. Remember, storytelling is all about igniting emotion, celebrating authenticity, and fostering personal connections. Make sure your story encapsulates all these.