“Products are created in a factory, but brands are created in the mind” – Walter Landor
Ever since the dawn of mankind, storytelling has been an integral part of our life. As humans, there is nothing more we connect with than a story. Remember that time when your grandmother used to tell you stories of knights and princesses, castles, and kings; we all fancied ourselves having those adventures, right? That’s because we connect with emotion and stories, in any format, carry emotion.
Why is it that we sometimes feel an instant connection with a brand? Brand story!
How do we decide that we like one particular brand over another, even if the product is exactly the same? Brand story!
Stories are what we are made of, so naturally, they become the best medium for your brand to connect with your audience as well.
Brand storytelling does exactly this. It takes your brand from being a word on paper to an emotion in the heart of your consumers and an imprint on their brains.
Let us understand this in more detail.
What is brand storytelling?
In simple words, brand storytelling is talking about the values of your company through a narrative that creates an emotion your audience shares.
For example, the drink Red Bull associates itself with adventure and thrill. Consequently, all its commercials show people doing daredevil stunts and celebrating with Red Bull. Now, think back to the time when you were watching that commercial for the first time. Didn’t your heart skip a beat when the guy jumped off the mountain? Didn’t you feel a rush of adrenaline as you waited expectantly to see how it would end?
That is brand storytelling done right.
When a brand inspires the exact emotion in your heart that their product or services represent, they have nailed brand storytelling. Not to brag, but you can see how we have done this for one of our own brand stories – da-sh.
The key is to understand that there are several crucial elements of brand storytelling. Like a typical story, it requires characters, setting, storyline, plot, plot twist, conflict, and climax.
It is a narrative that captures the core values of your brand, your reason to exist, your history, vision, mission, goals, obstacles, inspiration, and your audience.
The best brand stories go beyond their products.
They might not even talk about it except for some subtle product placement, but you instantly relate it to the brand and it gets etched in your memory.
Types of brand storytelling
There are many ways of weaving a story. The narrative may change from narrator to narrator, but the message remains constant. Similarly, there are different ways in which you can present your brand story. Here, we have categorized brand storytelling into three main types.
A. Data-driven storytelling
Brands that have data and statistics to aid their narrative can opt for this type of storytelling. We often see this in government-run ads in campaigns for social awareness.
As an example, consider Spotify. The music-streaming app uses the data from over 170 million users to gauge listening patterns and habits to create and recommend playlists. So, their narrative often takes a data-based approach, like their 2018 goals campaign.
Based on the internal data collected from their audience, Spotify published a series of quirky goals that people could meet in 2018.
This use of analytics in a B2C space is extremely unique and it perfectly captures the quirky, personalized vibe of Spotify. Not only did this campaign garner the attention of the top publications in the industry, it once again showed how well Spotify could connect with people and demonstrate its understanding of its users.
B. Audience-centric brand storytelling
For any brand, it is not the company, but the audience who is in control. In today’s world of intense competition, a small mistake can cost a brand its reputation and cause it to lose loyal customers to a competitor.
To hold fast in this madding crowd, what you need to do is listen to your audience. Hear what they want, pay attention to their needs. Create a persona that reflects their wishes and desires. And then craft brand stories that resonate with those emotions.
This is audience-centric brand storytelling, where your audience is always front and center. You might say that well, shouldn’t the audience be at the heart of every type of brand story? You are right. The difference between data-centric brand storytelling and audience-centric brand storytelling is that the former has numbers to prove its point, the latter might not.
For instance, take IKEA. The furniture brand has built all its brand narratives based on the experiences of its users. Some of their best marketing campaigns center around the everyday troubles that people with limited spaces or clunky furniture face. IKEA takes these stories and creates videos that show how its products aren’t just limited to tables and cupboards, and beds, they are a way of life. It reinforces the fact that aesthetic furniture can go a long way in making your drab, boring house a warm, comfy home.
The brand has perfected the art of visual storytelling, which packs a lot more punch than words, for a company like IKEA. In all their videos, the viewer is taken on a visual journey from plain to resplendent homes with help from IKEA.
Audience-focused brand storytelling is a strategy that can be used particularly well by new and upcoming brands. If you have a product that provides genuine value to your customers, you can come up with narratives that highlight this in ways that will connect with people and convert them into your followers.
C. Emotion-centric brand storytelling
Emotion-centric brand storytelling is when a brand has a set of emotions that it seeks to inspire through its branding, marketing, and product presentation.
For instance, take Apple. For years, Apple has branded itself as an innovative, pathbreaking company that creates cutting-edge electronic devices. It is not just a gadget, it is a lifestyle. People associate iPhones with ease, MacBooks with elegance.
In our world, owning an Apple product automatically elevates social status among peers. This emotion-centric brand positioning is why even today, Apple loyalists can’t wait to get their hands on the latest iPhones and iPads.
Simplicity, people-centric design, privacy, elegance, and aspiration are some of the emotions that we regularly see in Apple’s branding, be it digital or print media. And Apple reiterates these emotions in every commercial. Moreover, it uses Apple users’ experiences to humanize what is essentially a non-living product and bring emotion into their brand story.
Over the years, this has helped position the brand as the one that sees ordinary things from an extraordinary perspective. It appeals to both the tech-savvy and the tech-ignorant in different ways, through the same set of emotions. Now that is some heavy-weight emotion-centric brand storytelling right there.
Having established the different ways in which you can tell your brand story, let us now see how you can build yours!
How to Create Your Own Brand Story
For a moment here, forget everything we have said about how an ideal brand story should be, how it should connect with audiences, etcetera, etcetera.
Your brand story is the highly personal narrative of your brand, so while coming up with the first draft, don’t think of any expectations, just pour out your thoughts.
Here are some steps to help you along.
1. Answer your ‘why’
Even amid a sea of competitors, the one thing that is uniquely yours is your brand story. Your roots, your origin, your reason to exist. Make these elements the crux of your narrative. Write down your answers to questions like:
– What makes you unique?
– What is your mission?
– How are you contributing to the benefit of the world?
– What motivated you to start your business?
– How are you making a difference in people’s lives? OR How is your product making people’s lives easier?
– What is/are the emotions you want people to experience when they use your product?
As you dive deep into your brand’s history, present, and future, tease out the ‘whys’ and then create a narrative based on them.
2. Identify your conflict
In any movie, there comes a point where everything seems lost for the protagonist. A point, where all hope is gone and our lead is facing the biggest challenge he/she has ever faced. After this point, the movie picks up and the protagonist overcomes all hurdles and hindrances to reach a happy ending.
This is the point of conflict.
It is the point that grabs the audience, gets them emotionally involved in the movie, and takes them along that thrilling journey of accomplishment. It is the point where the viewer connects with the movie.
Now think about this in terms of your brand narrative.
Your audience can connect to your story when they see conflict. So, express it. Highlight the challenges you have faced, talk about the adversities you had to overcome, show how even you sometimes experienced fear.
A lot of companies think that presenting their vulnerabilities might make them seem weak. Not so. People connect with hardship more quickly than they can connect with joy.
So, instead of creating a happy-happy fantasy-like brand narrative full of rainbows and unicorns, make it real. Make it gritty. Express fear, and doubt, and suspense. And most importantly, show how you overcame that challenge to emerge better and stronger.
Of course, don’t create hardships where there are none. People can spot false stories from a mile away, so be careful that you don’t exaggerate your troubles. Stick to the facts, but make them interesting. And if you dig deep enough, you will find a true challenge that you have faced.
3. Show your vision
After overcoming your hurdle, what is the vision you see? Where is it that the brand is going? What are your goals and ambitions as a brand and company?
Answer these in your brand narrative, to share your vision with your audience. Through your conflict, you have them along with you on an emotional journey. Now, it is time to show them that lofty peak of achievement where you see the brand going while taking them along.
4. Create a connect
By this point, your audience has connected with your story. Now, you need to show them what is in this journey for them. Connect your story to theirs, draw parallels between your own conflict and theirs, establish how your vision is relevant to them as well.
With this, you are creating an emotional connection with your audience that will imprint your brand in their memory.
This is the final and the most important step of creating your brand narrative.
People connect most with stories that are highly relatable or true. Don’t force a story where there isn’t one, especially when you are creating brand narratives. You do not want to come across as fake at any cost!
Visual storytelling is a powerful way of showing your brand story, as people can process visual information faster than they process written information.
If this seems overwhelming all at once, don’t worry. Let’s see a few examples of brands who have nailed their brand stories, to give you some inspiration!
Brand Storytelling Examples
#1 GoPro – The digital diary of thrill-seekers
Let’s start with one of our personal favorites, GoPro.
True to its ‘live in the moment’ philosophy, GoPro creates brand stories that are all about adventure, thrill, adrenaline rushes, and sharing these experiences with your loved ones.
As a matter of fact, their own story started when the founder Nick Woodman was on a surfing trip, in Australia. There as he surfed through the magnificent blue waves, he realized that he wanted to capture that moment, but did not have a handy enough camera to do so! Hence, the idea of GoPro, a 35mm camera that would go where the wearer went and see the world through their eyes.
Over the years, though the brand has grown and matured, they have stayed true to this central storyline, which has led to the creation of some incredible user-generated content.
From capturing road trips to skydiving from 30,000 ft., from rafting through colossal rapids to skiing across breathtaking mountain vistas, you can see GoPro users capturing all sorts of incredible moments and going carpe diem all the way!
#2 Dove – Highlighting real beauty
Dove is a world-famous bath and beauty products brand that successfully adds a social component to its brand story. Ordinarily, there is nothing glamorous about selling soap and shampoo, but Dove adds a whole new dimension by getting the brand’s narrative to focus on redefining the idea of real beauty.
It taps into those emotions of insecurity and self-confidence that many women around the world face and advocate the principle that external appearances do not matter, everybody is beautiful!
#3 Google – Breathing life into virtual products
Not that Google needs to market itself anymore, but nevertheless, it comes up with highly creative and emotionally engaging stories revolving around Google Search (its main source of data collection). The search engine giant has effectively added a human element to the software, by showcasing how it has helped people in real life.
Throughout this, it stays true to its vision of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.
So there you have it – a brief glimpse into brand storytelling, how you should build your own brand story, and some examples to get you started.
In a nutshell, brand storytelling is all about finding your brand’s voice and making sure that it resonates with the public. Creating a brand narrative is as much about finding yourself, as it is about finding your audience.
So, get that pen, paper, marshall your thoughts, and start writing!
Need help building your brand story? Get in touch and let’s have a discussion over a cup of kaapi. 🙂
Or you can check out our portfolio for interesting ideas!