Brand storytelling: how to win over customers by telling your story
The perception we have of a brand and its products is a decisive factor in influencing our final purchase choice.
The quality of brand storytelling can make or break a strategy because it shapes the customer’s relationship with a company. What’s more, its impact can be lasting because it evokes emotions, memories and images that stay with customers long after their first encounter with a brand.
So far, so interesting. But what does this mean in practice for small- and medium-size businesses? How can you get customers to listen to your story? Let’s take a look at the key aspects of successful brand storytelling and making customers fall in love with our products.
What is brand storytelling and why is it so effective?
Brand storytelling is a communication strategy that enables a story and the way it is told to be used to forge an emotional connection between the storyteller and their audience. To be effective, storytelling needs engaging characters, an interesting setting, a conflict to be overcome, and a compelling resolution. But these fundamental ingredients are worthless without first establishing the narrator’s personality (the brand’s essence) and their guiding values (the characteristics that define the brand).
To fully understand these concepts, we must to start by thinking of the company as a person with its own unique personality, appearance, emotions and values. Who are we? A brand should be able to answer this question to have a clear identity in the minds of consumers. In other words, the storyteller must be credible .
First of all, we need to define the company’s mission, vision and values, as well as its personality and physical characteristics. This is where Kapferer’s brand prism, which we covered in our article on brand personality, comes in handy. Next, we need to ask ourselves a few key questions can help lay the foundations for a story:
- What’s the brand’s raison d’être?
- How was the idea born?
- Who were the main players in its growth?
- Where do you see your company in 10 years’ time?
- What challenges did you have to overcome?
These questions will help you to think more deeply about your company’s identity. They might be hard to answer, but they are necessary because brand storytelling is based on everything that you are and introspection can be useful in finding a unique story to tell.
Why brand storytelling is important for SMEs
Brand storytelling is an opportunity to build bonds with customers. Every 60 seconds 5.7 searches are performed on Google, 6 million people buy something online and 65,000 photos are posted on Instagram. We consume and produce masses of information, which makes finding your niche in the market and staying relevant increasingly difficult.
Things get even harder when it comes to building relationships with people who are constantly on the move and switching between different communication channels every day. In this frenzied world, consumers tend to become set in their ways and only listen to messages from brands for whom they have the greatest affinity. It is empathy that makes the difference amid this flood of information, and stories are the perfect vehicle for this. Audience’s become receptive and start to connect with brands when they start saying to themselves “this brand is like me” .
As a result, when the main character in a story faces a challenge, that challenge becomes a challenge for the audience too; and when the main character in our brand story celebrates the achievement of a goal, the customer is happy too. It is in the empathetic connection that the enormous power and potential of brand storytelling lies. After all, it has been repeatedly shown how human beings are designed to listen to and create stories. Indeed, the studies conducted by the Heath brothers and presented in their book “Made to Stick” have shown how messages conveyed through a story are 12 times more memorable than those communicated conventionally.
How improve relationships with your customers through storytelling
In today’s world, we often think in terms of algorithms when it comes to positioning brands and making them visible. However, to use a brand storytelling strategy, we need to shift the paradigm towards creativity. What’s more, the stories that we tell will only be effective if they engage and excite people. So we need to start by thinking about what connects with our target audience, what interests and excites them, and the ideas we can present to them through storytelling. Once the key points to get across have been decided, it’s time to structure the story around them. To understand how to talk about ourselves and get people to fall in love with our story, we need to focus on three aspects:
- The initial situation. This is the environment in which you’re operating, the needs that your products meet and the challenges that the company and its customers face every day. The background of the story should cover your identity and values so as to make the narrative unique from the outset.
- The conflict. A story needs an obstacle that forces the protagonist to overcome adversity. Without conflict, there’s no drama, and without an emotional journey, we can’t connect with the main character. A dull story without challenges to overcome won’t interest anybody. Furthermore, showing people that the firm tackles obstacles and sometimes fails highlights its human side and brings it closer to customers. We relate to people who have flaws just like us.
- The resolution. This is the moment when the protagonist channels their talents to overcome the obstacle standing in their way. The brand finds the solution to the problem and this resolution provides an emotional moral to the story that stays with customers.
Inspiring examples of effective brand storytelling
One of the advantages of brand storytelling is that it is based on ideas and these are free. You don’t need a huge budget to employ this strategy. That said, you still need to be up for the challenge and invest time in the aspects outlined above, but this is something any company can do.
Now that you know the basics of brand storytelling, let’s take a look at three great examples.
- Cartoni. Based in Rome, Cartoni is a leading manufacturer of cinematography accessories. To convey the human side of the brand, Cartoni has made a series of six videos in which the firm’s employees – rather than products – take centre stage and share their passion. Despite not having a big production budget behind it, the campaign has achieved real success, racking up more than 250,000 views to date. And it just goes to show how letting people see behind the scenes of a brand can be an effective form of storytelling, one that starts right from where you are: running your business from day to day.
- Clif Bar. The slogan of this energy bar company is “Feed your adventure”. But it was very much adventure rather than feeding that the brand concentrated on in this video telling the story of a group of non-professional cyclists who rode to Alaska from San Francisco in eight days. Set against the backdrop of breath-taking natural beauty, the video never mentions energy bars, but focuses instead on telling us about the cyclists’ journey and the camaraderie created between them along the way. It’s a video that aims to engage the audience in a context familiar to them (adventure/sport in the great outdoors) to show them the brand’s guiding values.
- Dollar Shave Club. This firm has revolutionised the way that men buy razors. But this start-up initially found attracting investors and customers a challenge. So founder Michael Dubin decided to talk directly to his target (men) in an irreverent and humorous way. The result was a hilarious video that managed to weave together a fast-paced narrative, the issue of high prices and monopolies in the razor market, and his innovative solution. In doing so, Dubin made himself the hero of his own story, which has over 28 million views on YouTube. It’s a simple but direct video that connected with the public and launched the company on a path towards exponential growth.
Although we’ve looked only looked at single videos in isolation here, brand storytelling should not be understood as something you do every once in a while. It involves outlining an entire corporate communication strategy, including clear objectives and how they will be achieved. In fact, brand storytelling isn’t just an excellent way of improving relationships with customers, it’s also extremely effective at engaging current employees and attracting future hires who buy into the brand’s vision and values.