How To Build A Great Brand Story | Step By Step + Examples
Stories have been an integral part of human evolution, and continue to shape who we are as a species. They capture our attention, give meaning to our experiences, and form our values. That’s why brand stories can be so effective—they have the power to highlight our most treasured values and the emotions that go along with them, creating a connection that leads to love and appreciation for the brand, and the potential to become a lifelong customer.
In this article, we explore what a brand story is, and provide some basic steps on how to build a brand story for your own company. Let’s jump in.
What is a brand story?
A brand story is a narrative that expresses facts and feelings about a company. This narrative can be told officially by the brand itself, which may include their history, their mission, and what drives them, but it’s also “rewritten” and “edited” by consumers based on their experiences with the brand. For example, an oil company may have a core value of environmental responsibility in their brand story, which they regularly include in their advertisements. Consumers may believe this until the company spills gallons of oil into the sea. At that point, their story is tainted and rewritten in the minds of consumers.
By providing users with immense audiences, social media gives consumers even more power over a brand’s story. They can boost its fortunes or wreak havoc depending on how they feel, which is why every brand needs to be on its best behaviour and genuinely try to service their customers well. Every facet of a company can develop or degrade its brand story: customer service, delivery, product quality—you name it. It all affects how people feel about the brand, and how the story goes in their heads. The goal is to create an honest brand story that helps you to attract your intended customers, and then act in accordance with that story for everything you say and do.
Brand story example
Here’s a brand story for an imaginary pet pharmaceutical brand/product:
In Australia, around 500 cats and dogs die every year from tick paralysis. That’s 500 family members lost from a disease that should be preventable.
This problem is thrust into the lives of thousands of pet owners across the country, as they drive their sick animals to emergency vet centres only to be told that it’s too late. They could have protected their animal with an expensive monthly injection, but who can afford that?
We heard this story time and time again, and we decided to do something about it. As a leading pharmaceutical company, we had the expertise and the drive to create a better product for Australian pet owners, which we created over the course of several years and released in late 2016. The product is TickGuard: the world’s first affordable tick prevention medication that protects animals for up to three months. No more ticks, and no more unnecessary pain. We’ve helped to save thousands of animals from tick paralysis, and are absolutely thrilled to say so.
This short and simple brand story provides a short history of the company and really drives home their purpose. It has a simple structure that can be easily copied for your own brand story. Here’s how it works.
How to build a brand story
As mentioned above, a brand’s story is more than an official A-to-B narrative, but creating this for your business does help to solidify your values and purpose, especially when told in a compelling way. Here’s our short guide on how to build a brand story, broken down into three distinct sections: the status quo, a conflict, and a resolution.
1. Status quo
A status quo is the way things currently are. Maybe the coffee in your town is average. Perhaps blind people struggle to balance their taxes, something largely unnoticed (or uncared for). Or there may be lots of local marketing companies who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
These status quos often result in problems that people are frustrated with, which can all be solved with a little innovation. There’s a good chance that your own company has identified such a status quo and tried to solve it with your products or services. Make a few bullets on the status quo that relates to your business.
Every good story has conflict. It helps to create drama because something important is at stake, and gives you something to root for. Most of us wanted Forrest Gump to triumph over his stupidity; for Pinocchio to become a real boy, or for Atticus Finch to prove Tom Robinson’s innocence. We become invested in these stories because we can relate to human struggle, which can be told just as easily by brands.
In the conflict aspect of your story, shine a light on how people struggled with a specific problem. This may be similar to your status quo, but has more concrete details, and a focus on people rather than an abstract cultural norm. Describe with nouns and verbs how the status quo actually affects people’s lives in a negative way. For example:
- We witnessed countless business owners wasting thousands of dollars on marketing strategies that just didn’t work. In some cases, they even had to lay people off.
- Imagine living in Bundaberg and not having access to a single cup of delicious, professionally-made coffee. Life just wouldn’t be as sweet.
- As a small business owner, keeping your accounts balanced is hard enough with eyesight, so imagine how difficult it would be for blind people?
As you can see, the conflict can be as frivolous or as serious as you like. But it needs to exist in a good brand story.
Once you’ve explained the status quo and the conflict that comes out of it, a resolution is the last piece of the puzzle. If we are emotionally invested in a story, we are usually dissatisfied if it doesn’t have a resolution. Imagine if the makers of Breaking Bad cut the last episode of the show without warning? You’d be rightly mad. The same goes for every good story—it must have some kind of resolution, even if that resolution isn’t positive.
For your brand’s story, the resolution is how your company solved the conflict and helped to improve people’s lives. You can talk about your specific solution, how people use it, and how they are better off as a result. The marketing firm might talk about the businesses they have helped to grow, the coffee company might talk about the little morning joys they bring to people’s lives, and the software firm can talk about how much easier they have made the lives of blind business owners who need to keep their books in check. If you’re running a successful business, you are almost certainly helping people to solve their problems, and so are improving their lives in some way. Highlight this in your brand story’s resolution in the most positive way possible.
Your full brand story should be between 100 to 250 words—just long enough to hold people’s attention for a minute. You can get away with making it a bit longer, but it will need to be highly compelling. You can also turn your brand story into other kinds of media like interactive web pages and videos, whose graphical and auditory elements can make it even more entertaining—the more ways you can tell the story, the better! Check out our article on digital storytelling to learn more.
Here are some other things that you might consider including in your brand story, and some concepts that may help:
- Interesting characters—great stories have fascinating characters, and you can weave them into your brand story if appropriate. Why did the founder create the company? Who has your brand helped?
- Hero’s journey—the hero’s journey is a common narrative that talks about someone’s transformative experience. It’s similar to the conflict and resolution method used above, where the hero is faced with a problem which he must overcome (usually with the help of some kind of mentor). Some business owners may relate to this journey in the process of creating and growing their company.
- Mission vision values—if you have written mission vision and value statements, they can be great sources of inspiration.
A strong brand story helps to communicate your company’s purpose and values in a fascinating way, forming emotional connections with customers and strengthening relationships with them. It’s how you want your customers to perceive you, and is influenced by almost everything that you do. By crafting an engaging brand story and then living the values that are expressed in it, you can take control of the narrative and attract the customers you want to attract. We hope this article helps you to do so. Thank you for reading.