This article is from guest author, Ilya Lobanov.
It’s harsh, but your customers don’t care about your business. Beyond how it can help them make their lives better or solve a problem they have. But it’s not all bad news. You can use that knowledge to your advantage by using the power of storytelling.
The buzzword that’s making the biggest impact right now isn’t “chatbots“. Or “IoT“, or even “machine-learning“, despite a truck-load of headlines about AI taking over our jobs and the technology age we live in.
What’s resonating with marketers, designers and entrepreneurs alike is “storytelling”.
People love stories. They appeal to the emotional decision-making bits of our brains in a way that facts and figures can’t.
How is this relevant to growing your business? Because consumers make purchasing decisions based on their emotions (feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, product features).
But here’s the real secret: storytelling is more science than magic.
What Will Storytelling Do For My Business?
If you take time and careful consideration to craft your brand story, it can work wonders for your business. Here’s why:
- You will attract more customers who are the ‘right fit’ for your brand. Those you actually want to work with and those who want to work with you.
- You will keep more customers because they will feel a much deeper connection and a shared identity with your brand.
- Success stories for your business will become a lot more frequent and authentic. Your brand promotion will become a lot more organic thanks to your new raving fans.
When applied to your business, storytelling can be leveraged as a tool to attract better customers and build a loyal audience. But how? By building a brand story around your customer and showing how much you can help them.
But, I would be doing you a disservice if I gave away the winning formula for generating a great brand story, without sharing some context.
Why Formulas Matter
Both are Jungian-influenced theories, proposing that any story in history can be distilled down to one of these basic story templates. Whatever theory you subscribe to, ultimately every great story that’s ever resonated with populations worldwide adheres to a formula.
Formulas are used to create a predictable result. They are a great way to study something new and to learn why and how something works. If you want to become an expert, you’ve got to master the formulas used in your field.
Every author, screenwriter, or public speaker has studied the formulas for their respective creative fields. Why? Because they work.
Why Formulas Are Meant to Be Broken
But blindly following formulas can get you into trouble too.
As Seth Godin says,
“The problem with the formulas — let’s just pick an obvious category like screenwriting — is there are 10,000 hacks who are turning out formula-driven screenplays every day in Hollywood. Almost none of them turn into great movies. The great movies are the ones that broke part of the formula, right? It’s when you break one of the principles that you’re actually doing great work.”
So if you follow them to the letter, your new brand story won’t set your brand apart – which is a key point of the exercise. That means you’ve got to master the formulas so that you know how to bend them in creative ways.
That’s where the magic happens.
The 4 Steps to Winning Storytelling For Your Brand
So without further ado, I’m sharing a 4-step formula that will help you put together a winning brand story that builds relatability and trust.
If you distill down the Hero’s Journey or the Seven Basic Plots you will notice they all have:
- The main character with a dream or problem
- A conflict, challenge or obstacle the character must overcome
- A resolution, achievement or success (unless you’re writing a tragedy)
But, as we’ve learned, customers only care about how you can make their lives better. So to empower your brand story, a fourth, crucial ingredient is necessary.
- Your customer: the beneficiary of the story
1. The Character
Introduce your character/s, so in our case, the person or people who conceived the business and brought it to life. Also, you want to set the scene of how things were before starting the business.
Have a look at some of these powerful brand examples:
- GoPro – “GoPro was founded in 2002 by Nick Woodman—a surfer, skier, and motorsports enthusiast…”
- Warby Parker – “We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining.”
- Chobani – “In 2005, Hamdi took a loan from the Small Business Administration, bought an old yogurt plant, and brought a small group of passionate individuals together to make the real, wholesome yogurt that he remembered from his childhood.”
- Beats by Dre – “Beats by Dr. Dre (Beats) is a leading audio brand, founded in 2006 by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.”
- Honest – Jessica Alba founded her company because she “…couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs”.
2. The Conflict
Reading a story without a conflict would be like watching paint dry. At their core, all stories that resonate are those that deal with challenges and adversity. A problem can unite an audience in a quest for a resolution and can rally customers around your brand.
To refer to our brand examples:
- GoPro founder Nick “was in search of a better way to film himself and his friends surfing.”
- The Warby Parker boys “were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave [their] wallets bare,” finding that the “eyewear industry is dominated by a single company that has been able to keep prices artificially high while reaping huge profits from consumers who have no other options.”
- Hamdi from Chobani “found that in America, yogurt just wasn’t as delicious or widely available as it was back home. He believed everyone deserved better options…”
- The conflict that Beats by Dre seeks to remedy is front and center in their headline: “People Aren’t Hearing All the Music”.
- Honest was founded on Jessica Alba’s belief that “you shouldn’t have to choose between what works and what’s good for you” and “that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions and clear information about their choices.”
3. The Resolution
Without a resolution to a conflict, there would be no story. And there isn’t anything quite as satisfying as a ‘happily ever after’ that shows hope and achievement.
To use our brand examples:
- GoPro “has grown into an international company that has sold over 26 million GoPro cameras in more than 100 countries.”
- Warby Parker has found a resolution after realising that “by circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price.”
- Chobani has “grown from one man’s dream into America’s favorite Greek Yogurt.”
- Once Beats by Dre identified their conflict, the resolution becomes clear: “Through its family of premium consumer headphones, earphones, and speakers, Beats has introduced an entirely new generation to the possibilities of premium sound entertainment.”
- As far as Honest goes, Jessica Alba’s mission for empowering people to live happy, healthy lives was so strong that “…she had to create…” the products that weren’t readily available.
4. Your Customer
This is possibly the most important ingredient in our 4-step formula.
As humans, we are all wired to have needs. As such, once our basic needs of food, sleep and shelter are fulfilled we then shift our focus on more ‘meaningful’ needs such as self-actualisation, companionship, recognition, enlightenment and more.
We are constantly looking around for ways to meet those needs, so if your brand isn’t offering a way to serve one of those, then your business may as well not exist. And no amount of storytelling is going to convince them to care.
So even though you are writing a story about your business, make sure that your customer is the beneficiary of the story’s resolution.
Let’s look at how our examples make their brand stories about their customers:
- GoPro recognise that their customers are the ones who “humble and inspire us every day with incredible creativity that helps us see the world in an all-new way—and fires us up to keep creating the most awesome, innovative products possible…”
- Warby Parker goes a step beyond, addressing the worldwide access deficit to glasses and it “partners with nonprofits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need”, appealing to its customers’ higher need to act meaningfully.
- Chobani gives every full-time member of the company shares through their Chobani Shares initiative. It also has a continuing mission of “bringing better food to more people.”
- Beats by Dre is clear in their mission, they are catering to all music lovers worldwide, seeking to capture the excitement that recording artists intended in their music: “ The brand’s continued success helps bring the energy, emotion, and excitement of playback in the recording studio back to the listening experience for music lovers worldwide.”
- Honest maintains social initiatives and community partnerships, which “…have ensured that more people have access to safe, effective options when they need it the most” – again anchoring back to how they are focused on benefiting the customers.
Storytelling – Putting It All Together
I know I’ve just unleashed a ton of information at you. Let me summarise.
Create a brand story around how things were, defining your main characters, the conflict or obstacles they’ve faced, and how they’ve achieved a successful resolution, demonstrating how that benefits the customer.
The main idea is that customers don’t want to hear you tout your own horn. Or sell them your product features. Consumers want to be part of a story.
Giving proof that you are the best solution to the problem doesn’t make the sale. If a customer figures something out or discovers it on his own, they’re a thousand times more likely to believe it than if it’s something you claim.
Craft a compelling journey that customers want to come along on.
Write Your Own Brand Story
Whether you’re using storytelling to craft an About Us page for your website or creating an overarching story to inform your brand mission and strategy, make sure the information is true, relevant and inspiring to your customers.
Simply listing out your highlight reel and milestones, like so many other brands do, won’t resonate with them or make anyone care.
Instead, what people will relate to is a story of your journey. A journey in which you’ve faced and overcome obstacles in the pursuit of your goals, finding a path towards success, that ultimately benefits those who you serve. Your customers.
Now I’d love to hear from you – if you need a hand to craft your brand story, please reach out. If you know someone who might enjoy this article please share it.
About the author: My name is Ilya Lobanov and I am what some might call a Design Unicorn. Wearing many hats from brand design and strategy to user interface and website design. But do you know what really lights me up? Being a part of your journey to build and grow something that you and others will love. Whether that’s building your own brand, designing a logo or creating something new as a designer, or developing your creativity skills to help you reach higher goals. Find him here: Studeo Website | Instagram | Skillshare
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