The ABC's of Branding: Storytelling

3/29/2019

Blog

When building your brand, it's important to have a brand strategy in place. Specifically, the type of brand strategy we'll be discussing is brand storytelling. Just like regular storytelling, brand storytelling puts the consumer at the heart of the brand story and purpose. The intrigue with reading any story is the ability for readers to relate and empathize with the characters. They then become invested in the well being of the protagonist, and desire a happy ending or closure to the story.

While brand storytelling has been set apart as one of the most important aspects of building a strong brand, it's really quite simple. Brand storytelling is identical to regular storytelling, except that there's strategic positioning with the form, structure and intention behind the story makeup. In addition, storytelling should be just that. Brand storytelling is not meant to be a type of marketing or promotional stand point, but the outcomes can exceed that of a marketing campaign. The key is to build trust, and prompt your customers to become invested and engaged with your brand.

Components of Brand Storytelling

Characters

<img alt="group of buyer personas, storytelling characters">
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Like any good story, your brand story needs to include relevant, relatable characters. However, we'll let you in on a secret: no one is a more relatable character to your customers than the customers themselves. Consider your most prominent buyer persona, and try to understand their behaviours and tendencies. What do they do? What are they like? How would they react in certain situations? What are their driving motivators? Choose an ideal persona and set them as your protagonist. Making your customers your main characters not only builds trust, but fosters an emotional tie between your customers and the characters. This indirectly gives them insight into similar actions they could take should they end up in the same position as the protagonist in the story.

Depending on the story you're choosing to tell, you may choose to include supporting characters as well. These characters act as outside forces that either push the protagonist to action, or as an obstacle in the protagonist's search for a solution. If the supporting character acts as an obstacle, they're most likely the antagonist of the story.

While the main purpose of the antagonist is not necessarily to hinder the main character, other characters, like a villain, is set in the story to actively create problem for the protagonist. For example, in air freshener commercials, you'll often see the villains casted as personified dirt who contaminate common household textiles.

Plot

Every story needs a beginning, middle and end, breaking the story up into exposition, rising action and falling action. Like any good story, it takes time to build up rapport between the characters and the readers, before sympathizing with the events to take place.

Introduction

At this stage the characters are introduced, and the readers get to know the character, and relate to the character, noticing the similarities and differences between them and the protagonist. People have a tendency to flock to others who think and function like them.

<img alt="stack of storybooks">
Photo by Hope House Press - Leather Diary Studio on Unsplash

Conflict

Generally the middle of the story, the conflict or problem presents itself, disrupting the peaceful state of the protagonist. The conflict (which should be the problem the customer needs solved) is introduced against the beloved main character, creating tension in the course of the story.

Resolution

The resolution should show both the solution to the problem, and a state of continuity and satisfaction that occurs after the solution. This is the most crucial part in brand storytelling. It's important that when the story ends, the customer is still satisfied from the solution, and that the effects of the solution serve some sort of longevity to the protagonist. This is your chance to show the improvement of the protagonist’s life at the end of the story. This technique is great for creating  sense of brand community, by presenting similar characters with identical problems to your customers. Depending on your approach, you may choose not to include the resolution, but in some cases, creates urgency and prompts your customers to action.

Mood/Theme

Like the different types of advertising, there's different tones to possible through storytelling. Whether you opt for a traditional happy ending, or for a suspenseful cliffhanger, your story should prompt the customer to spring into action. The brand story can be executed in various ways, from mission and vision statements, to ads, social media and campaigns - the way you address your story depends on the way you choose to tell it.

Conclusion

Some brands choose to perform storytelling in a more abstract and inspirational form, while others opt to deliver stories through traditional messages. Either way, your brand story must communicate your company's goal and mission. Brands like Apple and Old Spice have become pro's with storytelling by using compelling ads to entice customers through making characters relatable, or creating characters customers aspire to be like. However, brand storytelling doesn't have to be final. The story can be a continuous, iterative process as it constantly integrates the everyday problems of your customers. Brand storytelling is the bridge that connects customers with new perspectives on how to solve mundane problems with unique and convenient solutions.

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