The True Art of Brand Storytelling

Story is the most powerful way to influence the human mind. We’re addicted to them and they work with all customers in every culture.

As an agency, a lot of our clients come to us with a similar request.

“Help us define our story and help us get it out there”

It’s a universal challenge that all brands face but here’s the thing. this is necessarily not the way to approach your marketing. Of course, it’s important to have a story but telling your story to your customers is not going to create engagement.

If you want a story that really works, it’s time to think differently. And we’re here to help you do it, in a way that will change the game.

You can have the best, most compelling, interesting and authentic (add in any words you fancy) story in the world but getting this story in front of people and expecting them to love you is just not going to work. At least not in the way that you might hope it would.

Imagine the scenario. We sit down for a meeting, I sit in front of you and tell you about how I started in the industry 15 plus years ago, studied hard to get my qualifications and first job, worked for some great companies and learned my craft under some inspirational leaders, read lots of books and so on. You might like the story, you might even like me and you might even think I hope he does well and achieves his goals.

But at the back of your mind, you really don’t care. You’re actually thinking that’s nice but can I please get on with my day and you certainly aren’t going to start working with us, because you have your own story and that’s way more important to you. And rightly so.

Now imagine yourself in the mind of your consumers.

‘My grandmother started this company 100 years ago and we’ve built our company on a passion for quality and the finest ingredients…’ you get the picture.

If we’re going to create true engagement, we must stop thinking about ‘our story’ and start thinking about the part we play in our consumer’s story.

There’s a structure and it works. It’s been proven over the millions of years we have been trotting around this planet and goes on to be proven over and over again in the theatres, box offices and books that get consumed every day.

That’s all well and good but how do I do this?

Here are the magic steps that will lead to helping you create a truly motivating story.

The External Problem

This is what I like to call the obvious problem, the one staring you head on. If you’re selling coats it will be because people are cold. Some stories stop here but we need to go further.

It can help to use a well-known story to bring this to life, so let’s take Harry Potter as an example. The external problem is to protect himself and his chums from Voldemort.

The Internal Problem

This is where it starts to get interesting. This is the personal internal monologue type of problem needed for a great story.

Using our example of coats again there may be a motivating desire to be seen as stylish, professional, discerning or sophisticated.

If we follow through the Harry Potter analogy, Harry’s internal problem is that he doesn’t really believe he has what it takes to be a wizard.

The Philosophical Problem

This is the bigger hairy scary problem, good versus evil type of problem. Saving the planet etc.

If its coats then perhaps you have some kind of larger purpose as a brand. Saving the planet by reducing your carbon footprint using ethically sourced goods or it might be that for every coat sold you donate a coat to a homeless person that type of thing.

In Harry Potter, it’s protecting the world from evil, black magic death and destruction. This is often labelled and rightly so as the brand purpose.

If your message can solve all three problems in one hit then you will create mega fans.

The truth is (and here is a chemistry bit) as humans, when all three problems get solved in one hit with one message, we get a small amount of serotonin release, this induces pleasure and we go crazy, this is how we create brand love.

Think about the moment when Harry slays Voldemort. In that one act, he solves all three problems

1 Voldemort is defeated
2 He proves he’s got what it takes to be a wizard
3 Good defeats evil and the universe is saved.

1 – Understand what your customer wants.

Yes we’ve heard this before and this is not new news but we really do need to start with this one fundamental. Get this right and we can move forward, get it wrong and your days will be long and challenging.

Also if you’re trying to sell a product that people don’t actually want, your issue may stretch farther than your marketing.

2 – Understand the problem that gets in the way of the customer achieving what they want.

Some great strategies start with the ‘understand what problem we are solving for our consumer’ approach, but we find this articulation tends to lead to better results.

Problems manifest themselves in 3 ways and it’s important to cover all bases, you’ll see why in a moment.

3-Be the guide, not the hero.

Every good story has a guide and you need to position your brand as the guide.

With Harry potter it’s Dumbledore

By adopting the role of the guide, you make your consumer the hero and that’s the way to get under their skin. Everyone sees himself or herself as the hero in their own story.

Too many brands try and position themselves as the hero and by doing this they overshadow the consumer and alienate them. It’s this vital step that puts your brand into the consumer’s world.

4 – Layout the plan that solves the problem.

People will always choose the brand that communicates the clearest.

People love a plan- it makes them feel in control and confident, they like clarity.

By giving the consumer a simple view of how you can help them solve their problems and achieve what they want, and by breaking the steps down into bite size chunks they can get their heads around, you make it easier for them to buy.

5-Call them to action.

If you’re not asking your customer to buy from you guess what? They won’t do it. Never leave your customers not knowing what they need to do.

It’s totally possible and very common to get so mixed up in the message you can forget to do the obvious.

There are two types of calls to action to use here, a ‘direct call to action’, your buy now button and a ‘transitional call to action’ – let’s take the next step together. This depends on your product sector buying cycle, where the consumer is in the buying journey and how ready they are to buy, to illustrate

A direct call to action might be “will you marry me?”

A transitional call to action might be “can we go out again? “

6- Show them a happy ending.

Show your customer what life looks like when they buy this product. Paint the picture for them and focus on the benefits, not the features. If possible put them in this world, appeal to as many senses as possible and make it personal.

7- Show what life looks like without you.

To ensure the creative tension in the brief we have to show our consumers what life could look like if they don’t buy, just showing your audience how great life will be with you is not in itself a motivator. To create really engaging communications that get noticed you need to show them what’s wrong.

As humans, we don’t take action unless we have to and with millions of messages being fired at us day in day out, we are hard wired to only notice when something is wrong. So this last point is what we use to give us a much needed a nudge. If there are no stakes there is no story.

So your ingredients of a story are:

Make your consumer the hero that has a problem, that needs a guide (you) to help them solve that problem, give them a plan that they can understand, call them to action and show them an ending that is either a success or failure.

Simple or is it?

These steps are set out as a guide to help. Simply put, if your collateral isn’t doing one or more of these things the truth is your just making noise and you could be doing so much more.

We’d love to help you create a great story that will engage your consumers and truly grow your brand.

But it all starts with a conversation so why not take the first step today and drop us a line.