One of the most important things to understand about marketing is that at the heart of every business, there is a brand story waiting to be told to the world.
In truth, marketing is about a lot more than just making a new product or service attractive to potential buyers. The goal runs deeper than just raising awareness or motivating people to make a purchase.
The best marketing campaigns create loyalty and passion. They engage with their audience in a way that generates true, raw emotions. They create a lasting impression that burrows into the minds of your customers in a way that they wouldn’t be able to forget if they tried.
It’s the difference between your average, run-of-the-mill electronics company and a tech giant like Apple — a brand that has carefully cultivated an almost fanatical level of loyalty over the years.
Make no mistake: all of that begins and ends with both your brand story and the way you choose to tell it.
If you’re able to master the art of creating the right brand story for the right audience at the right time, you’ll have a rock-solid foundation from which to build something truly meaningful and special. If you can’t, nothing else will matter.
But what makes a great brand story in the first place? Regardless of the type of business you’re representing or even the industry you’re operating in, all truly phenomenal brand stories have a few important things in common.
The Best Brand Stories Are Simple
To get a better idea of what makes a great brand story, it can be helpful to first think about stories in general.
Take one of the most successful Hollywood films of all time, Star Wars. That original 1977 film blossomed into a franchise that spanned decades. It’s amassed billions of dollars at the box office over the years and even more in merchandising prowess. It’s a touchstone for multiple generations, and it has essentially become one of the most valuable brands in human history.
But even though the original film is one filled with spaceships, aliens, and intergalactic politics, the reason why it resonates with so many is that it’s so beautifully simple. At the end of the day, it’s about a boy who dreams of a better life and who starts off on an incredible adventure as a result. It’s black and white, good versus evil. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.
Your brand story needs to be founded on the same basic principle — communicate in the most straightforward way possible.
Start with your problem: explain in plain language the problem that your customers have that you are trying to solve. Then, outline your solution, the way your products, your services, and your brand will solve that aforementioned problem. Wrap it all up in a nice bow by outlining why this success truly matters in their lives.
Beginning, middle, end. Problem, solution, success. Build every narrative about your brand story around these three points, and you’ll be amazed at how far it will take you.
The Best Brand Stories Are Relatable
Another one of the most important qualities is that they’re something people can relate to. Again, look at Star Wars — who among us hasn’t been the dreamer who wishes things were better or more exciting?
Virgin is another example of a brand that has mastered this concept. Despite being a massive company with huge amounts of success, Virgin has always positioned itself as an underdog. Every market that it enters into begins in the same way — Virgin tells the story of the scrappy young upstart that comes into a sector to disrupt everything, simplify whatever it can, and make things better for all of us. Who can’t relate to being an underdog?
Your brand story should communicate the same ideas. Give something people to latch onto in an emotional, genuine way. Let them see themselves in your brand story, even if it’s in some small way. If you can do that, rooting for you to succeed and rooting for themselves essentially become the same basic thing.
The Best Brand Stories Have a Strong “Why” Factor
Many of the best brand stories have two basic elements at their core. Not only do they carefully outline what you do, they also outline why you do it. Getting people to emotionally invest in both of these things equally will be the ultimate secret to your long-term success.
This all ties back into the aforementioned points about relatability and simplicity too. “What you do” is probably the same as what your competitors do. This isn’t what makes you unique. What truly makes your brand special and what differentiates it from those competitors is why you do it.
Dig deep into the pain points of your audience and highlight what it is about your product or service that will make their lives better. This is the “why” of your brand story, and it is something that you need to amplify in any way that you can.
The Best Brand Stories Are Repeatable
Perhaps the most important element that goes into creating a great brand story, however, is that they inspire people to take action that goes beyond a simple purchase.
Think about it this way: your story begins with the connection you make when your customer experiences your brand for the first time. It’s the feeling they get when they hear your name, see your logo, visit your website, or interact with you on social media.
The signals that you send about what you do, how well you do it, and what you stand for all go into completing the picture of that brand in their mind.
But your story can’t and shouldn’t end there.
The best brand stories use all the previous tips to create a genuine, honest reaction in people. They motivate them to take action.
They don’t just go to your website and buy a product or service. They want to tell a friend how your product changed their lives. They want their loved ones to enjoy the same success and passion that they had the opportunity to. They want to be more than just a customer — they want to become a loyal advocate.
This is the idea that companies like Apple have mastered over the years. But Apple isn’t a success because they have more money than everyone else — it wasn’t always that way, of course. Apple, in particular, is successful because they both recognised the importance of a compelling brand story and mastered the art of telling it to their audience.
People love a good story. They always have, and they always will. Rest assured that if you focus on not just the science of marketing but the art of storytelling, you’ll go a long way towards making sure that the next story people start getting invested in is your own.
Adam Searle is Step Change’s Creative Director, with more than 20 years of experience and the versatility to work across the full range of brands, budgets, and business problems. Previously an Executive Creative Director at two multinational agencies, Ogilvy and McCann WorldGroup, Adam brings a vast amount of know-how to creative challenges and is equally at home with creative direction on major budget TVCs such as Qantas’ ‘I still call Australia home’ and content creation briefs.