- Brands have long been leveraging the power of story to connect with consumers and strengthen their brand identity.
- From back-of-the-menu stories about the family restaurant, to triumphant stories of a sponsored athlete, brand storytelling is all about capturing the humanness of your team, your company, your customers, your community and your vision.
- Here are six essential storytelling strategies to grow your brand.
Brand storytelling is hot right now—but that’s nothing new.
Storytelling goes back to the first humans, and brands have long been leveraging the power of story to connect with consumers and strengthen their brand identity.
You know those back-of-the-menu stories about the family that owns the restaurant? Brand storytelling. Those feel-good, triumphant stories of an athlete endorsed by a particular shoe company? Brand storytelling. Those lo-fi photos of a family wearing matching coats on an unforgettable camping trip? Brand storytelling.
Brand storytelling is all about capturing the humanness of your team, your company, your customers, your community and your vision.
Smart brands infuse storytelling into every aspect of their communications, marketing and advertising.
Here are six essential storytelling strategies to grow your brand.
1. Origin Story
First things first, what is the origin story of your brand? Great origin stories include the initial inspiration for a company, overcoming a challenge (or challenges) and insights into the people who made (and make) the company a success.
Here are three examples of great origin stories:
- The inspiration for Netflix coming when co-founder Reed Hastings was charged late fees on a video rental
- Oprah Winfrey overcoming poverty and abuse to become one of the most successful and inspiring people on the planet
- Nike founder Bill Bowerman making soles for running shoes on his wife’s waffle maker
What’s the origin story of your company, brand or project? People want to know. The more human your brand is, the more we can relate to it. And that’s good for your people and your profit.
Who is on your team and why? Posting headshots on the “about” page of your website is no longer enough. People want to know more about the players behind your brand.
Beyond titles, your team includes smart, talented, visionary people, right? Who are they, within the parameters of the company, and beyond?
Smart brands are increasingly forming diverse teams to get a variety of perspectives and skill sets. Let your team shine in your marketing. Encourage them to be themselves and to share their unique perspective. Small bits of team humanness go a long way toward personalizing your brand and inviting people into your community.
Speaking of community, doing storytelling around your customers and community is a powerful way to generate buzz, provide social proof, and showcase your brand in the real world.
You can do this by telling compelling stories through profiles, narratives, photos, podcasts and more.
You can also leverage the power of user-generated content (UGC), where your community creates the content for you.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of UGC brand storytelling is Patagonia’s Worn Wear marketing campaign. Worn Wear is a program where people can purchase used and vintage Patagonia gear. To promote the program, Patagonia has customers share their stories of surviving challenging situations in their Patagonia gear, how they’ve had their favorite Patagonia jacket for decades, how they salvaged gear they thought was beyond repair, and their friends, pets and loved ones who have accompanied them on outdoor adventures.
It’s brilliant in its simplicity, focus and user generated storytelling power.
One of the most frequently used brand storytelling strategies is to showcase giveback efforts. You see it with athletes, politicians, cottage companies and global brands. Emotional appeal is a powerful force for connection. Inspiring people through stories of your philanthropic and community-focused efforts is a great way to do this.
Here’s a heads-up though: This is not an exercise in smoke and mirrors to try to trick people into thinking you’re giving back. People can spot faux giveback storytelling a mile away. This is an opportunity to align your brand values, your brand in action and your storytelling in a way that inspires, connects and empowers people.
Brand storytelling can be done through blog posts, video, Instagram Reels, Twitter threads, podcasts, LinkedIn Live, TikTok and whatever other channels you use.
The channel matters less than the content.
Sometimes a photo, photo gallery or photo essay does the storytelling in a way words can’t. That old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is true.
If you plan to use photos in your brand storytelling, hire an experienced photographer to capture the humanness of your moments as well as behind-the-scenes candid shots.
Mobile phone snapshots or selfies of an event or project may not get the job done if the campaign requires pro quality and look. Phone photos can be great for capturing in-the-moment moments, but you’ll eventually need pro images.
Bring on a photographer, be clear about what you plan to do with the photos, then get out of their way and let the pro do their thing.
Bonus: Doing this allows you to stay present in the moment rather than running around trying to get photos.
6. Thought Leadership
Don’t be afraid to share stories of your experience, lessons learned, roadmap and vision. This type of thought leadership storytelling is a powerful differentiator and brand builder.
Your blog and LinkedIn are particularly good places to start with thought leadership storytelling.
Brand storytelling is not a woo-woo thing.
It is an essential element of your content and marketing strategy. People want to purchase from brands they’re aligned with—brands that share their values and vision for our world.
There is no better way to convey your brand vision, values, humanness and community than through storytelling.
Start telling your stories today.