Four Types of Brand Story to Help You Write Yours
Next up on the ‘get round to that when I've got a minute' list of small business marketing tasks… Write a brand story.
You know you need a story to help your customers relate to your company, but it's by no means easy to shape what might just feel like ‘I gave it a go and things turned out ok' into a rip roaring adventure without feeling a bit disingenuous. The truth is, everyone has a story.
Deciphering and communicating your story can make the difference between engaging and drawing in a customer and watching them bounce off to a competitor who more eloquently expresses their raison d'être.
Ask yourself, why exactly did you start your own company? What challenges did you overcome to get to where you are today? What was it about you and what you have to offer that you could no longer keep from the world? Was it all plain sailing or did you have to fight to communicate your worth?
Here are four types of brand story, with real world examples, to help you come up with yours.
1. The trigger event
Once upon a time, on Dragon's Den, I watched Cath Harrop get funding for a second-hand baby equipment exchange. Mums have been reselling barely-used baby stuff since the dawn of barely-used baby stuff so why was this particular entrepreneur so successful?
The answer is that she had a great story; a ‘trigger event' that left her with no choice but to get to work making a difference. She was already tired of buying sub-standard second-hand baby stuff online, when one day she received a baby carrier with a cigarette burn in it. ‘That's enough!' she thought, ‘I have to make it possible for mums to see what they're getting before they buy!'
She set up mum2mum market and convinced famous TV business people to invest thousands of pounds. The story transformed her business into a fully-fledged service with a point.
The trigger event makes a great story because it has a brave protagonist (you!) who triumphs against adversity on the behalf of others (your customers), by being thrown into the abyss.
Maybe your trigger event was not being able to stand being told what to do by someone else anymore? Turn it around. You found your job frustrating because you knew you could help more people on your own. Your very passion drove you to create something new. Trigger events can also be personal tragedies or major life events that reset your expectations and set you on a new path. What finally tipped you over the edge to start your business?
2. The leader with a dream
Some companies are all about the person at the top. That person encapsulates and inspires everything the brand stands for.
One of Dragon's Den's major successes in the UK was Reggae Reggae Sauce. By the time creator Levi Roots went on the show, he'd been making the sauce in his kitchen for over 15 years. He introduced Reggae Reggae Sauce to the Dragons with a song, and Levi Roots the brand was born. His inspirational message? ‘If a black Brixtonian Rastafarian can make it with just a sauce, then you can make it too.'
He could've created a rich enough brand story around the long history of the sauce itself — all the ingredients are there — but in making himself the story, he's been able to extend the Levi Roots brand to inspiring children to cook healthy food and follow their dreams. He's even opened a restaurant.
Then you've got Steve Jobs, who challenged his employees and customers to think differently. He wanted to do everything better, faster, simpler, and in doing so he showed he was able to improve just about anything he laid his hands on. This idea of relentless improvement still pervades everything Apple touches.
The inspirational leader story works best if you set your business up to follow a dream or to inspire others. As long as you have the personal characteristics to carry it off, it allows you to offer anything you like — as long as it also pursues your dream — and to lead your employees to pursue that dream too.
4. The irresistible product
Sometimes, you've got a product or an idea that's so good, you have no choice but give it to the world.
Blu-blocker sunglasses were brought to market by someone who saw the commercial potential of a product that was developed by NASA to be used in actual space by real astronauts. What a story! It's a story people can tell to anyone who comments on their sunglasses. It makes them cool by association. Here's the Blu-blocker story.
Support underwear company, Spanx, was started by Sara Blakely. According to the Spanx story, ‘from the moment Sara cut the feet out of her pantyhose to make her butt look better in white pants, she was transformed from a frustrated consumer to a fearless entrepreneur.' The Spanx story is a fast-paced, exhilarating ride through Sara's quest to save the middle-aged humans of the world from the hideousness of their own thighs.
Of course, Sara is also a founder with a dream. Spanx may be her passion, but she's left herself plenty of scope to extend the range.
Innocent Drinks also rides the ‘we couldn't help ourselves' wave, but with a team, not an inspirational leader. The Innocent story is one of setting up at festivals to provide vitamins to deficient ravers. They did so well they were invited to more and more festivals, until people started demanding Innocent products in shops. ‘Do you think we should do this full time?' they asked the people. The people gave them a resounding ‘yes.'
The irresistible product brand story puts the customer at the centre, and frames the company as a loyal servant of their needs. It allows you to tell your story in a way that's less about you and more about your higher purpose — to make a difference to your customers' lives.
4. The long road to success
Any company that's been around for longer than ten or twenty years has a ready-made story of beginnings, changes in direction, changes of ownership, struggles, controversies and more. What may seem mundane to you is also a human story of the blood, sweat and tears that can inspire and motivate people to want to get to know you better.
British car manufacturer, Aston Martin, tells the story of the passion and design that contributed to its chequered history in a slide show, employing simple phrases like ‘100 years of power, beauty, soul' to strike that emotional chord. I'll take two.
Even young companies can have stories about the struggle to succeed, especially if the founders had to fight to set up a company in the first place.
Asperger Experts is a website that helps parents raise kids on the Autistic Spectrum. Both the founders were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in childhood. Their parents were told they'd find it hard to function as ‘normal' adults.
Thankfully, their parents raised them with techniques that built the bedrock of every piece of advice the founders offer to other struggling parents. What more authentic a story than ‘we know how to help you, because we know what your children are going through, and we know what they need to get through it?'
The long road to success brand story mixes passion, ambition, success, failure, changes of direction, phoenix-like rising from the flames, and everything you learned along the way to make a great story that helps people get to know you and what you stand for.
What's your story?
As online marketer, Neil Patel, says in his guide to writing a brand story, ‘Great stories give big voices to small ventures.'
If you communicate why you do what you do with a real human-interest story that highlights how you benefit your customers, you'll help people care about your business and make them want to get involved.