What Are the Most Important Elements of Your Brand Story?

storytelling is the best marketing
storytelling is the best marketing

“Tell me about yourself.” Those words strike fear into the heart of everyone who has gone on a first date – or a make-or-break job interview. Your brand story is a lot like a first date. It’s your one chance to make a great first impression. It’s a little scary – but it’s your open door to opportunity.

With the right elements, your brand story will hook potential customers right from the start. Here’s how to make that first impression into one that customers will remember for a lifetime.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Your brand story starts (and ends) with your customer.
  • Tug at their heartstrings. Use the right “elements” in your brand story.
  • Take customers on an adventure, in which they are the heroes. Make it authentic.

Start with the Customer, Not You

“Wait a minute!” you say. “Shouldn’t my brand story be about my company?”

Nope.

One of my team members is a lifelong introvert. You’d never guess that talking to her. Here’s her secret: When she meets someone new, she always asks them thoughtful questions about themselves instead of listing off her likes, dislikes, and accomplishments.

People think she’s a great conversationalist. That’s because she puts whomever she’s talking to at the center of the conversation. Brand conversations should do likewise.

Branded content marketing, therefore, should start with the customer. Their interests. Their ambitions. Their needs. Those pesky thoughts that keep them up at night.

Think about the iconic brands that have captured the loyalty of their customers down through the generations. Coca-Cola. Nike. McDonald’s. So many more.

All have one thing in common. Their brand stories revolve around their customers and their needs:

  • Quenching their thirst
  • Jumping higher
  • Satisfying their cravings

They’ve done customer-centric content so well that the moment we see even their logo, our mouths start watering, or our hearts beat faster. The customer becomes part of the brand. She – or he – becomes part of the brand story.

Tug at Their Heartstrings with Your Mission

At first glance, you might think that Coca-Cola, Nike, and McDonald’s don’t have a mission. You’d be wrong. Buried just beneath the surface in their messaging are subtle hints that reach beyond your five senses into the depths of your heart.

  • For Coca-Cola, it’s about bringing people together over an ice-cold Coke.
  • For Nike, it’s about empowering athletes to be the best so they can inspire others to achieve.
  • For McDonald’s, it’s about helping people save time and money when they’re just too busy to cook.

Other iconic brands bring their mission to the forefront of their messaging. Patagonia, the go-to equipment and clothing brand for outdoorspeople, makes its mission the central message.

Instead of featuring its products, it focuses on its commitment to make the earth a cleaner, greener place to explore. In doing so, it zeroes in on one of its target customers’ major pain points: worrying about a world in which there are no wildernesses left to explore.

Use Tried-and-True Story Elements and a Flowing Narrative

Content marketers could learn a lot from gifted fiction writers as they craft their brand story. Stories, as research shows, stimulate their readers’ (or hearers’) brain activity.

The minute you start hearing information in story form, your neurons power up to warp speed. Whether it’s Progressive’s Flo and crew or My Pillow’s tales of insomnia-ridden couples encountering its founder in their midnight stumbles through their house, there’s a reason why these ads connect – they follow the tried-and-true formulas that have enthralled people from ancient times on.

First of all, they follow the standard narrative form: characters, setting, conflict, action that rises to a climax, the climax itself, and the dénouement – where the storyteller pulls the whole story together, tying up the loose ends with an explanation – a resolution.

Progressive and My Pillow, as well as most popular brand messages, certainly have memorable characters. Though frankly a little goofy, Flo and her crew stumble through awkward marketing campaigns and team meetings, only to have the brand’s deep discount itself save the day.

My Pillow, on the other hand, allows its founder’s well-known eccentricity to become part of the story, jumping out of bathroom mirrors, pillows in hand, to show sleepless couples why their current pillows just don’t cut it. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, turns everyday consumers into heroes, as it did in its iconic “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” or its 2018 Ramadan ad, where an empathetic woman buys a Coke for an observant stranger just as the sun sets.

Take Customers on a Hero’s Journey

Every story needs a hero. Your brand story does, too. A hero’s journey takes a story’s central character on a journey replete with a wise guide (think Yoda!), a set of trials, conquering the ultimate challenge, and coming back home changed forever.

Make Sure Your Brand Story Is Authentic

We’ve all heard about brand horror stories. The “environmentally friendly” company that some ace reporter discovered was polluting the stream that ran behind its factory. The “Made in the USA” company whose product components came from a sweatshop in a Third World country. The “humanely raised” chickens that turn out to be anything but.

Just don’t let it be your brand. It takes years to build a reputation, but only a few minutes to wreck it.

Instead, do the research and the groundwork to ensure that your message paints a true picture of what your brand stands for. As you grow, keep a close eye on cost-cutting strategies that can cut into your authenticity. Then, let your content marketing strategy reflect who you really are as a brand.

In other words, you might want to raise prices a bit instead of outsourcing your manufacturing to a sweatshop. You might want to pay that free-range farmer a bit more for her authentic free-range eggs than to risk the loss of reputation that comes from someone discovering that your definition of “free-range” is a 3’ x 3’ cage.

Tell the truth – and you’ll never lose a good night’s sleep. Even if that My Pillow guy crawls into your bathroom mirror. We guarantee it.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality brand stories published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today – and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

4 thoughts on “What Are the Most Important Elements of Your Brand Story?

  1. Thanks for the great tips! I usually use the Cinderella formula when talking about incorporating the art of storytelling into one’s marketing content, but Star Wars works, too, especially since we just celebrated Star Wars day.

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