Brand Storytelling Guide: The A-Z Of Creating A Compelling Brand Story That People Remember

By June 7, 2019 No Comments

Every business has a story.

When done well, business storytelling gives a compelling reason for consumers to buy from you. A good brand storytelling can inspire trust between your business and customers, employees, and suppliers.

Good storytelling does more than just creating a sense of connection. It builds familiarity and trust, and allows the listener to enter the story where they are, making them more open to learning.

But, if you’re like many of our customers, you may not know where to begin with storytelling.

That’s perfectly okay.

We are 100% dedicated to making it dead simple for you. This means we are going to take you by the hand and show you in this brand storytelling guide:

Pay close attention, and you’ll learn the secrets of brand storytelling that helps you position your product better, strengthen your messaging & communication, drive more product adoption and finally win more customers.

Let’s get started!

Introduction To Storytelling

Storytelling is an ancient and valuable art that extends around the globe.

It is the art of conveying a series of events in words, images and sounds, which are often supported by creative thinking or an exaggeration.

This is not one of those things they teach you in most business schools. But finding and telling the story that gives your brand meaning and helps your customers develop a sense of loyalty and affection for your company is a pivotal element of a successful business strategy.

To accomplish this, all you have to remember is the three “S” of storytelling:

  • Speed,
  • Story, and;
  • Sizzle

Brand Storytelling Guide

A) Speed

In a world where platforms such as Facebook and Twitter set the standard for how quickly and briefly you can convey a message, speed is king.

Consumers have an 8-second attention span, which is 1 second less than a goldfish.

Ouch!

That means you have 8 seconds to get people interested in what you have to say before they get bored and swim away. So make your pitch snappy.

B) Story

How do you break ahead of the pack and get your potential customers to listen?

You have to engage them emotionally, make them feel a connection with your brand and with your message. Do that by telling a story.

As humans, we respond to story on a primal level, and we crave the meaning that they give. If you want people to take notice of what you’re doing, you must tap into the power of story.

C) Sizzle

Perhaps you’ve figured out how to pare down your company’s message, and maybe you’ve even harnessed the power of story. But speed and story alone are not enough to really make your message take hold.

You need a little something extra. You need your story to sizzle.

You need to find a way to make your story interesting – innovative, exciting, and impactful. Because when your message is interesting, it’s also memorable.

Remember the Old Spice guy?

Of course you do, because he was interesting, funny, and ultimately left an impression on you.

Brand Storytelling Secrets The Big Guys Don’t Want You To Know

Brand storytelling positively influences the way people feel about your company better than any other method.

If you can make people feel the way you want them to feel, their behavior will follow. In other words, purchasing is simply a natural response to how your marketing makes consumers feel about your brand.

The world’s biggest brands are successful, in part, because they get storytelling right. They know how to sweep their audience up in a narrative that’s bigger than them, that has meaning for them.

And frankly, these big brands just don’t want you to learn how to tell stories like they do.

Unfortunately for them, we’re here to show you how.

We’re calling these tips “storytelling secrets,” but really, much of the intel around this topic is common sense. Things like:

  • Telling the truth and show your personality,
  • Create characters and/or personas that your target audience can relate to.

This is good advice, but we wouldn’t really classify these tips as “secrets”. However, they’re so often forgotten by brands in so many industries, they might as well be.

So, let’s take a look at some of the best brand storytelling open secrets out there.

A) Ancient Structure For Modern Brands

While your goal may not be to produce the next Hamlet, Citizen Kane, or Star Wars, your brand story should share a few basic similarities with these classics.

One way to think about the framework underlying all great stories is the use of Acts. In fact, the basic 5 Act structure has been used by the best stories for about 2500 years or so – and it’s still going strong.

You may feel like this is something you should have left behind in high-school English, but if you want to captivate your audience until the end – listen up. Here is how dramatic structure translates to the world of brand storytelling:

Act One:

Entice your audience. Draw them in from the start with something worth sticking around to see it play out. The ancient playwrights called it “in medias res”, which is Latin for “in the middle of things.”

Draw them into your story and make them wonder where you’re headed.

Act Two:

Present the problem(s) that are common to your customers as the “evil villain”.

  • If you’re an athletics company, the villain is your audience’s limitations.
  • If you’re a SaaS startup, the villain might be something as (seemingly) minor as siloed communications between teams.

Act Three:

Bring your story to a climax with the raw pain points of dealing with those villains. Remind your audience of how frustrating their obstacles are, without making them feel hopeless.

As we’ll see in Act Four, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

Act Four:

This is where the hero (your viewer) finds the solution (your solution) and things start to take a turn for the better. It’s important to remember that your customer is the hero – not you.

Your product is simply their Excalibur, the tool they’ll use to vanquish the enemy and achieve their goals.

Act Five:

The villain is defeated through the newly discovered power of your newly discovered customer. That’s a happy ending, yo!

If you treat your next ad, explainer video, or an entire marketing campaign like an epic play you may find yourself rocking your story. And when this dramatic/narrative formula is used really well – it feels anything but formulaic.

Don’t believe us? Check out this video Nike put out just last week, profiling the runner Mo Farah. All five Acts are featured in this 90-second spot:

  • Act-1: We’re thrown into the middle of things.
  • Act-2: We’re introduced to our hero.
  • Acts 3-4: Who has plenty of obstacles to overcome.
  • Act-5: But we’re given hope that he’ll achieve victory in the end.

B) A Little Bit Of Mystery Goes A Long Way

At Explainify, we think it’s important to create clarity around your brand story. So obviously, creating ads conveying your UVP with crystal clarity is the single most important thing you can do, right?

Well – yes and no. While it is crucial to convey your story with clarity, sometimes less really is more.

As human beings, we have an innate desire for mystery. And if you’ve read Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything, you know this is because our pre-rational brains deeply crave novelty.

If we are presented with information that we already know, our brains are happy to shut off and stop listening – but if we hear something new and unexpected, we’ll give our attention long enough to see what’s going on.

This is why M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are so compelling (except for The Happening, of course).

People watch his films with bated breath because they know there’s a twist coming – but because they don’t know what exactly that twist will be, they’re hooked from the opening scene.

It’s also why you should weave a bit of mystery into your brand story. Rather than telling your audience everything they need to know up front, give your audience a trail of breadcrumbs to follow.

Captivate them with your company’s mission, then invite them to dig deeper to learn what you’re actually offering them.

Of course, you also can’t make your audience work too hard. Mystery is a balancing act between giving people enough information to keep them moving forward, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity all at once.

Mystery within your brand storytelling is the key to drawing people deeper and deeper into your world. While we could go into the finer points of revealing your message slowly for maximum effect, we’ll defer to Mr. Mystery himself (J.J. Abrams).

Below is the video of his fantastic Ted talk explaining the value of this tactic.

C) Features Never Win. Seriously.

Boil down the greatest tales in history and you will find a similar story structure underlying each of them, but that doesn’t mean they’re all copying each other.

In fact, sometimes key elements of different stories might be nearly identical – but they are still entertaining. For example, in 4 of the 7 Star Wars films a little ship is used to fly into a big weapon and blow it up.

What does that have to do with brand storytelling?

Glad you asked.

Everyone’s heard of “New Coke”, right? It was a massive failure for Coca-Cola.

But why? 53% of people preferred the taste of New Coke to Pepsi. So how could it have flopped so miserably?

The main reason it flopped is because Coke failed to tell a compelling story around the product, as seen in the 1985 ad below.

Coca-Cola took decades of good feelings and associations people had made with their product… and tried to replace them with facts. But proving statistically that people prefer your product over another can never substitute for a great story.

The takeaway here is that a great story really and truly trumps facts – every time.

So next time you’re about to bust out your spec sheet, ask yourself:

  • What is the underlying, overarching story that gives my product features meaning?
  • What’s going to make people care about this information?

Of course, there are so many facets to incredible brand storytelling. But if you can tap into the power of storytelling – by harnessing dramatic structure, making it about more than your features, and keeping a bit of mystery in the mix – you’ll be well on your way.

6 Tips To Get A Mind-Blowing Story

Now that you know what storytelling is and how it influences your audience & convince them to take your desired action, In this section, we are going to cover some quick-hitting brand storytelling tips to get you on the path to a simple, yet powerful, story.

Let’s get started!

A)  Keep It Simple & Short – About 150 words is all you can pack into a one-minute script, so keep it simple. Also, simplify the visuals so people have time to retain what they’re seeing. Keep this in mind the entire time you work on your script.

B) Focus On The Script – Your script is the most important part of the entire process. Don’t forget that. Visuals are great and add a ton to helping people retain what they’re watching.

In fact, studies show that if you only stimulate the auditory sense, people retain just 10% of what they hear. Stimulate both the auditory and the visual sense and you end up with a retention rate of 68%.

However, don’t over-stimulate people to the detriment of your storytelling. If your story is weak or unclear, they won’t continue watching and they’ll miss the audio and visuals altogether.

C) Keep Out The Jargon – This is probably the most common problem that companies have while trying to formulate their story. You don’t want to sound so complicated that people tune you out.

Remember, all of your audience is human. It doesn’t matter if you’re business-to-business or business-to-consumer. A human will be watching your video and humans don’t have conversations in long, complex sentences.

Most likely, they hear jargon all day long in meetings and want to watch a video to escape that. Look at the writings of companies like Apple or Starbucks: so simple and yet we all buy in.

D) Speak To The Right Audience – If you’re not talking in a way your viewers can easily grasp, you’re going to lose them.

You speak differently to a 10 year old girl than you would a 49 year old man, right? Think about your audience when you’re writing. Target the right person and cater your message to them.

You need to appeal to the executive’s bottom line and they typically need more detail to make a better buying decision.

E) Have Fun – The quickest way to grab attention and be memorable is to make someone laugh.

Add something comical to your videos. But be careful not to push it too far. If your joke falls flat or comedy is overused, you’re likely to turn off your viewer. Subtlety is the name of the game.

F) Have A Clear Call To Action – Whether you think it’s obvious or not, some people don’t know what to do after they’ve heard your story.

Tell them what you want them to do. Do you want them to:

  • Sign up for your newsletter,
  • Go to your site,
  • Download your app, or
  • Call you?

Make it clear and it’s much more likely that they’ll do it.

Your story, whether it’s your company’s story or your personal one, has the power to motivate and drive people to action. It can increase sales or cause people to turn away and lose attention.

It’s all in the delivery. Simple is good.

People understand simple, short and to the point. Try it and see how powerful it can be.

3 Companies Who Are Absolutely Rocking Their Brand Story

A brand story is the difference between giving people facts about your company and telling an epic tale of how you and your customers can partner together to create a better world (or workplace, or home, or… you get the point).

A great brand story can propel your message into levels of engagement and identification far beyond what you thought possible.

The problem is, most companies haven’t made the effort to understand their story. If yours hasn’t, we hope to change your mind. Storytelling (particularly through video) has a way of connecting people to your brand on an emotional level.

Think we’re exaggerating?

Get back to us after checking the following three companies who have absolutely nailed the art of brand storytelling.

A) Slack

At this point, just about everyone knows Slack – the app that allows teams to communicate through multiple channels by combining them all into one.

It’s an amazing software. But it’s through their brand story that they have won both the corporate and investors world over. It’s not just about how many integrations they have, or how affordable it is. It’s about the simple promise – the story – of helping teams coordinate flawlessly.

How’s it working for them?

From the end of 2012 until May 2019 they went from launch to 10 million daily active users, 85,000 paying customers, and an almost $10 billion valuation.

Video has been a huge part of their storytelling. A casual-yet-powerful case study video early on helped them win over office after office.

And their most recent ad (below) is incredible. 60 seconds (not counting bloopers) of incredibly compelling content.

Here are a few quick takeaways:

  • There are only 15 words (we counted) and no hard sales pitch in the video.
  • The video highlighted features and the software’s overall usefulness without using any of those precious few words to talk about them.
  • Instead, the words they used were about the people who do use Slack, “amazing teams” to do “amazing things”.

B) Manchester United

Next on our list is one of the most famous soccer (football) teams from the U.K. – Manchester United.

While the team doesn’t play in the World Cup, they have been truly rocking their story across the globe. Most everyone knows that soccer is the world’s sport (sorry baseball fans), and there are no clubs as popular as this one.

This football team is telling an impressive story – and the results are truly staggering. For instance, the team’s Facebook fan page has nearly 70 million likes!

To put that in perspective, Pepsi has half of that number while the Dallas Cowboys (American football) only has 8 million.

Most of their brand story happens on social media, with around 10 posts going out per day/per account. But video is still part of their appeal. A sense of heritage and success shines through in multiple documentaries, TV shows in several countries (including the U.S.), and even movie mentions.

Here are a few takeaways you may want to glean from their success.

  • The Club celebrates their team, highlighting them in posts and making them the stars they are.
  • Passion and pride bleed from this organization. We wouldn’t dare say they’re bad at football (and we definitely wouldn’t call it soccer to their faces).
  • MUFC was started in 1878 and they embrace their heritage to the core.

C) Nike

When you reach the top, you can sit there or keep on climbing.

Apparently, Nike’s not scared of heights. When they first decided to take a piece of the golf pie, Nike bought high-priced endorsements and took the game by storm. It was a tough sell and had its drawbacks (sorry, Tiger), but they didn’t stop there.

Now, they’ve revamped and focused on what they do best, selling the sport instead of the equipment. Since they are such a big company, we’re focusing on their golf story revamp of sorts.

To get back in the golf game, the sports giant has released loads of videos in an “enjoy the chase” series. Instead of focusing on the ones with notable pros, we looked at a powerful and short video (below).

A barefoot golfer and 15 seconds that made you want some golf shoes? That is rocking the story. The entire series is worth a watch – especially if you love golf – but this one stuck out and offers a few actionable takeaways.

No hard pitch here. If you watched this during a televised golf match, it wouldn’t even be clear it was a Nike commercial until the very end.

It sold you on golf, and they brought themselves along for the ride to associate themselves with that serenely romanticized moment in the puddle.

The length (short) intensified its power. We’re willing to bet that more than a few guys grabbed their clubs and hit the links immediately after watching it.

Of course, these are by no means the only companies telling a great brand story. But these inspires to look beyond the product and the features to tell a story that includes your company – but is a lot bigger than that.

And that’s the kind of story your audience needs to hear.

How To Teach Your SaaS Team The Fine Art Of Brand Storytelling

Build rapport. Qualify the lead. Explain the benefits. Close the deal. Move on to the next.

Is that how the sales team at your SaaS business is currently treating prospects?

If so, they may be mislabeling the brand you’re trying to create.

Although, SaaS businesses strive to create quality solutions, have a high level of customer service, and typically understand that their products require customer retention to yield profits.

Even when you put these two things together, there is still a potential for prospects leaving with less than stellar opinions and customers entering your doors with unrealistic expectations.

So, where’s the balance?

There is a way to maintain a goal-oriented sales team while not ruffling the feathers on the other end of the line.

It’s called brand storytelling.

Teach Your Team the Art of Brand Storytelling

Who you are and what makes you different should permeate deep into everyone on your payroll, and we’re going to help you do it.

Stories usually have three acts, and brand storytelling is no different.

45% of a brand’s image is attributed to what you say and how it’s conveyed.

A) Act One: The Setup

You have to set the stage for brand storytelling.

It begins with your storytellers, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

  • The wrong way to motivate your sales staff is to email with a blurb about how your company began along with instructions to incorporate it into their conversations with prospects. Then, follow up with meetings.
  • The right way is to tell your staff (not just sales team) about what your company is trying to accomplish for customers and for them. Tell your team that they are part of your story and brand.

Your brand’s goal is to create ambassadors who will send like-minded people your way.

How do you expect that to happen if you don’t start in-house?

In a Gallop poll, only 41% of employees believed they knew what their company stood for and how the brand was different from competitors.

B) Act Two: The Climax

Every story needs great characters, and yours needs a hero.

Before you go kicking yourself for not being as cool as Elon Musk, don’t worry. It’s not you.

It’s Your Customers.

Most sales teams use scripts over the phone. These have a tendency to have very little interaction with potential customers (if they’re in at all).

A team that is equipped to turn customers into the hero of your brand’s story will create loyal users while meeting quotas.

Here’s a snapshot of what it looks like.

  1. Ask your leads questions about their backstory to find out what led them to your brand’s products.
  2. Introduce the villain (pain points that your solution solves) as the story thickens.
  3. Create a world where your new hero might be able to function without the problems of the past.

Key questions that have to be answered with a resounding “yes!”:

  • Does the prospect feel like you understand their business?
  • Did you hit the real pain points or challenges your client’s face?
  • Are they ready to hear about the solution?

Be sure your staff understands the important “Hero” role long standing SaaS customers play in the overall success of the business.

C) Act Three: The Happily Ever After

Now, it’s time to empower the hero and give your brand storytelling another happy ending. You can do this by introducing your solution at the right moment. Make sure the potential clients understand they really are the hero.

You do this by introducing your SaaS as the tool to fend off those villains.

Maybe you’ll tell tales of others who’ve used it, who have enjoyed similar victories (testimonials, case studies, metrics). Finally, you make sure the hero understands that all the possibilities you have conveyed are possible.

If you do all of this correctly, you aren’t asking for a sale, you’ll be asking someone to save the day.

It’s Your Turn To Rock Your Brand Storytelling

Storytelling gets people excited, it’s relatable, and it’s a successful marketing strategy across the board.

It has become a way to give tech companies a personality, make software human, and bring data to life. It makes a connection, and it’s powerful.

If you are a tech company wanting to make your product human and bring data to life, you’re in luck.

You now have this brand storytelling guide to give you an edge over your competition.

And if you are looking for experts to help with your brand storytelling, look no further. Get in touch today and zoom past your competition.