Which would be easier, retelling the “Three Little Pigs” story or succinctly describing your brand? For many, it’s far easier to recite a childhood story or favorite TV show’s plot than to figure out how to explain our brand and purpose.
Stories stick. Stories are a staple of human communication; we tell stories about our commutes, write down stories about our history, we binge fictional tales for hours on end. Storytelling is a natural part of human communication, and it can be a tool in helping people remember your brand.
Let’s go back to literature class and review two elements that make a story. This time though, let’s think about how we can use storytelling in your branding by translating it into the parts of a story that will connect with your audience.
Sherlock Holmes, Mickey Mouse, Batman, and Abraham Lincoln. Names we all recognize from the stories we’ve heard about them. The start of a good story is a good character.
In my high school history class, I nearly fell asleep while enduring a lecture about oil commerce in the 1870s. The following week, we watched a television show about the same subject. However, I was on the edge of my seat this time, completely engrossed. What made the difference? A character. It wasn’t the story of an obsolete light source; it was the story of John D. Rockefeller, a person I could imagine and relate to, even though I knew nothing about business or oil. Characters make otherwise boring stories accessible and relatable.
In your brand’s story, a character gives your audience someone to root for or relate to. That doesn’t require creating a cereal-box-style mascot (though this has worked for some companies, like Geico). Instead, you can find the main character of your brand. A few options might be founders, customers, or the business as a whole.
An excellent option for a character is a founder. Kentucky Fried Chicken’s founder, Colonel Sanders, is the core of the brand’s visuals and voice. Walt Disney remains the symbol of imagination and “magic,” even though thousands of people have worked in the Disney Corporation. Your founders can be a face for your brand.
A recent example of brand characterization is Thread Wallets, a minimalist wallet manufacturer based in Utah. Thread’s earliest commercials highlighted the story of Colby and Mckenzie Bauer and how they came to create the wallets. In my mind, and I’m sure the minds of others, this story cemented a vision of the company. At the core of Thread is a cool adventurous couple passing something useful onto other bold and adventurous youth.
As evidenced by reviews, testimonials, and influencer sponsorships, customer stories are fantastic! It has convincing power and can help customers feel that they are a part of your brand. Some brands depend almost entirely on customer recommendation. Due to the communal nature of Air BNB, customer experiences are crucial to selling their services.
Another company that leans into the customer principle is Google with its recent Google Pixel ads. They use stories of how users have utilized Google Pixel to take excellent photographs to highlight their cameras. By doing this, Google positions itself as a tool. The audience becomes the main characters, and the brand becomes a “magic sword” to aid us in our quest.
The Business Itself
Most often, you’ll find that you use the business as a character. Simply positioning yourself as the dedicated “we” emphasizes the shared values and community of your business. Sometimes it can be good to specify groups within that to personalize your stories more. For instance, here at Big Red Jelly, we often talk about teams within our group, depending on the context. The brand team, when talking about design, the build team, for how you can build your website, Woo Commerce Experts. Referencing your “engineers, sales team, designers, experts” or even specific team members can help add individuality to stories.
No story is complete without conflict. What good is a superhero or knight if the world doesn’t need saving and the dragon is dead? Conflict gives viewers a reason to care about, remember, and engage with your story.
I’m not suggesting that you pick fights with customers or trash-talk competitors, but showing users a problem and how you solve it is crucial to a good brand.
You have probably heard some variation of the popular mantra “Sell the problem you solve, not the product.” A problem or antagonistic force in your brand story will take it to the next level.
Dr. Squatch, a soap brand, has recently risen to popularity abiding by this principle. Dr. Squatch’s brand story focuses on two problems they saw in the Men’s hygiene industry: most men’s soaps are synthetic, and most natural soaps are marketed toward women. With this problem in place, Dr. Squatch rose from “just another soap bar” to a healthy yet manly solution to a problem they didn’t know they had.
What is the problem your audience doesn’t know they have? A conflict in a story can be a great way to show the audience how your unique services could answer a problem in their own lives.
External obstacles can also be a way to sell your product. For instance, Budweiser’s 2012 Super Bowl ad depicted a relatively simple story of Budweiser selling beer when the United States declared the end of prohibition. To this day, I vividly recall being fascinated—even inspired—by the story of a business that made a triumphant return after being illegal to exist. (And this comes from someone who prefers a non-alcoholic ginger ale.)
Perhaps you started during a brutal recession, got your ideas rejected dozens of times before succeeding, or rose above fierce competition in a cutthroat industry. Whatever opposition or obstacles your business may have faced, telling the stories of how you overcame them can encourage your audience to root for you.
To make a story, you only need those two elements, a character and a conflict. By thinking about your brand as a story, you can craft an appearance and position that your audience will be drawn to and remember.
Brand with Big Red Jelly
We want to hear your story! (Or maybe help you figure out what that is.) The brand team members at Big Red Jelly are experts at assisting clients in crafting compelling stories for your brand and communicating those to a waiting audience. Learn more about our process and what we can do for you!
Written by Avie Eichelberger