You may think your brand story is about your business... but think again.
The brand story, at its core, is about your consumers. Your story is what your business stands for; it is its set of beliefs, its purpose, and its meaning. Those values, in turn, become the signals that your consumers learn from and associate with.
When that story is crafted correctly, consumers will be proud to represent a brand, and they will market the brand of their own volition via word-of-mouth.
But how do you craft such a compelling brand story?
Examine your business's origins to find a story that resonates with consumers. That story must be shareable and interactive, encouraging consumer engagement. Positive stories are better received than negative ones, and those appealing to consumers' need for fulfillment are sure to deliver results. Finally, the story must be cohesive across all touchpoints where consumers might interact with the brand.
The following steps will help you identify and develop a strong brand story that delights consumers and keeps them coming back for more.
1. Look to your roots
Consider how the origins of your business relate to the backgrounds of your consumers. Ask yourself what problems your business solves for your consumers. That is, what solution does your business provide? The answers to these questions can serve as the starting point for finding your brand story. Look for connections between your business purpose and your consumers' experiences.
FedEx, for example, is at its core a shipping company. It began in 1973 looking to revolutionize the methods used to ship packages worldwide within one to two days. Today, FedEx is much more than just shipping, but its brand story remains the same: FedEx connects the world together.
2. Make it shareable
In today's interconnected world, committed consumers don't just want to see the story; they want to be the story. Brands that let their consumers co-create and engage via social media or other marketing are successful because they know that user-generated content will drive sales. Give buyers a hashtag, sticker, or some way to rep your brand and its core values. Your brand should be easily shared both online and offline, in as many ways as possible.
A great example of a shareable brand story is that of Recreation Equipment Inc., better known as REI. On Black Friday in 2015, REI closed its doors and invited its social media following to do the same: to ditch store queues and get outside instead of shopping.
This campaign, complete with the #optoutside hashtag, resonated strongly with REI's core consumers. It was widely shared, and it generated an impressive 1.2 billion social mentions in 2015 alone; the company repeated the campaign in 2016.
3. Keep it positive
A meaningful brand story is one that plays to consumers' needs. It should appeal to needs above the basic level, however, such as more time with loved ones, career success, and a general sense of fulfillment. Perhaps your product saves time for parents and allows them to spend more time with their children. If consumers can see how your product directly brings them closer to their self-fulfillment goals, your marketing is sure to have a strong effect.
Harley Davidson is a well-known brand that delivers self-fulfillment to its customers. This brand tells a story that speaks to its audience about enjoyment, freedom, and individuality. The strong brand story means consumers associate riding a Harley with their inner desire to live free and fulfill their dreams.
4. Consistency is key
Finally, a strong brand story is consistent in every channel and at every consumer touchpoint: No matter where a consumer encounters your brand, your story is the same. You can check whether that's so by administering the logo test: If you were to remove your logo, would your consumers still know that your brand was the one that created the content? Every message you produce should contain or impart some essence of your brand story.
Cosmetics company Lush excels at branding consistency. Its story revolves around handmade, fresh products, "naked" packaging, and ethical sourcing. Every marketing piece tells that story. Most products sit raw on store shelves before being wrapped up once purchased. Prepackaged products display ingredients up front and feature a sticker with the smiling face of the employee who packaged them. There is no confusing what the company stands for—and what keeps its consumers coming back.
* * *
A brand story is more than your website copy, sales brochure, or social media presence; a brand story is informed by, and created for, your consumers. Appealing to consumers' wants and needs will guarantee a brand story that delivers growth and pays dividends for years into the future.
Get out there and tell a story your consumers want to hear. Give them self-fulfillment. Give them consistency.
And give yourself some awesome returns while you're at it.
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