What is brand storytelling?
Brand storytelling is when a company uses its branding, heritage, and values in a story to convey its mission and vision to consumers. Storytelling is an emotive and captivating way to engage and connect with audiences. The aim? To show people how your company started and became the brand it is today. It’s also used to showcase your work culture and activity. Marketers are evolving storytelling techniques with live video, podcasts, Instagram stories and more. In doing so, you’re inviting people into your company’s journey so they can watch it unfold. This creates deeper relationships between your brand and customers.
Why is brand storytelling important
Brand storytelling is an important part of strengthening brand awareness and loyalty. It has the power to deepen relationships, which can give brands a unique competitive advantage. It’s a way to connect with customers in a format that has stood the test of time.
Storytelling is more relevant than ever as video and social media platforms continue to thrive. Stories take place in our everyday life. We’re captivated by people who tell good stories. Some of the most popular posts on LinkedIn, a business-orientated platform, are written in the format of a story or tell one. Countless successful brands use social media ‘stories’ to get high engagement from their followers. The most popular is Instagram Stories, which lets you share a timeline of pictures and video clips over 24 hours.
PR and media regularly curate content based on what makes a great story because they know that is what readers prefer.
It’s more difficult than ever for brands to stand out beyond what they offer. But brand storytelling cannot be replicated so easily. The story of your brand is yours only. As the narrator, you can create amazing moments to share with the world and make your story more compelling. Ultimately, this contributes to persuading consumers to buy your product or service.
Elements of Great Brand Storytelling
A story resonates with people when it connects on an emotional level. Think of a gripping film you remember. Did it fill you with excitement, fear, anger, anticipation or disgust? Those are the films we all remember. Emotionally charged situations often create longer-lasting memories of an event. This makes it easier for people to recall elements of your story.
Compelling stories have compelling characters. People innately judge a character through the lens of their own life experiences and values. They typically expect a protagonist (the good guy) and an antagonist (the bad guy). In brand storytelling, however, the focus tends to stay on the protagonist.
How your characters relate to the audience determines whether they can imagine themselves inside the narrative you create. Knowing your target audience well and assigning similar character traits helps your story connect with the right people. Data-driven marketing plays a key role in providing these insights that accurately reflect the brand, consumer and culture. Think about age, location, gender, behaviour, interests, attitudes, beliefs. In other words, build an audience profile.
In some cases, characters simply exist to be engaging and memorable. They are branded personifications such as Snap, Crackle and Pop for Rice Krispies or Aleksandr Orlov, the Meerkat for Compare The Market. They can be used to entertain, inspire or educate the audience.
Brand heritage and values
A story by definition has a beginning, middle and end. But your story is ever-evolving. You don’t need to blow your yearly marketing budget to recreate the full historical reenactment of your story. Instead, take milestones from your company’s history and link them to where you are today by using snippets of content. A great example of this comes from brands like Ferrari. Founded in 1947, Ferrari applies its rich heritage in F1 racing and the glory of winning championships to its new fleet of road cars.
Take a look at how they use elements of the past in this modern advert. Keep their values of ‘tradition and innovation’ in mind.
Consistency speaks volume about your brand. If the history of your company demonstrates you have stuck to your values, this builds trust with consumers — even the ones who don’t know who you are and haven’t used your products or services. This gives you a strategic advantage over competitors who haven’t established an on-going narrative. In some cases, consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for the story attached to your brand.
A narrative glues together all the pieces needed for a powerful story. It’s a matter of forging the journey from beginning to end in a cohesive way. The purpose of a narrative is to get your point across clearly and keep the audience engaged with a storytelling process. Find the key message you want to push — one that resonates with your target audience — and begin to build a brand narrative around it. Of course, you’ll need to factor in evoking emotions and showcasing parts of your brand heritage as well.
What makes a compelling narrative?
- Decide on a clear goal.
- Research your target audience and create a key message.
- Pick the format that resonates with your audience (TV ad, social media)
- Use themes and symbolism to get your message across.
- Set the scene to establish characters and generate curiosity.
- Induce feeling with the right atmosphere/vibe.
- Select music that sets the mood and pace, and evokes emotions.
- Move the story forward with dialogue or changes in energy.
- Make sure the message becomes clearer as the story progresses.
- Relate the ending back to the beginning to give a sense of closure
Let’s revisit the Ferrari advert to show how these elements of narrative are used.
The scene starts off dreary and dark with sinister noises. Anticipation builds as the protagonist makes his way to the car. This feeling is captured with a throbbing sound akin to a heartbeat. Upon turning on his car engine it lets out a massive roar and his adventure begins.
Upbeat and expanding music is now present, and an attractive woman looks over. The man, once staring out alone from his empty office, is now getting attention he desires. The woman’s attraction is reflected through her sunglasses. But what she sees is the racing heritage of Ferrari.
The protagonist continues to drive. He explores open country roads, which are symbolic of his sense of freedom in the car.
Interested in self-image, he finds himself peering into his own reflection multiple times, and liking what he sees. The theme using self-reflection to tie the driver to Ferrari’s heritage becomes clearer. With each reflection, there’s an evolution of the company’s previous racing cars.
The pace picks up as he skids onto a race track, giving him a thrill like no other, and truly living out the brand’s racing glory as he speeds across the finish line. Finally, he arrives back at the garage. He’s found a new lease of life as he smiles into the reflection of himself in a racing suit. He now embodies Ferrari’s heritage as a true champion, but in their latest, contemporary crafted model.
This is a prime example of using the above storytelling techniques in marketing effectively.
Examples of brands using storytelling
Dry stout brand, Guinness, has long championed its Irish heritage as a brand of community, culture and celebration. In the following advert, you’ll see them use St. Patrick’s Day as a theme to tell their story and show these values. This ad took place in 2020 during the scare of COVID-19. Without mentioning it, they spread an uplifting message that many things come and go but everything they represent is here to stay. It’s important to relate your story to the present and even the future.
Adventurous camera maker, GoPro, takes full advantage of storytelling with Instagram Stories. GoPro flew a member and his family to New Zealand to see the aurora australis. The whole trip was documented via Stories and their followers witnessed his dreams come true. At the same time, they were demonstrating their brand narrative of sharing life experiences with GoPro moments. Through storytelling, this inspired others to buy a GoPro and go create some memories of their own.
Image credit: Buffer
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