What Makes a Powerful Brand Story?

Guest Post 4 min read

I’ve known the name Warren Buffett for as long as I can remember earning a salary. 

I’ve known him as the businessman and investor; the humble billionaire who still lives in his simple family home in Omaha.

Well, I recently watched Becoming Warren Buffett, the HBO documentary, and I was surprised. 

I assumed the story would be all about how he became a billionaire. Instead; it was a love story about how he became a man.

I was moved. My perspective and understanding of Warren Buffett shifted…and expanded.

I went from thinking of him as a billionaire investor, to understanding more about who he is as a person. What he likes. His personal beliefs and politics. And of course, who the people are that helped shape him into the person he is today.

Powerful brand storytelling creates the same outcome for your customers. It is the process of shifting how your product, brand and ideas are perceived by putting your customer’s emotional experience first.

How do I put my customer’s emotional experiences first?

I’m a content marketer, which means I create strategy and write copy for blogs, websites, landing pages, emails, paid ads, digital assets, and more for my clients. I spend most of my time analyzing marketing data in order to come up with content strategies that will help brands convert more customers.

While I’ve learned many tactics over the years to improve open rates, click rates and conversion rates, I know that the story of a brand is not crafted from a pile of tips and tricks.

Instead, brand storytelling begins by crafting a narrative that customers connect with, and buy into. 

Have you ever stayed up all night reading a book because you just couldn’t put it down? This happens to me all the time. Anna Karenina. Harry Potter. The Handmaid’s Tale. Every Tom Robbins novel.

These epic stories with multiple threads that eventually tie together into one profound conclusion get me hooked. So much so that I’ve read these books multiple times.

That’s the power of a great story. 

Like these novels, compelling brand stories make us want to participate, follow along and engage with them. A brand story answers the question “what is my brand really about (and why should someone care)?” 

Infusing your brand story with emotion and meaning

In the Warren Buffett documentary, I learned that his emotional connections to the people around him are what grounded him in his beliefs, outlooks, politics and, inevitably, his investment strategies. 

At one point in the film, he even states that if it weren’t for the people in his life, he wouldn’t have achieved what he has. That’s a pretty nice endorsement from one of the richest people on earth, in my humble opinion.

Emotional connections are what give us, as humans, a sense of purpose and meaning. So if emotion is so important in the story of our everyday life, of course it’s going to be important in the story of our brands, products and services.

In order to infuse your brand story with emotion, start by asking yourself:

  1. What does your business stand for? 
  2. What are the core beliefs that your brand holds dear?
  3. What are the dilemmas that your company faces? 

Then, follow up by asking yourself:

  1. How does your story connect to universal human needs, like fulfilment, equality, belonging and freedom, that compel all of us?

By answering these questions, you’re not only one step closer to creating a powerful story, but you’re positioning your brand in universal truths that your customers can connect with

A story of a compelling brand story

Nike’s commercial, introducing the slogan Just Do It.

One of the most iconic brand slogans of all time, Just Do It from Nike, was crafted for a set of TV commercials. 

No one at Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency commissioned for the campaign, expected it to have the legs it has today (no pun intended).

But when you truly think about the slogan; you can see clearly why it impacted the world so strongly. 

Think about it: how would you describe the slogan’s message, tone and purpose? I’d say it’s aspirational, directive and empowering. 

What universal truths and emotions is Just Do It grounded in? I’d say, equality: we are all agents of our own change; and freedom: we may choose to do as we please.

The message resonated deeply. What started as a campaign quickly developed into a powerful brand story that motivated the world.

Brand stories catalyze action

Despite using all my best tools as a content marketer, in the end, the call-to-action must be enticing enough for someone to take the bait.

Sure, I can write as many versions of a subject line as I want to increase email opens. I can rewrite the titles of my ebooks and whitepapers ad nauseum to improve downloads. I can make the buttons bigger on any of my landing pages to make it more obvious.

But in the end, unless the message—and the promise—resonates with my target audience, my results will remain lackluster.

Brand stories are a call to action in themselves. Their goal is to create intrigue, participation and motivate action. Your brand is still a business, after all.

Therefore, dig into understanding your audience. Ask yourself how you can help them go deeper, and what emotions you want them to feel in order to find meaning from your brand. 

Think about the form and structure of how you’ll tell your brand story. What information will you include in order to incite emotion in your audience? 

Just making the button bigger won’t work—you can’t dial your brand story in. 

Instead, think about what you need to say, and how you will say it, in order to reach the people that are, or will become, your customers.

Guest post contributed by Alexa Hubley

Brand storytelling is a process that links together multiple threads, ideas, visions, and values, in order to create something powerful for your audience. 

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