Marketing Minute: What is your brand story? – Nov 2023

By Paul Friederichsen

As the holiday season approaches, we’re reminded about the value of personal and family stories around the dinner table. They reveal something about us or our heritage, often in an entertaining and memorable way. When we tell a story, we’re sharing something about us that’s interesting and important to know and remember. And stories have a way of capturing the attention and imagination of the audience like nothing else. “This is why humans love story, because stories give us a sense of purpose, meaning and shape,” author Joe Bunting writes on his blog, But what about brands? Can brands have stories?

In developing an effective brand culture that is lived out authentically and internally throughout the company, narratives are created to connect with employees and onboard new hires. These narratives convey the brand’s values, mission and identity.

Externally, these narratives are shared in a thousand different ways, answering the all-important question of why the brand exists at all.

Stories help to
• Define what the brand stands for
• Establish trust and credibility
• Engage customers by capturing attention and being memorable
• Differentiate a brand
• Make an emotional connection
• Provide content for marketing
• Support the launch of a new product
• Motivate employees
• Create customer loyalty
• Mitigate the effects of a crisis
• Build community

Brand stories convey an emotional side. Consumers, both B2C and B2B, buy on an emotional stimulus that makes a connection. Facts, stats and price provide the context and rationale for the purchase decision. For example, some brands tell a story about their empathy for customers’ frustration in finding a solution by actually offering a solution and these will ultimately win.

Brand stories help us remember. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, we’re seven times more likely to remember a fact when it’s wrapped in story. That’s important in communicating distinctives about your brand to customers in a way that’s understandable and retainable, especially for brands that are purchased infrequently. For example, while many automakers are bringing electric vehicles to market, Tesla’s story reminds us that it was the pioneer of electric vehicles and clean-energy solutions.

Stories inform brand positioning and marketing strategy. How a brand discovered a customer need or set course on a particular direction is often rooted in a story. For example, Apple emphasizes Steve Jobs’ vision of making technology accessible and user-friendly for everyone. Coca-Cola’s story is all about happiness, togetherness and refreshment, and the brand has never wavered from that for 100+ years.

Brands are humanized through stories. This impacts relatability and relevance to consumers that makes brands more desirable. Nike highlighted athletes who overcame obstacles to achieve greatness with its iconic “Just Do It” marketing campaign. Red Bull’s story is wrapped up in energy, adventure and pushing the limits. Home Depot’s story begins with the bootstrap origins of its founders and the hardware category disruption that followed, which is echoed in its “How doers get more done” slogan.

Brand stories set you apart. Your brand story is your best means to avoid selling the category generally and not your brand specifically. For instance, in flooring, much is said by many manufacturers about their efforts toward sustainable practices and products, but what is your brand’s own story regarding this? Interface has a unique and fascinating story about sustainability, beginning with the epiphany of its founder, Ray Anderson. Are you just raising the boats for all sustainable flooring, or are you raising your boat with your brand as a sustainable hero?

Brand stories must be authentic. Stories are often the product of research and interviews of key stakeholders, both internal (founder, executives, key staff) and external (customers-both satisfied and unsatisfied). What are the anecdotes and stories that are key to revealing the essence of the story? For instance, did customer service go above and beyond for a client? Did R&D stumble upon a solution by creative problem solving? What actions best identified and underscored the mission and vision of the brand?

No matter how often you retell the story about your brand, never assume everyone has heard it, understands it or remembers it. With the tsunami of media information overwhelming our lives every day, it is difficult, if not impossible, for most brand messaging to stick. In all that overload, brand identity becomes the marker for what we want, and the brand story becomes the reminder for why we want it. You can refresh it but never fail to repeat it.

Brand stories, like all stories, are written in an arc, with a beginning, middle and end. For brands, most are told as “the hero’s journey.” The hero could be the founder, as in the Interface/Ray Anderson example cited earlier, a creative inventor or entrepreneur, the company leadership, etc. The villain or antagonist in the story could be the status quo, as in Apple’s story about the other guy’s complicated, unintuitive computers or the lack of a comfortable, welcoming gathering place, as seen in Starbucks’ “third place” strategy or wasteful and cheap outdoor gear that doesn’t last, as with Patagonia’s alternative. After realizing change is needed (the “inciting incident”), the hero’s journey encounters challenges, conflicts and obstacles along the way that must be overcome through sacrifice, innovation or daring. The climax culminates in the unique solution that sets the brand apart, inspires the customer’s (and employee’s) loyalty, ultimately transforms the marketplace and lays the groundwork for continued growth.

As marketers, our job is to get our preferred audience familiar with our brand, so that they embrace it as their own. This includes recruiting, onboarding and retention efforts by human resource departments, B2B marketing to increase distribution or dealer participation, and B2C marketing to increase customer engagement, sales, share and loyalty. Brand stories in their complete form can exist in the “about us” or “history” tabs of the website or annual reports, in onboarding packets, etc. The essence of the brand story can introduce the brand in sales presentations or product catalogs and be repeated throughout social media, blogging and advertising campaigns. It can also serve as the basis for public service or charitable support selection.

Third-party stories (testimonials) are like eyewitness accounts in a trial. They can offer powerful and compelling credibility to your brand like nothing else. Also under this heading (though not stories, per se) would be third-party testing and certifications, project profiles and case studies, or online ratings. All are perceived as unbiased, documented assessments of brand compliance, performance or preference. Work to make them part of your brand’s story.

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Interface