Tell Your Story: The Art of Branding Through Storytelling
In a world inundated with noise, how does one break through the din and be heard? White noise can make it difficult for individuals to accurately convey messaging to the right target population. In the business sector, this issue poses major concerns. Failure to appropriately deliver a message could mean damage to the company both in terms of sales and in connecting with critical audience types.
For companies, large and small, the key to success is in developing branding that tells an engaging and encapsulating story. Prospective consumers need the following questions answered: At the core, “Who are you?” And, “Why should I care?”
Think, for a moment, of the successful companies we all know and love, the ones whose crystal clear branding forges a connection with consumers in mere seconds. Where would Apple, Inc. be without its late ’90s “Think Different” campaign, enticing the counter-generation to spurn the big-bad IBM and Microsoft operating systems?
Just another computer company.
Picture Nike without its “Just Do It” campaign, responsible for connecting every wanna-be athlete to the ideals of glory through success in sports.
Just another shoe brand.
There are countless examples of companies of all sizes who use storytelling to develop their brands – so effectively, even, that their slogans have become embedded in the social lexicon of consumers. Are their products any better? Debatable. Do they make one more successful? No. Could you do exactly the same thing with a lesser-known entity? Absolutely. So, why do we pine over the newest iPhone or pay extra for athletic gear with the Nike Swoosh symbol?
Let’s first review the basic tenets of effective communication. These will help us to frame where we are going and to understand how we connect with one another on a personal level. From there, you can explore how your brand communicates with the wider population and whether it does so effectively.
The Communication Continuum, when broken down, is quite simple. First, identify the Sender, Message, and Receiver. The Sender initiates the flow of communication, putting something out there into the world in hopes of establishing a connection with a target audience. This “something” is better known as the Message, which is neutral in scope and design. It rides the continuum towards the target, also referred to as the Receiver.
Next, consider the Sender and Receiver. Each brings along with it preconceived notions, biases, knowledge, hopes, and dreams. When considering brand strategy, pay mind to and manage these notions, biases, etc. utilizing a one-way messaging system, as there is no two-way interaction at the outset of brand planning. Instead, you are simply sending information out into the world, hoping to hit the correct target in the correct way – not an easy task.
When creating your brand story, focus on these four factors:
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” — The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland
While in the early planning stages, ask yourself, “What do I want my story to do?” Begin with the end in mind, the picture of where things will be once completed – the desired outcome. In doing so, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day works toward that end goal. By understanding your overall intent, each day can be spent contributing, in meaningful ways, to the vision you have established.
“He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” — Abraham Maslow, American psychologist
If you sell hammers and all anyone wants to buy is a hammer, then the above statement probably doesn’t sound all that bad to you! If not, though, persuasion is key. Learn to craft a story in which people realize that there is more to life than just hammering and that not everything is a nail. Ask yourself, “Where am I taking my audience?”, “What do I want them to feel?”, “How do I want them to connect with my brand?” It is your job to draw people beyond their comfort zones, to challenge them to consider your brand over others; to hear your story over the din of white noise. Think creatively and people will follow you.
What are the leading, key, and consequential elements you can work on to develop and later convey your story to proper audiences?
Brainstorm. Write it down. Even if just partial sentences or bullets, put your ideas down on paper in order to physically see and share your thoughts with others. Carve out time to work on your story little by little every day, especially when you don't feel like it. At Winning Consultations, we use a Story Spine to get the creative juices of our clients flowing, but that’s another topic for a different day.
When and how will you put your storytelling strategy into action? What will your audience gain from this story?
Perhaps the most difficult step of the branding process is implementation. Move your ideas beyond paper (or computer screen) and develop a real-life strategic story that allows people to share in your thoughts and understand your brand on a more personal level.
Now, what have you learned? That the world is a busy and exhausting place where potential customers are bombarded each day with advertising for every product and service imaginable. TV. Radio. Social media. Direct mail. The onslaught is constant. To break through the din and convey effective messaging to your prospective clients about who you are as a brand and why they should care, first craft a story that is focused, intentional, and creates a connection.
Follow the basic tenets of effective communication mentioned to ensure that your messaging reaches its target audience through all that noise. Consider your Intent – the picture of completion – and effectively construct your Content in a way that allures people to follow your brand. Put your ideas into Action, developing them every day, and refer back to your main Point to ensure that your brand story is moving in the right direction.
So, get started. What’s your story?