How to Sell Your Brand Through Story

Have you ever been introduced to an overly chatty person?

They pause briefly to learn your name, then launch into an extended monologue about their life and interests. After finally “escaping” the interlude, you realize they didn’t ask you a single question.

When you meet someone like this, does it raise a red flag?

This pushy demeanor causes you to lose trust in their entire character. The same can be true in marketing when companies spend too much time talking about themselves instead of authentically connecting with consumers. Without building adequate rapport, marketers prematurely oversell or repel prospects for good.

How can you avoid this mistake? By building connections through story.

The Human to Human Connection

Building brand stories sets buyers at ease and creates the best possible customer experience.

Today’s consumers prefer an increasingly personalized experience, and sharing your brand through story is one of the best ways to build relationships. Brand stories offer a friendly introduction to your company, building trust with a generation that craves distinct, authentic connections.

Many companies don’t think of themselves as a brand or believe they have a story to tell. And that’s just not the case! A brand story isn’t simply a chronological account of your history, it’s a portrait of who you are. Your brand story consists of:

  • What your brand says about itself
  • What your brand does in the world
  • What others believe and say about your brand
  • How people interact with your brand

Here’s an example of one business bringing their story to life:

Chipotle’s Mexican Grill is a brand known for serving “food with integrity.” Chipotle has labeled itself “as real as it gets,” using only 51 ingredients and no heat lamps, freezers, or microwaves. A recent print ad included the line: “For real foods. For real actions. For real change.”

Chipotle seeks to fulfill people’s desire for clean eating and to change the way people think about fast food. The core of this ethos includes respect for farmers, animals, and the environment, and transparent displays of ingredients and producers on every menu. Tipping toward satire, the brand’s recent 51 ingredient billboard campaign featured this phrase: The only ingredient that’s too hard to pronounce at Chipotle is “Chipotle.”

Finding Connection

On a neural level, the brain actually “feels” a story.

Story-based communication brings greater comprehension and allows your listeners to grow in confidence and receptivity because people buy in to what they trust!

To create meaningful customer connections, begin by intentionally discovering who you are talking to and deliver the message your audience wants or needs to engage with.

Build a narrative that is captivating, concise, consistent, and conversational. Then do your best to share this everywhere! Think of your brand story as a steady IV drip of content, delivered to multiple audiences, over many years, in a variety of formats.

Whether it involves large-scale displays, mounted core values, or social media content, ensure your story stays consistent across mediums. Keeping attributes simple and clear will allow consumers to recognize you in every setting and to feel at home with all that your brand stands for.

Bring Your Story to Life

Stories make life interesting because they fulfill curiosity and craving in every person.

Telling your brand story is mission-critical in forging relationships with a generation that desires to buy into more than just a product, but into a narrative that gives meaning and pleasure to their daily lives.

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Test Your Brand Messages to Maximize Impact

Donald Miller is an author, speaker, and CEO of StoryBrand, a company that helps businesses clarify their message.

StoryBrand helps hundreds of brands to eliminate confusion, connect with customers, and grow sales. Miller says many brands struggle to break through because they don’t test their brand messages before sharing:

“We have a mantra at StoryBrand: If you confuse, you lose,” said Miller. “The answer to confusion is always ‘no’. When people are so close to what they offer, they tend to be either really vague or they speak inside language. I’m amazed.”

“I’ll actually say to somebody, ‘Do you think on a scale of 1-10 that your message is really clear, from 1-10 with ten being clear?’ They will say they are a 10. I will tell them to come up in front of the group [and] ask them to tell me what they offer. They will say, ‘Nutritional packages that allow equestrian products to flourish.’”

Clear as mud, right? Miller says professionals often fail to use simple phrases people can easily understand:

“Here’s the thing, test it at Starbucks. You’re standing in line . . . there are strangers all around. Say, ‘I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m actually starting a business. Can I tell you what I offer and then ask you if you understand?’”

Does Your Message Resonate?

Companies allocate enormous resources to hone their message.

A brand message, communicated to your target audience, describes what you do, the value you bring, or how you’re different. Your brand message should resonate with the needs, wants, or luxuries of your niche, sometimes with simple slogans like these:

     Eat Fresh.

     Designed for Driving Pleasure.

     Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.

Strong brand messages are memorable, stir an emotional response, and distinguish a brand from its competitors. But when companies hone their identity, they sometimes miss a key element: relevance to their customers. What’s important to your company may not be the thing that matters to your customers. Consider these questions to clarify:

  • Why does my brand matter? Why does it matter to our customers?
  • What does our brand stand for? How will this affect our customers?
  • How are we different than competitors? Why does this matter to our customers?

When you don’t speak to customers on their terms, you are probably falling short. Be clear on what your customers care about and how you can address their situation. Use language that is authentic and messages that align with your clients’ desires or purchasing plans.

Also, consider testing brand messages before publicizing them. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by simply reading your copy out loud to yourself. Does it sound conversational and real? Then test it out on others. Poll your friends and family, create anonymous surveys for staff and clients, run focus groups with target audience members, or do a website trial with a third-party testing tool. As you move forward, consider logging the impact of:

   Product descriptions

   E-mail subject lines

   Print ads, graphics, or layout options

   Call to action statements

   Packaging colors or logo designs

   Slogans/taglines

   Online landing pages

   Advertising campaign concepts

   Time or location an ad is presented

While testing takes work, business leaders agree it is worth the effort: 72% of advertising professionals said it’s important to test an ad before it’s launched, and 85% of product-focused managers said testing is vital to their success at work. Testing content can sharpen your focus, make your message more relevant, and boost the response to your marketing pieces.