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Every Brand Needs A Story

Posted on 07/10/2021

There are many ways to build a business. What do you think are the necessary steps to create a successful one?

We would argue that the correct sequence to build brand is:

  1. Create a Story
  2. Build a Product
  3. Develop the Brand Identity
  4. Create Marketing campaigns to share the story
  5. Generate Sales

As you can see, it all starts with the story. The story is usually a way of explaining the solution to a problem you’ve identified. That’s what typically leads you to create a product (or service). And this story should be central to every part of your business.

Once you have a great story and product (or service), you can successfully create a brand identity — the personality, mission, vision, purpose, design, and all that good stuff.

Then, when you have a brand, you can begin marketing it, and finally turn your project into a business through sales.

So, today, we wanted to talk about the foundation of any successful brand: The Story.

What is a Story?

A traditional story has 3 parts:

  1. The beginning (the status quo is presented)
  2. The middle (a conflict arises that threatens the status quo)
  3. The end (a resolution is found)

A brand story follows the same format as a traditional story.

But when we tell the story as a brand, we tend to focus on the ending: the solution that your brand provides. If you craft your story well, your customers will easily be able to do a mental calculation to intuitively understand the beginning and the middle (i.e. what problem you are solving), and move directly to the “I’m buying this because…” part.

Of course, your brand story will be tailored to the status quo that you’ve identified and the conflict you’re trying to resolve — what’s your solution for the market?

Why Do You Need a Story?

If you want to create a business that commands customer loyalty, you need to build a brand. You simply can’t do this correctly without having a good story — the story is the backbone of the brand. You see, people are emotional creatures. And stories drive emotions. We respond to them with excitement, anger, joy, jealousy, guilt, etc.

Brands play into our emotions daily by sharing their stories with us.

Some brands very cleverly focus on negative emotions — think newspapers — and this can be a very powerful way to build a community of customers. Shock, fear, anger, guilt, jealousy, etc. are very strong emotions that can cause impulsive decision-making, like clicking on a shocking article link or buying a product to keep you safe.

But let’s focus on the positive, shall we?

Most brands usually want to create a positive emotion in their customers. And they do that by telling positive stories that make people feel good about the decision they’re about to make, such as buying a new handbag or booking a holiday.

In summary, you need a story so that you can connect with potential customers.

What Are Some Real Life Examples? The Consultant, McDonald's and Apple

Perhaps it’s best if we look at some examples. Keep in mind, these are just our thoughts and interpretations to illustrate why building a story is important, and you may have your own ideas or theories about the stories behind any of these brands.

First, let’s look at a consulting business brand.

We received a cold sales email a few weeks ago from a consultant offering his services. Although we weren’t interested in his services at that point, it was a very well-structured and concise email so we took look at his website and scrolled through his Instagram page, since he’d linked it at the bottom of his email.

This guy was clearly smart. His materials all matched up. Not necessarily in terms of design or style. More in terms of working together to reinforce his story. His email was very well crafted but not filled with gimmicky distractions like graphics and slogans. His website was personal and felt almost vulnerable — he put his life and dreams on the page. His Instagram page showed a guy who loves his family, loves adventure and is up for any physical challenge.

The whole thing screamed: “I’m a regular guy just like you, I’m not afraid to put myself out there and I’m determined to succeed through hard work and perseverance”. In other words, he’s an entrepreneur —just like his clients — quickly building common ground with his audience. Digital Mirroring, if you like. N.B. If Digital Mirroring isn’t a term, I’m claiming it.

So what was his thought process? It probably went something like this:

  1. Status Quo: I’m a freelance consultant who needs needs clients
  2. Conflict: I’m battling against well established agencies with fancy offices, lots of big client case studies, large teams and huge marketing budgets
  3. Resolution: I’ll use a personal approach to show that I’m a fighter, in order to demonstrate empathy for entrepreneurs

That’s his story. And it works.

Were any of the individual assets (Email, Website, Instagram) to the same polished level of a large agency? No. But as a whole, for his target audience, it’s just as strong. His story instilled in us a total sense of trust in a guy we’ve never met. We emailed him to let him know what a great job we think he’s doing and he gave us some super useful tips. Thanks, dude.

Let’s take a look at a couple of bigger examples: McDonald’s and Apple.

When you ask people to tell you about McDonald’s, some will say it’s a burger joint, or a fast food restaurant, or a franchise. Those who watched The Founder will say “it’s a real estate company!” And they’re all right. Especially the last one.

But that’s not what their story is. To us, their story is: “McDonald’s is comfort food anywhere”.

How did that process come about? Well, we kind of saw it in The Founder:

  1. Status Quo: There is a travelling salesman who, like other travelling salesmen, will look for a decent meal at the end of the day on the road
  2. Conflict: He knows that it’s impossible to predict what each restaurant will be like, in terms of speed, quality of food and environment
  3. Resolution: A restaurant chain with consistent service, food, and atmosphere that will be the same in any city

How do they tell that story every day?

No matter where you are in the world, you will probably find a McDonald’s nearby, and it will be the same as the one at home. Same décor, same ingredients, same taste, same atmosphere. No matter where you are, you know you will get that familiar Big Mac taste in a well sanitised restaurant. To its millions (or billions!) of customers around the world, that’s a true sense of comfort.

Apple is another good one.

The most valuable company in the world. Are they a computer hardware company? Or software? Or mobile? Or music? Or streaming? Or a retailer?

Well, as a business, Apple is all of those things. They’re a technology conglomerate under one brand. But what’s their story?

To us, the Apple story is: “Apple is a technology company that provides a superior user experience”.

Their story process (our take!):

  1. Status Quo: Apple have the means and ability to make software and hardware
  2. Conflict: There are other huge technology companies doing the same thing, and their focus is almost exclusively on technical innovation and prowess
  3. Resolution: Apple decide to focus on the full customer journey (technology AND user experience)

OK, OK, we know — “experience”. Our least favourite word until “lockdown” came along. Most companies in the past few years have harped on so much about creating an experience, that we almost forgot about people creating “lifestyle” brands.

But to give them credit, Apple truly is a superior user experience.

And look, we’re not Apple fanboys. We use Google Pixels!

But think about any of the products or services above — the mobile phones, laptops, shops.

We know that Apple phones are just better. Is their tech or hardware the best? Maybe not as individual components. Plenty of other phones have better cameras. But when you use an Apple phone, it’s just better overall. Laptops are sleeker with longer-battery life. Apple stores are unlike any other. In summary, Apple products and services are a joy to use. They are a superior user experience.

There are, of course, limitless examples of other brands — small, medium, large — that use their stories to create great businesses.

So How Do You Create Your Brand Story?

OK, so this is where it all gets a bit subjective. There are no rules and there is no best way. It really comes down to your business, your product and your imagination.

To create a great story, you need to really think hard and be honest about your business. Take a look at these questions below and answer them as honestly as you can:

  • Why does your business exist?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Who is your customer?
  • Why should your customer buy products from you?
  • What do you want your customers to feel when they use your products?
  • What does your business really do to create that feeling?

What is your Status Quo (beginning), Conflict (middle) and Resolution (ending)?

It doesn’t matter if your answers sound cheesy, or far-fetched or egotistical when you write them down. This is not for public consumption. Nobody needs to see it (well, your team does). It’s there to guide you in creating your brand.

It’s not easy, is it?

It’s always harder to think about your own business in this way, so maybe start practicing by analysing other brands and see how you do!

Final Thoughts

Before you disappear, we're going have to mention another heavily overused word. Apologies in advance. But it really is the key to this whole thing.

Your story must be authentic. But actually authentic — this means that your brand must live its story daily.

McDonald’s doesn’t say they are your global comfort food. I doubt you’ll find that in any of their materials. They just operate in a way that tells that story. Their logistics process allows them to ship the same products around the world to ensure consistency. Their franchise oversight ensures that individual restaurants stay true to the brand.

Similarly, Apple doesn’t talk about being a superior user experience. Instead, they create things to constantly show you that they are. Their product photography is as simple and uncluttered as can be to subliminally show you that their products are uncomplicated to use. Their user-generated street posters show how easy it is for regular people to create amazing photographs.

Being authentic is how McDonald’s and Apple have created global empires. By creating a feeling that you crave — comfort, predictability, ease. The choices these businesses make are not accidents. Every action they take stems from their core story.

Some businesses tell their story very explicitly in their About Us section. This is fine, but it’s only a starting point, not the end. The story must percolate through every single part of the business and its activities. It must be evident in the brand identity, design, marketing initiatives, product, customer service, etc. The story is the soul of the brand and it should shine through the entire business.

So don’t take shortcuts if you want your business to mean something to someone — your business will do better for it.

Here at BrandLogoHere, we are obsessed with Brand Strategy. Every time we see a business, we try to look beyond the obvious to see what they are really about. What’s their story? How do their products, brand design, shop layout, and marketing campaigns come together into a single core message?

It’s like a puzzle, and it’s addictive. We believe this allows us to help our clients select merchandise that will fit with their story, brand, marketing strategy, and business goals.

That reminds us, we probably should mention Promotional Products somewhere in this post!

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Until next time!

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