B2B marketing is our bread and butter at Column Five, but we always love to look to different types of brands for inspiration—especially the ones we’re big fans of in everyday life. So it felt like we scored a giant homerun when we welcomed Ross Yoshida, Senior Director of Graphic Design for the Los Angeles Dodgers, to our Best Story Wins podcast. With such a die-hard fan base, the Dodgers brand is a juggernaut, and Yoshida’s team is always under pressure to bring their brand story to life in fresh and interesting ways.
It’s not an easy task, but as Yoshida pointed out, building and maintaining that strong brand really comes down to three things. Lucky for us (and you), his three-step formula is something any brand can follow to achieve consistent, long-term success.
3 Keys to Good Brand Storytelling
Every brand wants to stand out in the marketplace, but far too many overlook the basic elements you need to build a brand that lasts. If you want to knock it out of the park just like the Dodgers (sorry, we had to say it), Yoshida says these are the core traits you need to cultivate.
When it comes to telling a strong brand story, Yoshida doesn’t think of the Dodgers as another baseball team. “We’re a part of the fabric of the LA culture,” Yoshida says. “We do lean into that a lot. And it doesn’t feel forced; it just feels real.” Knowing their own brand DNA—and knowing who their fans are—inspires the Dodgers to deeply infuse Angelenos and the LA lifestyle into their marketing campaigns. From the Nike Cortez collaboration (celebrating the shoes that are a fixture of LA Chicano streetwear) to nods to Hollywood in billboard campaigns, the Dodgers know who their fans are and they think deeply about what will resonate with them.
Granted, not every brand has as deep of a history as the Dodgers. But it doesn’t matter if your brand has been around for a year or more than a century.
Authenticity is the key to attracting the right people and building meaningful relationships with them.
Think deeply about the stories you tell, the way you visually represent your brand, the voice you use—these are the essence of who you really are. If you aren’t expressing those elements accurately or effectively, you can’t show up authentically.
Tip: The secret to authenticity is understanding who you are and what you believe. Use our guide to document your brand heart (including purpose, vision, mission, and values) to identify these core elements and turn them into strong stories.
Example: To connect with their Mexican-American fanbase, the team hosted a Dia de Los Dodgers night, creating a custom jersey as a nod to the Mexican holiday.
One of the worst mistakes we see brands make is playing it safe. This is usually because they are too worried to mess up, say the wrong thing, or put out the wrong content. But all too often, this fear of standing out is what prevents them from, well, standing out.
“When you’re putting your brand out there, you want to be able to stand on your two legs and say, ‘Hey, this is us, you know, for better or worse, this is us,’” Yoshida says.
For the Dodgers, this stance comes with a dose of controversy every now and then, but that level of confidence simply makes them a stronger brand long-term.
That said, when it comes to marketing, you can demonstrate confidence through all types of content.
- Be courageous enough to share your values. Take a public stance about things and issues that your brand cares about. Whether that’s promoting a certain cause or creating content to promote your beliefs, being vocal about your values shows people who you are and attracts people who feel the same way. (Check out these examples of how other brands have turned their values into content.)
- Transparency: Shady brands don’t want you to know what they do behind closed doors. But trustworthy brands are honest and open about it. If you want to demonstrate transparency, give people a peek behind the curtain at every level. Celebrate the people who work for you, showcase your supply chain, talk about the way you work or approach innovation, etc. This makes your brand more approachable and personable, helping people feel more connected to you.
- Vulnerability: Nobody is perfect, and there are plenty of bumps along the way to building a great brand. The more honest you are about how your brand navigates those issues, the more confident your brand appears, and the more people will be likely to trust you. You might share the lessons you’ve learned from a risk that didn’t pay off. You might share the mistakes you’ve made. Or talk about the ways your brand struggled in its early days. This type of content can be so valuable to your audience (especially when you’re preventing them from making the same mistakes). And they will appreciate your honesty and empathy.
Interestingly, the more authentic you are, the easier it is to be confident with your audience.
Tip: One great way to create content you can stand behind is to showcase the experts in your company. Follow our tips to turn your coworkers into content creators.
Example: The Dodgers are not only confident in their brand but they are confident in their relationship with their fans. To strengthen this bond, they celebrated the team’s historic 2020 championship by encouraging fans to send in their own reaction clips. The subsequent compilation video was launched across the Dodgers’ social channels in the next few days, turning a historic win into an intimate, emotional celebration for the fans.
3) Hot Sauce
We’ve heard other brands talk about their “hot sauce” or “secret sauce,” but we especially dig Yoshida’s take on what “hot sauce” means to the Dodgers. It’s that litte something extra—extra special or even spicy—that creates a special moment. “We have a couple of surprises up our sleeve,” Yoshida says. “We might, you know, shock you every now and then.”
What makes your brand unique or special? What can you do that other brands don’t? How can you stand out from competitors? Whatever that is, that’s your hot sauce. It doesn’t have to be that edgy or dramatic, but it’s those unexpected things that keep your audience on their toes and engaged. When you know what that is, you can infuse your own hot sauce into every stage of the buyer journey.
- Create a humorous explainer video to entertain and educate your audience.
- Design a beautiful welcome kit that adds a jolt of delight to their day.
- Write an article dispelling a commonly held myth to grab attention.
- Take a creative approach to case studies. (For example, we love Crowdstrike’s City of Las Vegas case study, which feels like the opening of a spy thriller film.)
No matter what your sauce is, think of the big and small ways you can use it to delight or surprise your audience.
Tip: There are all sorts of ways to be interesting and creative. If you’re short on out-of-the-box ideas, try these hacks to come up with edgier content.
Example: The Dodgers drone show is an entertaining spectacle of brand storytelling. Whether they’re celebrating a new record or an LA legend, it’s always a delight to watch.
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How to Improve Your Brand Storytelling
While authenticity, confidence, and a dash of hot sauce are the keys to a strong brand, you’re only as good as your ability to tell stories that reflect the core parts of who you are. To do that well, you need to approach your marketing thoughtfully and strategically.
- Start with a strong content strategy that’s aligned with your heart and goals. Use our free content strategy toolkit to get yours on paper.
- Explore different formats for storytelling. Find out which formats you should use for different channels, types of storytelling, etc.
- Get inspired by how other storytellers do things. Find out what you can learn from film directors, and learn about how Canva masters brand storytelling.
And if you want to learn from the best in the business, tune in to the Best Story Wins podcast to hear tips and inspiration from experts who are winning heart, minds, and market share every day. You can start with Yoshida’s episode to find out more about how the Dodgers approach storytelling. And, of course, if you’re looking for a partner to help you bring your brand story to life, we’re always here to chat.