Do you actively engage in brand storytelling? In an age where people have become increasingly resistant to interruption marketing, it may be the key to your survival.
For many years, interruption marketing reigned supreme (aka traditional advertising, where a brand interrupts people to talk at them, as opposed to with them). But people are tired of that one-way conversation. (In fact, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 3 in 4 people actively avoid advertising.) It’s a dynamic that makes people feel like a faceless dollar bill targeted by a faceless corporation.
Hence, we’ve seen the rise of engagement marketing, where brands focus on relationship-building through content. The truth is that people aren’t inherently opposed to brand communication, but they are suspicious of it. They want an honest, authentic relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
That means they need to know who you are, why they should care about you, and what they might have in common with you. The better you can communicate these things, the easier it is to engage people and, over time, build those valuable relationships. But how do you that effectively? By sharing your brand story through every piece of content you make.
What Is Brand Storytelling?
Your brand story is the amalgamation of many things. It’s who you are, what you care about, what you do, how you help people, etc. In short, it’s the story of why you exist and (by default) why people should want to interact with you.
Sharing your brand story honestly and transparently lets people behind the curtain, demonstrating both your confidence and vulnerability—both of which make people more eager to engage with you.
The 5 Biggest Benefits of Brand Storytelling
It’s an exciting time for marketers. Today you have an unprecedented opportunity to develop a dialogue with people through content. Whether it’s your website, emails, or social presence, sharing your brand story across touchpoints is one of the most effective ways to capture attention, engage, and nudge people along the path to purchase.
Still, we see many brands that are hesitant to dive in. Whether it’s because they have reservations about providing that much transparency into their brand, or because they simply don’t know where to start, these brands are losing out on the biggest benefits of brand storytelling.
If you’ve been on the fence yourself, here are five reasons why you should share your brand story (plus tips to get you started).
1) Brand storytelling makes you stand out.
What makes you unique? Whether it’s your product design or service features, there’s a reason you’re different—and people want to know what it is.
You might think it’s self-indulgent, but the most integral elements of your brand’s story—how you came to be, grow, learn to do good work, and choose what you stand for—are more interesting to other people than you think.
We’ve been talking to our clients for years about this stuff, and it’s never boring to get a real sense of who they are and why they do what they do. Likewise, we love when people ask about how we started Column Five. It’s exciting to get to share our story and talk about what we’re continuing to build.
If you can actively spotlight the things that make you unique through your content, you can easily outshine your competitors.
2) It humanizes your brand.
People want to interact with people. Luckily, your brand is (hopefully) made up of people. By peeling back the curtain and sharing that part of your brand story, you make it easier for people to know who you are and, most importantly, trust you. (According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, only 34% of people trust the brands they use.)
Unfortunately, many brands focus their coporate storytelling on product features, missing a huge opportunity to make an impact. Sharing your brand story is the best way to close that gap, demonstrate transparency, and cultivate more authentic relationships.
Note: Culture marketing is one of the most effective ways to share your brand story. Follow our Culture Marketing 101 guide for ways to translate your culture into unique content.
3) It helps you attract the right people.
Having witnessed the damage done by corporations with no accountability, people are hesitant to engage with brands that don’t demonstrate care and consideration to people. That goes for both consumers and potential employees.
Brand storytelling lets you communicate more than what you do; it helps you show people what you believe. When you articulate your values, you make it easier for people to align themselves with you—and you can better entice the talent who might want to work for you.
For example, in every pitch deck we create, we include our core values. Sharing this part of our story gives potential clients a sense of the kind of people they’d be working with if they choose our proposal. It also helps us stay accountable to our values.
Several years ago, we decided not to work with brands whose values contend with ours. We know for a fact our team consistently operates on a whole new level when they believe in what they’re doing—and feel a connection to it. Since making that decision, we’ve been asked to work for political campaigns and less-than-savory organizations that we don’t believe in. As a result, we’ve protected our brand story, which is something we take pride in.
4) It helps you communicate your value.
Conventional wisdom suggests there are two ways to compete as a business: price and value.
Competing on price doesn’t just sound awful; it’s a race most brands can’t run forever, even if they wanted to. In most industries (brain surgery and rocket ships excluded), there’s always someone younger, scrappier, with a leaner team, who can afford to charge less for something similar to what you offer. Does it matter if their offering isn’t quite as good? Nope. Unless you scale like Amazon, it’s a race to the bottom—even if it’s a slow slog.
Competing on value, on the other hand, can keep you in the game. Think of the value you provide. What do they experience? What do people really “get” when they buy from you?
For example, Sprinkles cupcakes created a confection revolution by sharing their brand story. By consistently emphasizing the quality of their ingredients and their mission to create the most delicious treat, they were able to communicate why their $3 cupcakes are a delightful indulgence, not overpriced sweets.
5) It gives you more agency.
Now here’s the part that many marketers hate to acknowledge: You don’t have total control over your brand story. Your story is part what you communicate, part how people perceive what you communicate.
While that may be frustrating, it’s important to take ownership over what you can control. If you don’t promote your brand story, people will write their own narratives about you—or, worse, disregard you entirely.
We live in an increasingly transparent world. This is, for better or worse, a by-product of the Internet age. That’s why it’s much better to develop your brand’s story by design (personally, and with intent) than by default (whatever the Internet conjures up).
To quote our friend Dan Martell, “Authority isn’t bestowed to the entrepreneur with the best message, but the entrepreneur most willing to express it.”
How to Start Telling Your Brand Story
Luckily, if you have both an awesome story and the willingness to tell it, then you’re in better shape than most. Now it’s time to find ways to proactively get your story out there, by your own design.
- Start with your Brand Heart. Your Brand Heart is comprised of your purpose, vision, mission, and values. These core principles are the foundation of your brand story. If you don’t know yours, use our free Brand Heart workbook to identify them.
- Learn how to tell a strong brand story. Learn more about the science of story, and find out what makes a good story with our guide to tell your brand story.
- Make sure your content is branded appropriately. Consistency is the key to telling your brand story effectively, especially when it comes to content. Use this checklist to make sure your content is branded (the right way), and follow our guides to find your brand voice, personality, and visual identity if you haven’t identified these elements yet.
- Brainstorm unique story ideas. Start by mapping your buyer’s journey to understand what stories to tell at each stage, and try these tips to come up with great brand story ideas.
- Get inspired by other brands. Check out our favorite examples of corporate storytelling to see how others do it effectively.
And if you need any help telling your story, consider bringing in a creative agency. Here’s how to find one (including questions to ask). Or feel free to get in touch with us. We love helping brands bring their stories to life.