Your Brand Story is Your Brand Strategy

So much has been written on storytelling in business that a subset of the marketing community is pushing back against its purported benefits. Yet, increasingly creative agencies big and small are specializing in helping clients better tell their story. More and more conferences are dedicated to the topic. Content marketing and copywriting professionals now fall under the umbrella of storytelling.

All of this activity is taking place with the hope that customers will identify with the story, tell it, and share it. This sounds a lot like the overall purpose of branding and IMG_4556marketing and that makes me a believer in the power of storytelling.

When it works, it really works. I am not a fan of overly simplistic stabs at business storytelling. Those attempts rob brands and businesses of what makes them interesting in the first place, namely, their depth and complexity. This does not mean everything should be “War and Peace” but it certainly should not be dumbed down to a tagline or strive for a one-word association.

I use two different constructs to help build an engaging narrative. The first answers seven questions and generally works better for B2B, professional services, and association clients. These require honest and uncomfortable answers to be successful.

  • Where do we come from?
  • Where is our world going?
  • Who are our communities?
  • What are we like?
  • How do we behave?
  • What is our purpose?
  • What is our brand idea?

The answers generally add up to 2,000 to 3,000 words. They are then massaged into a consistent narrative that forms the foundation of all brand communications. It is also tremendous source material for all manner of brand execution. It never appears in full form to the market but is encouraged to be shared with employees.IMG_4554

The second construct is better applied when working with consumer products. In this case, the brand story is built using four points.

  • Points of Difference
  • Points of Relevance
  • Points of Credibility
  • Points of Interest

After looking at the product’s brand strategy, market, customers, competitors and other inputs it becomes a case of organizing the insights discovered under these four areas. Points of Difference are what make your product unique versus competitors. Points of Relevance are what make your product compelling to consumers. Points of Credibility are evidence in the market that the product does what it claims to (for new products this can be aspirational).

IMG_4557That is relatively straightforward stuff and is found in most branding methodologies. Points of Interest make the approach more original. These are the tidbits, anecdotes, customer stories, and product history that make brands come alive. Coca-Cola makes its beverage brands hum by leveraging this point.

The first three points largely describe the functional benefits of the product. Points of Interest capture the intangible and emotional promises of the brand. This provides amazing content that makes the storytelling far more effective and intriguing. It forces you to go deeper and be real.

There is so much to storytelling. There is no absolutely wrong way or right way to doing it. Each brand often dictates significant customization but you have to start somewhere. Try these constructs out and they can help you achieve both of what Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

Or you can disregard all of this and subscribe to Carl Sandburg’s thinking. Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes. He sagely said, “Beware of advice—even this.”

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