Brand Storytelling:
Engaging With Your Target Group

Merily Lillevälja

Who wouldn’t love a story that is SO compelling that it will stay in their memory for years, if not even decades? Who wouldn’t love their brand to have a story like that? One of the oldest forms of communication is telling stories. It is what connects us and helps us to understand the society, culture and the world itself, as it is. Since we live in a sensory world, telling stories that generate feelings and emotions, help us to connect.

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic./…/ Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

In this article I will be giving a small overview what is brand storytelling. I will share some tips and techniques on how to generate a memorable, captivating story that will evoke strong emotions within the consumer.

Storytelling is one thing, but brand storytelling is another. I’m sure that many of you know TV series like “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad”, classic fairytales like “Cinderella” or “Snow White”, or classic literature like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” or Goethe’s “Faust”. Even songs – how come that when a familiar tune comes up, somehow you know the lyrics to sing along to it? There is a common connection between all these stories and songs. They are captivating because they reflect our emotions that we have had or still have. They evoke different feelings that we can share with others.

Emotions are controlled by the right brain – the part that is creative, passionate, spontaneous. But! Providing emotional context is not enough because the consumer needs more than just that. This is where the decision making and marketing comes in: the left brain. The analytical, specific and practical part of the brain. It helps to justify the emotions created by the right, free spirited side of the brain. The consumer needs a story with both logic and emotion to choose your brand instead of the competitor because these complement eachother. A brand story is never enough if it engages with just one side of the consumers brain.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

A person needs more than just facts and statistics to make a decision. Once these two – practical logic and compelling emotion – are combined, you are on the verge of creating a captivating brand story.

analytical creative brain



The meaning
makes the story
memorable.

There are a few main functions of a story: to entertain, reflect, trigger emotion but most importantly a story has to generate a meaning to a message. Think about it: The Ugly Duckling – it’s about being true to who you are, being yourself. We tend to remember the meaning of the story, which increases the memory of the story. We hold on to a meaning, but not just a simple fact. You can use your brand story anywhere – networking, selling, elevator pitches, blog posts, on your website, ebooks, advertisments and even in your business plan. Don’t be afraid to use it – it’s necessary to make a connection with your readers and you can do it extremely effectively with your story.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THE BRAND STORY?

  • Brand story shows what makes you different from your competitors. It helps you to position your brand.
  • It chronicles your brand’s history
  • It gives a profile to your company’s people
  • It offers insight into your corporate ideals
  • It shows the brands work ethic and devotion
  • It demonstrates the growth and success of your brand
  • And most importantly – it tells the founders motivation aka the WHY. Why are you/your brand better than any other brand?


Storytelling
brings your brand
to life.

It is extremely essential to apply brand storytelling because it will give your brand a persona. Something that has personality, values and goals. Something that is relateable and believable. Storytelling amplifies your brand’s benefits, helps it all come together and form a unity. If you can get any kind of response, whether it’s laughter, sadness, amusement, joy or shock – it’s a great story. It is moving people emotionally and that’s what makes it easily shareable.


Emotions make
marketing campaigns
go viral.

People want to share the emotion that they felt when they heard a great story and this is the result of an emotional response. Once the story is shared, it is being embedded in to the memories of the consumer. This is something you need – people to share your story, because in the end this is the ROI. Your brand story has to create an emotional bond beyond the utility and functional benefits of your brand. A great thought-out brand story will evoke both the emotion and response. If you can tell a story that can move somebody, evoke an emotion in them, your brand will become influential. Let me bring you a few advertisement examples. For example, this compelling and profound ad “Dear Brother”. It portrays beautifully the loving bond of two brothers, that used to share a drink at dark times, but can’t anymore since one has died. It is produced by independent filmmakers for Johnnie Walker and has caught the eyes of millions:

And then, there’s this: “Keep Up”, an ad for Honda, which was made in 2015. It is captivating because even though there isn’t much of a backstory, it still evokes emotion through the left side of the brain.

So how to create a compelling and captivating brand story?

Now it’s time to get creative. Grab a pen and paper or open up a new blank document in your Word, Pages or wherever you prefer. Copy the text below and start answering to each of the questions. Write or draw – however you prefer. When building your brand story, you must be clear with the following:

  • What do you want to say about your brand? How did life bring you to where you are, what kind of obstacles did you overcome, what did you learn, and most importantly – what can the reader get or learn from you
  • What can you give? What can you teach with your story, what do you want to change with it? Life isn’t all about achievement (ego) – it’s about contribution(soul). It’s about sharing ideas, making lives better and easier. And that’s what really gets into the hearts of your audience. It’s not just about you or your brand (no offence), but it’s about them – the audience. So keep your focus on them.
  • Gather all the information about your brand – details, dates, quotes, personal anecdotes aka inside jokes, what was the motivation to keep on going, where did you get inspiration etc. Write it all down or draw, if you must. The more you’re backed with info, the more relateable and believeable the story you’re making will become.
  • To whom do you want to say it? Do the research! As with any kind of plan you have to figure out the target group – who are they? What do they do? And most importantly – what is their most haunting concern regarding the field that you are designated to disrupt with your brand?
  • Once you have targeted your group, got the insight, you can break the story down to different pieces. Use the insight of the audience as the driver of the story.
  • How do you want to say it? How do you want your audience to feel like – do you want to make them feel joy or sadness, shock or amusement – choose your direction. Draw a smiley if you can’t put it into words. 
  • Which channels are you going to use – is it something that your audience is going to hear (speeches, sales calls, videos)? In this case pay attention to eye contact, different gestures, pauses and pacing the story, engaging/interacting with the audience. Control the tone of your voice – don’t be monotone, don’t be too loud and do not be too quiet. Use variety!
  • …or is it something that the audience is going to see (ebook, article, blog post, print ad)? In this case pay attention to the style (does it match the brand style?), the readability and punctuation.
  • Why is this story important? What is the main message you want to bring across? Why do you want to engage with your audience?
  • The “why” generates the meaning of the story. It makes it memorable and shareable. This question “why?” is one of the key factors of a successful story.

When telling your story you need to engage your audience – they need to feel like being a part of it all. Make them crave for more, eager to hear what’s next. Stories are one of the best ways to draw them in. A story will make them feel like they are involved, almost like living in it. Without engagement there is no influence. And without influence there’s no conversions.

How is the brand imagined in the story?

Who is the “hero” in the story? Is it the brand or the consumer? Truthfully, the hero in the brand story is the audience; more exactly: the target group. In many cases the brand itself is the tool for the Hero to solve an issue in the story.

So that creates a new question – what role would the consumer have and what role will the brand have? Create meaningful characters – characters that the consumers can relate to. Believable characters, that have flaws and dreams – just like we all do.

“If the scene bores you when you read it, rest assured it will bore the actors, and will, then, bore the audience, and we’re all going to be back in the breadline.” – David Memet

Match your brand story with these questions, find and/or create the meaning behind it, help it spread the world and you’re good to go!

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