At the center of every brand is a story. At the center of a brand story is a hero.
To be effective at brand storytelling, it’s critical to know what attributes define the inner character of the hero. Like any good story that teaches and informs us about a higher ideal, brand storytelling is about the higher purpose of why the hero exists and why we should care.
Of course brand storytelling is nothing new, yet it still confuses most brand owners because most think storytelling is still about advertising.
So much “storytelling” continues to be nothing more than outbound messaging and selling. That’s no surprise because it’s the job of every marketer to message and sell. If you’re not selling something, then you’re not marketing right?
Trouble is nobody is listening. There’s simply too much white noise in the marketplace.
Improving our condition.
Every enduring story is based on a transcendent idea that seems bigger than the story itself. The elements of any story – characters, plot, and environment – can clarify, focus, and influence the idea’s expression, but it’s always the big idea that drives the brand story.
The hero of the story is the character who possesses the big idea and teaches us to improve our condition.
And it’s our “condition” we care most about!
Creating value is about improving the condition of people’s lives. From the dawn of language, stories have taught humans how to improve the conditions of our lives.
To break through the clutter of messaging bombarding the mind, every brand must represent a single idea that improves the condition of the customer.
Your brand must be committed to embarking on that journey. Through the hero’s example we are more in touch with what makes us all better for it.
Brand storytelling begins with a clear understanding of who the hero character is, what attributes define the hero in differentiated and relevant ways to a specific audience. It’s not about advertising the features and benefits of products or services.
In working with many startup CEOs and their teams in our workshops, many are seeking an anchor point or a foundation on which to build their brand story. Not surprisingly this can quickly turn into a functional conversation about the specific content and form of outbound messaging– in effect advertising creative direction.
Brand storytelling defines the character of the hero not the message. The hero brand has a purpose, beliefs, core values and sacred truths that will not bend to the whims of the marketplace.
And because the brand hero is steadfast in holding to this true north while on the journey, we the audience will care because we see ourselves in the narrative.
Mapping the brand’s story.
Stories of course are linear…they all have a set-up, a middle and an end. Screenwriters will tell you there are specific components of the story that must be in place for the story to engage the listener (customer).
The technique of story mapping is a useful tool to gain a “big picture” level perspective on all the elements of the brand story. Use these brand storytelling components to map the outline of your brand story.
Fill in the components with your brand as hero and you’ll have a fairly accurate perspective on the story of your brand and why it’s worth telling…
The Set-up What the audience (customer) needs to know about the lead up to where the brand story begins.
The Hero Who is the brand and what does the brand stand for (purpose, values, sacred truths) that will never change.
The Struggle Define the conflict for the brand that is preventing the brand from achieving or improving its competitive position
The Motivation Why the hero is committed to the struggle? Define the motivation for the brand to bear the struggle (out to win something, stop something, find something, cure something, escape something).
The Dynamic Tension Between the issues the story plays from and the struggle, there is an underlying tension that adds direction and momentum to the brand story. For example the desire for “mastery over stability”.
The Opportunity When the brand overcomes the struggle an opportunity will present itself and be associated with the brand’s arc of transformation.
The Transformation How does the brand grow or change (inwardly) during the story (i.e. farm-boy Luke Skywalker to Jedi master).
Why we care How will customer’s lives be improved, how will they empathize with the brand (sympathy, jeopardy, likeability, trust, badge, etc.).
The Issues What deeper issues, revelations, and cultural references are surfaced and incorporated in the brand story for greater relevance.
If you would like to learn more about how you can build the framework for brand storytelling to increase the value of your brand and transform your business, review the Brand Storytelling Workshop.
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