5 Places To Look For Your Brand's Story
Finding your authentic brand’s story isn’t a luxury for the touchy-feely. Given our overloaded channels of communication and the general lack of trust with advertising messages, finding your brand's true emotional core and expressing it through your brand’s story is essential.
First, know what you're looking for.
Ask any storywriter "what are you trying to say through your story?" Chances are you’ll get some expression of their worldview or values. Ask a marketer and you might get something resembling an elevator speech. Brand stories are very different and far more powerful than that.
Most elevator speeches describe function -- For example: we help advertisers make the most of social media, or I empower people to find their inner artist. But even the best-crafted elevator speech only takes you to the next floor. Your key to the higher floors is found in your brand's story.
Like the author's story, brands can express beliefs and values like the importance of freedom or discovery. When shared, buyers become involved on an emotional level supporting your brand's true meaning. You'll see this happen as more people write great reviews and online posts about your brand. Or you’ll see a big jump in positive responses to survey questions like "is this brand for people like you?"
To find, clarify and promote your brand's story, don’t look to what you do. Look to why you do it. Beliefs and values explain behaviors. You may have to do some excavating to find them, but it's well worth the work. Here are five places to look.
1. Ladder up
Start with the most important functional outcome your brand delivers, such as time/money savings. Then consider the underlying value associated with that benefit, such as freedom from worry. Then explore why it’s important. Keep asking why until you get to your root cause. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you’re comfortable completing the sentence: "We (or I) believe that __ is important." Ask yourself how you can uniquely call it your own, and manifest it through what you do.
2. Describe the enemy
Another way to find your story is to describe its opposite. If you were to do things the wrong way, what would that be? What do you value least? Think of the enemy your brand needs to overcome -- then start to develop its character. Describe what your enemy values most. Sometimes a road paved with what you don't believe will lead you to the place where you belong.
3. Find a role model story character
Think of your brand as a story character. There are many books available that describe archetypes your brand might associate with (the caregiver, the maverick, etc). If you don't have access to these, try identifying a story hero your brand most resembles. Explain why in terms of what that hero values as important. But know the difference between what they do and why they do it. Superman's purpose was not to jump tall buildings in a single bound. He was driven by his belief in upholding justice and the American way.
4. Review a list of values
It’s hard to find one word that best describes what you believe is most important. There are a number of value lists you can access on the Internet. Go through them, and circle those values that apply. Review the circled values to start the process of elimination. Keep doing this until you land on one single value that best describes your brand's cause.
5. Get feedback from customers and employees
Ask what they think you value most. They often interpret your purpose based on their experience with you and competitive brands. You’ll gain clarity or discover reasons why you need to better tell your story.
It takes time to narrow your brand's story to something single-minded. You may find your brand is too fractionalized to land on one single story. In cases like these, it's best to consider why your brand identity is fractionalized. Just remember -- without a single story, your brand is vulnerable to the competitor who has one.
Even more important than finding your brand’s story is living it. It's one thing to have a brand story, and quite another to show little support for it. Worse yet, as many politicians have learned, contradictory evidence can permanently destroy credibility. Be certain your story is authentic and fully supported by your product(s), actions and communication.