For a business to thrive in a landscape of cut-throat competition, it needs a brand — a set of hallmarks, traits, qualities, styles, and practices, all carefully designed to grab attention, be memorable, and leave customers hooked. Without a brand, you’ll be passed over time and time again, no matter how good your products are or how great your services may be.
But what exactly makes up a brand is open to discussion. Do you need a custom font to set you apart? What about branded merchandise? Well, one thing that every ambitious brand needs — but plenty of brands overlook — is a compelling brand story. Figure that element out, and you’ll pick up a lot of momentum. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s why you need it:
Social media is all about personal connection
Whether you love or hate social media, you can’t deny its influence in the digital sphere (and the world in general, realistically). The average smartphone-wielder spends many hours every week working through their social media feed: keeping up with the news, enjoying the entertainment, and — perhaps most importantly — connecting with their peers.
Yes, the immediacy of social media (coupled with the format’s limitations) makes it all about personal connection. Even a business-centric network such as LinkedIn is far less formal than the standard business fare you’d see in a press release. And when people gather around (be it physically or virtually), they communicate through stories.
Stories help us band together, share ideas, and form tribes. They allow us to show creativity, passion, and expertise. A brand with a great story has so much more potential to thrive on social media, and achieve valuable exposure in the process. And since we live in a time of brand loyalty stemming more from humanity than quality, telling a truthful and heartfelt story can be the key to gathering widespread support from your target audience.
This is particularly the case for ethical business practices. Younger generations are far more concerned about corporate sustainability and responsibility than their predecessors, and since the unlimited possibilities of the internet ensure that there’s always a choice of company to use, it’s easy for the average consumer to stick to the brands that share their values. Your brand story can show people what you really value without you even having to directly state it.
Your narrative makes you unique
Are you the only brand in your niche? If you are, protect your secrets judiciously, because it’s an incredibly uncommon position to be in. The typical business has countless competitors of all shapes and sizes, which makes it somewhat difficult to stand out. There are only so many ways that you can explain what you do or talk about your pricing, after all.
But your narrative is distinct from every other narrative out there. The story of your brand is utterly unique, unmatched by any other business, and that’s hugely valuable — but only if you lean on it. Otherwise, it’s a powerful tool left to gather dust on a shelf.
Now, you might contend that you have no such tool: that your brand doesn’t have a unique story, or even a story at all. Not true. You might not have anything written down, or even laid out in your memories, but any brand (no matter how dull it may seem) has a history littered with crucial events and twists that are surely worth talking about. You just need to tease yours out, as we’ll see next.
Stories show development over time
Narratives are all about change. The pursuit of ambitions, the overcoming of obstacles, the achieving of successes. This is so important because someone thinking about investing in a brand — whether working for it, working with it, or buying from it — will inevitably have their eye on the future. Where is the brand going? Is it truly reliable?
By recounting your narrative arc, you have the amazing opportunity to show how far you’ve come, prove your ability to endure challenges, and chart your path for the future. And it’s easier than you might think to jot down your arc: it’s typically as simple as using a clear novel structure to identify the primary and secondary themes of your story.
Remember that your story doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it’s better if it’s as succinct as possible. Tell a straightforward tale of how you got started, why you do what you do, and what your ultimate goals are — and allow your personality to shine through, because people root for characters, not companies. Get it right, and anyone who reads your story will come away feeling much more inclined to root for your success.
Corporate narratives can be effective where other marketing and branding methods fall flat, because storytelling has a primal force to it: a force that, used well, can bypass our rational minds and affect us emotionally. If you aspire to build an influential brand, you simply must create a strong story, or else you’ll never be sufficiently memorable. Grab a pen and some paper, and get working — it might take a while, but it’ll be worth it.