Let’s Talk About Brand Stories

First steps in communicating a conscious brand story

Modern consumer research shows us that stories are important to consumers. 90% of consumers prefer custom content from brands, and 78% of consumers believe that brands with custom content are interested in building good relationships with their audience. (Custom Content Council)

But what is a brand story? How does a company go about telling one? And why does it matter?

You get to choose what drives your brand story.

When we talk about your brand story here, we don’t necessarily mean the literal story of how your founders met and mortgaged their homes to secure startup loans, etc. Although that does play a relevant part in it all, the story we’re telling here should be specifically designed to attract customers to your brand.

Throughout 2014, I project managed a YouTube video series for a client, ByPass Publishing, which has generated nearly 2,000 subscribers and over a half million lifetime views to date (with no paid promotion assistance). Thorough targeting of our audience helped us deliver thought leading answers to the questions their audience was typing into Google. Each search that leads to you has value. But will they feel compelled to share your story, too? And will any of it convert viewers into customers?

These are great questions, and they’ll be answered throughout this series.

Your brand story is primarily the ongoing narrative about who you are as a company that you portray to your audience. It should always be honest, but it must be polished. Your brand narrative helps determine how your company is perceived by the people both directly in your market and in the general public. Companies may have initial control of their narratives, but here’s the bombshell: stories are largely shaped by the public. Yelp, Twitter, and other crowd-based technology have magnified this effect. But predicting how the public will react ought to be a manageable task. A successful company story requires a good relationship with the crowd.

Since audience is such a powerful factor in shaping company stories, the best stories are told with the audience. If we think of stories and content marketing as a conversation with your market, then engaging in that conversation doesn’t just teach customers about you, it also teaches you more about your customers.

Mobile internet usage is growing and provides a quicker path to purchase, even for B2B companies.

So, once you’ve told your part of the story, that’s great! But the other part of it is your audience’s response. Do you know what they’re saying?

In early 2016, I helped produce a webinar presented by the author of Circle of the 9 Muses, David Hutchens, in which he addressed the other side of storytelling: “story listening” and gave a valuable warning about the two-sidedness of organizational storytelling:

“It’s the other person’s voice that is filling the story space.”

When you say something with a banner ad or a well-produced video, then you’ve told your part of the story. We must be aware that the other half of our story conversation is all about knowing how our story is received by its audience, and reacting appropriately. I’ll address some of the best ways to “story-listen” and gain insights in later posts.

Connecting through common learning moments will help you turn viewers into customers and help your customers gain a personal stake in your brand story. There might be a long way to go, but that’s okay! Stay tuned.

J O I N• I N• ON• T H E •C O N V E R S A T I O N