Why Your Brand Story is a Failed Attempt

It is easy to get caught off guard, and feel intimidated when someone asks you about your brand story. You start to feel like you've been asked a pretty simple question that you should have known from the very beginning, yet the complexity of the idea somehow just becomes too much. Don’t worry, I've been there.

I used to think that the brand story was just some fluff that branding agencies say to mystify their whole process of creating a brand. Only now have I realized that a brand story is, in its most basic sense, a story — yes, with characters and villains and happy endings (hopefully).

This guide will teach you about the framework of a powerful brand story that you can craft for your brand.

Let’s begin!

The Four Pillars

There are four essential pillars that your brand’s story should have — the hero, the nemesis, the journey, and the victory.

What’s the story for anyway? Well let’s just say that brands are nothing but stories. Nike is a story of bravery. Apple is a story of nonconformity. Dove is a story of acceptance. It is the reason why you would choose Starbucks over Dunkin Donuts, or BMW over Toyota.

We choose brands whose stories tell a part of ourselves we are unable to express to the world. We choose the stories we want to be a part of.

Stories matter — but only when each pillar is clearly defined.

The Hero

Every story has a hero. The leading role. The main figure. The character that the narrative revolves around.

We love heroes. Heroes give us hope. Heroes gives a glimpse of what we could become if we put in enough work. The hero is the light amidst the darkness.

In your brand story, the brand is the hero. Your brand needs to be like the man with the cape, born to change the world for the better. I mean, at the end of the day, isn’t that what your brand is suppose to do? Make the world a little bit better by solving needs and problems.

The hero is an essential character because without him, well, that would be one sad story. The hero is here to give people hope, so should the brand as it exists to make things easier for everyone.

The key thing here is to clearly define the hero of your story, therefore you should know your brand. Dissect the personality of your brand. Really dig deep and point out the quirks that form the whole identity of your brand. What is he like? What is his personality? How does the hero look like? What does he hate? What does he love?

Writing about the hero of the story deepens your understanding and sets limits as to who your brand is, who it should be every time you interact with your audience. This sets the course for consistency.

Photo by Jannes Glas

The Nemesis

Glory only comes when there is struggle. We know this to be true. Isn’t this why we never really care about people who have inherited their wealth? Isn’t this why we love underdog stories? We love the fact that some people were given incredibly horrible odds yet were able to crush obstacles life put on their path.

The great Les Brown said “No test, no testimony”. A hero has no value when there is no mountain that he should climb, when there is no obstacle on his way. Can you imagine how boring Marvel comics would be if their superheroes did not have evil counterparts?

Your brand needs to define that one thing that is getting in the way. It can be a minor inconvenience that is holding people down. It could be a system that is depriving people of a better life. It could be a belief or a set of principles that is making life more difficult for a specific group of people. Or maybe it’s a certain way of doing things.

The nemesis needs to exist. Not having one simply means that your product or service isn’t really filling a need or solving a problem in the first place. The nemesis gives glory to your hero, your brand, as well as a reason to exist.

The importance of the nemesis comes from the fact that people will only resonate with your brand because they too are fighting the same enemy as you are. And now that your brand is here, your story can convince them to let your brand take the lead in overcoming this common foe.

The Journey

The journey can be best understood when you pretend you’re a General.

You’re in the war room with a big map in front of you. You look at roads you have to pass, the bridges you need to cross, the battles you need to fight.

This is the journey. The challenge your brand needs to overcome, the path that nees to be taken in order to reach the ideal state.

Clearly define what needs to be done for your brand to be able to say “mission accomplished”. What needs to change? What needs to be improved? What do you need help on? How can you defeat the nemesis? How can you surmount the challenge?

When you know what needs to be done to in order to defeat the nemesis, your audience begins to believe that you know what know what you’re doing, and increases the chance of them joining your movement.

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski

V-Day

Victory day. How does it look like? How does your ideal state look like? When the nemesis has been defeated, when the problem have been solved, when the game has been set, how much brighter does the sun shine?

The key here is to make people imagine. Describe in detail how much better things would be when the goal has been reached. Martin Luther King, Jr, described his vision perfectly when he said “I have a dream that one day on the red Hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

He couldn't have described it better in a better way. His description is too vivid that it leaves no room in your mind for misconception. It is so clear that it no longer requires any extra effort in imagining what he wants you to see should he succeed.

The use of concrete descriptions is your main weapon of choice since it is this part of the story where your audience need to be able to fully visualize your ideal state of the world should you as a brand succeed in your quest as the hero.

Vivid descriptions stimulate emotions seamlessly. Everyone needs to be able to know and feel what it is what it is they are fighting for. They need a reason to join you in this journey. Describing victory day is the knock-out blow your brand needs.

Remember that your brand’s ideal state shouldn't be one that ends the journey when that goal has been accomplished, rather one that is subject to renewal of the goal into one that is of higher degree.

Putting in the time

As easy it as it sounds, creating a brand story that resonates with both you and your audience can take some time. It’s not about filling the gaps and making stuff up. It is about discovery. Discovering the heroes and the challenges that are shared by you and by others.

Hope this guide helps. Thanks for reading!

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Partizan Media is a social media + branding agency that works with purpose-driven brands, non-profits, and social enterprises. We believe that profit should not only be the standard of success but also their impact on society.