Why You Need a Brand Narrative, Not a Brand Story

Dynamically grow your brand using social media

Maryann Bell
Feb 12 · 4 min read
Norwood from Unsplash

Social media presents a tremendous opportunity for growing and sustaining brands to thrive. By embracing the call and response nature of social media, brands are nurtured through thousands of moments, each comprising a collective whole. The sum of these moments is a brand narrative — the interconnected stories, experiences and themes that comprise your organization, product or service.

The difference between a brand story and brand narrative

What makes an effective brand narrative?

Great brand narratives take a position, cultivate dialog, and foster collaboration over time with active audiences of co-creators. A key place to start when building a narrative is identifying the brand’s reason for being. Knowing a brand’s purpose can be a compass for staying on course, and ensuring the ensuing narrative is authentic and relatable.

Great narratives can be cultivated

Similar to pruning trees to strengthen and encourage more growth in stronger limbs, we can choose which parts of the narrative to emphasize and which to allow to atrophy. Effective narratives invite the audience to respond and layer their stories on top. Narratives are nurtured through active responding, co-contributing, listening, evolving and amplifying the contributions of respondents. While narratives can’t be controlled in the same way a brand story can, they can be shaped over time.

Nike brand narrative fueled by controversy

Dove upends the notion of traditional women’s beauty

Grow your brand narrative beyond your organization

Shifting our lens from creating a single brand story to the larger opportunity of crafting an enduring brand narrative, can unleash the true power of our brand to connect, to amplify and to contribute to larger narratives in the world. And quite possibly ignite a powerful conversation, discourse or social movement.


1, 2 Badillo, Ann; Donovan, Tim; Trevarthen, Tobin, Narrative Generation, Why Narrative will be your most valuable asset in the next 5 years, 21st Century Narrative, 2016

3 Millman, Debbie, Brand Thinking and Other Nobel Pursuits, Allworth Press, 2011

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Maryann Bell

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I build brands and energize the cultures that sustain them.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +584K people. Follow to join our community.

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