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This Chapter:

Story

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Story

By Mark Brinn
Explore the significance of storytelling in branding, as well as how to build a compelling brand narrative. This chapter delves into understanding your brand's purpose, vision, and values, the different types of brand narratives, and how to effectively communicate your brand story across various platforms.

The Power of Stories

You know, we humans are hooked on stories. We’ve been sharing tales around the campfire since time immemorial. It’s in our DNA. It’s how we make sense of the world around us, and how we connect with each other.

Just like in our everyday lives, in the world of branding, stories play a crucial role too. They’re not just a marketing tool, but a powerful way to foster deeper engagement with customers.

Mirada: Where I learned to Tell Stories

I was lucky enough to learn about the power of storytelling from one of the greatest storyteller of our generation: filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. I worked as a graphic designer and art director at his motion graphics company, Mirada. Mirada is a place where the art of storytelling is at the heart of everything we do. “Mirada is a convergence of perspectives focused on advancing the art and science of storytelling.” We weaved narratives into every one of our projects, from creating compelling experiences for IBM’s Centennial Exhibit at Lincoln Center to bringing massive, detailed worlds to life in Pacific Rim.

It was there that I truly understood how storytelling can drive deep connections between brands and their audience.

Another example of Mirada’s storytelling is our work on Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ and ‘Roar,’ where we crafted the visual narratives for these iconic music videos.

Types of Brand Narratives

So, what kind of story does your brand want to tell? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. It depends on who you are, what you do, and who you’re trying to reach. But to get you started, let’s take a look at The Founder’s Story, The Customer Transformation Story, and The Impact Story.

The Founder’s Story

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia: Not just a successful businessman but also a dedicated climber and environmentalist, Chouinard has often stressed the importance of merging business with sustainability, and his journey has shaped Patagonia into a brand that exemplifies this philosophy.

Blake Mycoskie, TOMS: What started as a simple idea has turned into a global movement: for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, a pair is given to a child in need. Mycoskie’s unique business model presents a touching narrative of a brand making a difference.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb: Chesky’s journey from renting out air mattresses in his living room to establishing Airbnb, a global platform for unique accommodations, is a narrative of innovation and disruption.

This is the classic startup tale. It’s the story of the person or people behind the brand. It’s about their journey, their struggles, their triumphs. It’s about why they started the company and what they hope to achieve. This type of narrative is especially effective for brands with a strong personal element or unique origin story.

Remember, authenticity is key. Don’t embellish or fabricate.

The Customer Transformation Story

This narrative focuses on the impact of your product or service on a customer’s life. It’s about their journey from problem to solution, from before to after. It’s a powerful way to demonstrate the value of what you offer and to connect with your target Audience.

Everlane: This brand has transformed customer expectations for transparency in the fashion industry. Everlane provides a detailed cost breakdown for each product, showing customers exactly what they’re paying for.

Peloton: By creating a community around at-home fitness, Peloton has transformed the way its customers approach personal fitness. It’s not just about selling exercise equipment—it’s about providing an experience.

Just like with the founder’s story, authenticity is crucial. Use real testimonials and case studies whenever possible. And remember, it’s not about what your product does, it’s about how it makes people feel.

The Impact Story

This is the story of your brand’s larger impact. Maybe you’re a social enterprise making a difference in your community. Maybe you’re a green company committed to sustainability. Whatever it is, this narrative is about the change you’re driving in the world.

This can be a compelling narrative for brands with a strong Purpose or mission. But be careful not to overstate your impact or make unsubstantiated claims.

Beyond Meat: By producing plant-based meat substitutes, Beyond Meat isn’t just selling food—they’re promoting a more sustainable and humane way of eating.

Beyond Meat extends their commitment to sustainability through the regular issuance of an ESG report, which details their environmental strategies and accomplishments. These reports underscore the company’s dedication to transparency and their active role in promoting a more sustainable future. By documenting and sharing their progress, Beyond Meat not only champions a plant-based diet but also leads by example in environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Telling the Brand Story across Different Platforms

Once you’ve got your story nailed down, it’s time to start sharing it. But remember, not all platforms are created equal. Each one has its own unique characteristics and strengths. The challenge is to adapt your narrative to these different mediums without losing the essence of your brand story.

Tailoring the Brand Story

You wouldn’t tell a joke the same way in a crowded bar as you would in a quiet library, right? It’s the same with your brand story. The way you tell it should change depending on where you’re telling it.

  • Website: This is your home turf. Here you have the freedom to tell your brand story in full. Use compelling visuals and engaging copy to paint a vivid picture of who you are and what you stand for. 
  • Social Media: These platforms are like bustling city squares. They’re crowded and noisy, but also full of energy and potential. Here, you need to tell your story in bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest. Use eye-catching images, short videos, and snappy captions to grab attention. 
  • Email Marketing: This is a more intimate space. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with your audience. Here, you can delve deeper into your brand story, share behind-the-scenes content, or offer exclusive deals.

Your brand story isn’t just something you tell. It’s something you live. It should be evident in every aspect of your business, from the way you design your logo to how you interact with customers. That’s how you create a brand that not only tells a great story, but is a great story.

Case Study: Glassybaby

The Brand Story

Let’s talk about Glassybaby. A brand that’s more than just a producer of hand-blown glass votives – it’s a beacon of hope. The story starts with founder Lee Rhodes, a three-time cancer survivor, who found solace in the light of a handmade votive during her treatments. This experience sparked the idea for Glassybaby.

Lee Rhodes, founder of Glassybaby, poses in the company’s store in Madrona.

The Community Impact

But the brand didn’t stop at creating beautiful votives. Glassybaby established a foundation that donates a portion of their revenue to help people in need. To date, they’ve donated millions to various causes, from cancer patients to food banks.

The Brand Differentiation

Glassybaby’s story isn’t just compelling – it’s unique. It sets them apart in a market filled with mass-produced, impersonal products. Each hand-blown votive is different, just like every person they help. This narrative has fostered deep customer engagement and loyalty.

The Brand in Action

From the moment customers visit their website or step into a store, they’re immersed in the brand’s story. The warm, inviting colors, the stories of those helped by the foundation – it all comes together to create a cohesive, impactful brand experience. In a few of their locations, you can actually watch artisans crafting the votives in the attached workshop.

In the end, Glassybaby isn’t just selling votives. They’re selling hope, comfort, and community. And that’s a story people want to be a part of.

The story of Glassybaby, like many compelling brand narratives, is about more than the product. It’s an emotive journey that resonates with the audience on a deeply personal level. This is the power of storytelling in branding. It’s not just about telling your audience what you sell, but why you sell it. It’s about sharing your brand’s Purpose, its reason for being.

Conclusion

The essence of storytelling in branding is crafting an authentic, resonating narrative that forms a deep connection with your audience. It’s about infusing this narrative into every aspect of your brand, creating a consistent, immersive experience, as exemplified by brands like Glassybaby.

Remember, a compelling brand story is not just about the ‘what’—it’s about the ‘why’. It differentiates you in the market and transforms your offerings into meaningful experiences rather than mere products.

But an impactful story is only as effective as its delivery. As we move to our next chapter, we’ll explore the bridge between your brand narrative and its audience—the user experience. Here we’ll dive into how to design an experience that aligns with your brand story, making every interaction meaningful. So let’s turn the page and discover how every great story deserves an equally great Delivery.

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