5 Reasons A Brand Story Is Your Most Valuable Marketing Tool

Every brand has a sto­ry. But hav­ing a great sto­ry gives brands a big mar­ket­ing advan­tage. Here’s why you need to nail your brand’s sto­ry.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 1 comment

Like con­sumers, every brand has a sto­ry. And, sim­i­lar­ly, some are bet­ter than oth­ers. But unlike peo­ple, per­haps, who may be hard-pressed to change their per­son­al­i­ties and/or back­sto­ries and retain authen­tic­i­ty, brands have an advan­tage in that they can hone their sto­ries to per­fec­tion and sub­se­quent­ly use them as mar­ket­ing tools.

Like any kind of intro­spec­tion, the task of boil­ing one’s essence down to a sim­ple state­ment and/or ide­al can be remark­ably dif­fi­cult, par­tic­u­lar­ly for brands that have con­duct­ed busi­ness with­out one – or a clear­ly defined one – for any length of time. Here’s why it’s worth the effort to invest resources to real­ly nail your brand’s sto­ry.

1. Connections

A brand sto­ry has the pow­er to forge valu­able con­nec­tions with con­sumers. “For brands start­ing out, an ori­gin sto­ry is imper­a­tive to estab­lish the emo­tion­al tra­jec­to­ry of the brand,” said Sean Miller, chief strat­e­gy offi­cer at dig­i­tal agency Rokkan. “When we meet new peo­ple, we often ask, ‘Where are you from?’ fol­lowed by, ‘What do you do?’ Know­ing the ori­gin of a per­son or a brand helps to cre­ate com­mon ground and estab­lish trust. It shows that the brand … is more than a sales pitch. It’s an enti­ty that has shared val­ues and beliefs.” Richard Jones, CEO of mar­ket­ing engage­ment plat­form Engage­Sciences, agreed. “By shar­ing where you came from, where you’re going, and what your world vision is, cus­tomers can more eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy with your brand per­son­al­i­ty,” Jones said. “In this way, your brand’s sto­ry is your most impor­tant mar­ket­ing cur­ren­cy.”

2. Affinity

What’s more, Mar­tyn Tip­ping, CEO of busi­ness intel­li­gence ser­vice Sto­ryScore, notes sto­ry­telling is impor­tant because con­sumers don’t want to feel they’re being sold to or preached at any longer. “They want to buy a brand that rep­re­sents their val­ues, or that embod­ies their aspi­ra­tions. And the best way to show peo­ple what you believe in and what you’re aim­ing for is to tell sto­ries,” Tip­ping said. “Sto­ries are made to be shared, and they’re more mem­o­rable than sim­ple facts.”

3. Distinction

These con­nec­tions are also essen­tial for brand recall, accord­ing to Cyn­thia Sred­nic­ki, CMO of Dreamweaver Brand Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Sim­i­lar­ly, Roger Wu, founder of spon­sored con­tent plat­form Coop­er­a­tize, said the key is to tell a sto­ry that is mem­o­rable enough so that when the time comes for a con­sumer to pur­chase, he or she can remem­ber enough of the sto­ry to prime Google into telling him or her the name of the brand. “Mar­ket­ing is get­ting more com­plex and while Google is the great last mile, no one is typ­ing ‘device that is made a by a com­pa­ny [found­ed] by Steve Jobs that con­nects me to my friends and fits in my pock­et’ in a vac­u­um,” Wu added. Fur­ther, mean­ing­ful sto­ries and con­nec­tions are par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant when it comes to – no sur­prise here – Mil­len­ni­als. “They’ve come of age in a tough econ­o­my and have seen an incred­i­ble boom in apps and ser­vices that do many of the same things,” Miller said. “When there are so many redun­dant offer­ings, which would you be drawn to? The one you can relate to and like the most.” In addi­tion, the shift in the way brands and con­sumers inter­act to more of a two-way exchange means brands must have a stronger sense of iden­ti­ty and devel­op a con­sis­tent per­sona as they nav­i­gate the myr­i­ad ways cus­tomers will seek inter­ac­tion, said Lily Croll, strat­e­gy direc­tor at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Wire Stone.

4. Advantage

A sto­ry-derived con­nec­tion can ulti­mate­ly prove a key com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. “With the vast amount of choice we have today as con­sumers, it’s often not the ratio­nal dif­fer­en­tia­tors that make a prod­uct or ser­vice stand out. It’s how it makes us feel, which comes down to the brand’s sto­ry,” said Kris­ten Nozell, brand strate­gist at Red Peak Brand­ing. Digital/mobile cre­ative direc­tor and con­sul­tant Tom Eslinger agrees brand sto­ry can be an impor­tant com­pet­i­tive dis­tinc­tion – even when a brand may not be the most com­pet­i­tive in oth­er respects. “Brand sto­ries are impor­tant as part of a brand’s over­all pres­ence – think Toms, War­by Park­er – where they use their brand phi­los­o­phy and sto­ry as the sharp end of their mar­ket­ing – they aren’t the best mate­ri­als, best con­struc­tion [or] most orig­i­nal, but they do good things for peo­ple,” he said. “I think that brands who have more ‘open-end­ed’ sto­ries that have their fans and cus­tomers weav­ing the sto­ry are more impor­tant.” A brand sto­ry pro­vides mean­ing­ful con­text, which, in turn, spurs com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, said Jamie Rodriguez, part­ner at dig­i­tal agency Tilt­ed Chair Cre­ative. “Peo­ple seek more than util­i­ty in a pur­chase these days,” Rodriguez said. “The best brands – and the ones set up to thrive in the 21st cen­tu­ry and beyond – are those savvy enough to wrap their brand or prod­uct in a more mean­ing­ful con­text. To tell a sto­ry. Doing so pro­vides cus­tomers with added val­ue beyond the sim­ple util­i­ty of their pur­chase: mean­ing.” Tip­ping agreed. “Sto­ries are also a great way of con­vey­ing a brand’s her­itage, back­sto­ry or crafts­man­ship,” he said. “Across every cat­e­go­ry, from beau­ty to beer, con­sumers are shift­ing from big glob­al mega-brands in favor of small­er brands with a unique sto­ry to tell.”

5. Focus

Dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant Bitu­in Callan­ta notes brand sto­ry helps brands fil­ter out ideas or upgrades that are not right for a giv­en brand. “My favorite clas­sic exam­ple is Dove and their tagline, ‘Real Beau­ty,’ because it reflects both the main prod­uct fea­ture – mois­tur­iz­ing cream – and the idea that real beau­ty is sim­ple, like the soap,” she added. But brand sto­ry can also help set con­sumer expec­ta­tions, notes Ben­jamin Nathan, direc­tor of pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Footage Films. Fur­ther, Bran­don Peach, brand strate­gist at mar­ket­ing agency EZMar­ket­ing, said a brand sto­ry is mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial because it “[gives] the brand key insights into how to best sat­is­fy its tar­get cus­tomer and [turns] that cus­tomer into a brand evan­ge­list.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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