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How to Write a Brand Story: Framework, Formulas and Examples

Posted by Sandra Petrova | Aug 2, 2021

We've all heard the story of the Hobbit named Bilbo, who went on an adventure through dangerous lands swarming with orcs, goblins, and dragons. Or the story of Mary Poppins, a magical nanny who employs music and adventure to help two neglected children become closer to their family.

But what is a brand story? 

A brand story is an important part of marketing that will help you define what your company stands for by connecting who you are with what you do. Here are some tips on developing a brand story that will resonate with your target audience.

What Is a Brand Story?

A brand story is a written narrative that describes the origins of your company and its products/services in an emotionally engaging way. A brand story can be created for any type of company, including financial services and FinTech companies.

Established brands most commonly use it to differentiate themselves from their competitors. When executed correctly, a brand story can increase customer loyalty and brand awareness.

A successful brand has two components: one is the tangible product or service, while the other is intangible—the feelings it inspires in customers. The best way to build this connection with your customers is by telling them your company's story. In order to do this, you need to develop an authentic voice and communicate the benefits of using your product or service.

Why Do Marketers Use Brand Stories?

Brand stories are about making your brand recognizable in an increasingly competitive market through the special (and emotionally engaging) experiences it offers its audience. Brand storytelling is a recent trend that is being enthusiastically picked up by marketers worldwide. It is not about writing a narrative around how the company exists to make money by providing people with the stuff they need. It is about capturing people's attention and establishing personal bonds with your target audience.

brand story framework by Donald Miller
Image from Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

How to Write a Brand Story

Here's how to tell a story so that it sears your brand into people’s memories, following the StoryBrand 7 Framework.

Step 1: A Character

The main character in your brand story is not your company or your company's CEO. It's your clients and your prospects. The story should be all about them. They are the heroes, and you want them to be seen as heroes. Your goal should be to make them feel connected to your story immediately. To define your character, you first need to define your customers. Buyer persona research is a great idea to better understand who you are doing business with.

Step 2: Has a Problem

Imagine what type of story The Lord of the Rings would have been without Sauron, the sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms. Or Robin Hood without The Sheriff of Nottingham.

Every story needs a conflict. Because in order to offer a solution, you first have to know your customers' problems.

Step 3: And Meets a Guide

The next step is to connect your customers with a guide, i.e., your company. You're not the hero in this story, but the wise guide that steers them on the path that will solve their issues. You're what Gandalf is to Frodo, Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, and Ser Jorah Mormont to Khaleesi. Storytellers use the guide character to encourage the hero and equip them to win the day.

Step 4: Who Gives Them a Plan

Customers trust a guide who gives them a plan. This is the guide's main goal. If we look at movies, the guide provides the hero with a plan. The plan is the bridge the hero must cross to arrive at the climactic scene. Juliet has to drink the potion the apothecary gives her to be free to be with Romeo. Rocky has to train using nontraditional methods.

In the business world, plans can take many shapes and forms. But all plans do one of two things: they either clarify how somebody can do business with us or remove the sense of risk customers might have if they're considering purchasing our products or services.

Without a guide to guide them, your customers might end up feeling confused and wondering whether your product or service will work for them. That confusion will be an excuse not to do business with you.

For example, the plan can look something like this:

  1. Schedule an appointment.
  2. Allow us to create a customized plan.
  3. Let’s execute the plan together.

Step 5: And Calls Them to Action

Here's a fact:

Customers don't take action unless they're challenged to take action. It might be obvious to us what we want our customers to do, like place an order, so we assume that it's obvious to them too. It isn't.

For example, "buy now" or "subscribe" buttons are great examples of calls to action. You should place call to action buttons on:

  • the top right corner of your website
  • above the fold
  • in the center of your website

Remember: Customers can’t read your mind and they don’t know what you want them to do even if it seems obvious. You have to clearly invite customers to take a journey with you or they won’t.

Step 6: That Helps Them Avoid Failure

If we look at movies, we can see that the audience is kept in suspense until the end. Will the story end in success, or will it end in tragedy? 

Just as the hero in every movie, your customers have only two motivations: to escape something bad or experience something good. You, as the storyteller, have to let the customer know all the awful things that might happen to them if they don't buy your product/service.

If Frodo didn't destroy the ring, the world would have been covered in a second darkness. If your customers don't buy your software, they will end up spending thousands of dollars on a third-grade software that doesn't work and requires pricey add-ons.

Step 7: And Ends in Success

Don't assume that people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

If there's anything customers want to know is where you'll take them.  Are you taking them to financial security? To a fun weekend with friends? 

Successful brands make it clear what their lives will look like after they buy your products, or they will have no motivation to do so. That end vision has to be included everywhere, in your emails, on your website, and everywhere else.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Use Imagery : To help your customers connect with your story better, you need to bring it to life. And what a better way to do so but by adding images and other visuals. Imagery can help you communicate your story more effectively and is more memorable.

  • Stay Consistent : Stay consistent with your story. If you're promoting certain values, stick to them. You'll be surprised at how good people are spotting dishonesty, so it is better to stay consistent.

  • Refine: Don't be scared to innovate and improve your narrative. Remember, some stories need a decade to be perfected. Just look at George RR Martin.

  • Activate Your Story : Share your story with your customers. Make it visible on all channels. It could be your website, social media accounts, or email.

Brand Story Framework and Formulas

Here's something that may surprise you:

All the best companies with high brand equity like Apple and Google use tested-and-proven storytelling formulas. In fact, these formulas can be applied to anything, from your social media posts to copy on your website.

Let's explore the five best formulas! 

Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is a story structure that was developed in the eighteenth century. It's a way to write stories and novels based on how people experience and remember events. It usually consists of three parts or acts:

  • Act One : Set up the scene, introduce the characters.

  • Act Two : Present a conflict and build up tension.

  • Act Three : Resolve the issue.

Five-Act Structure

Freytag’s Pyramid is the five-act structure of storytelling. It was created by Gustav Freytag in the 19th century. Freytag's theory is that every narrative can be divided into five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion.

  • Exposition : Introduce the protagonist and what they want.

  • Rising Action : Conflict arises, and the protagonist takes actions to resolve the conflict or problem.

  • Climax : The protagonist reaches the goal or seemingly achieves the original goal.

  • Falling Action : The protagonist may win or lose in this battle with the antagonist.

  • Conclusion : End a story with a resolution.

Before – After – Bridge

This formula is one of the most commonly used formulas by companies across all industries. And the best thing is that it can be used for almost anything – social media posts, blog posts, email campaigns, and other marketing messages.

It involves three parts:

  • Before : This is the part where you set the stage of a problem your target audience is facing. 

  • After : Describe a world where that problem didn't exist.

  • Bridge : Present the solution (this is your product or service).

Problem – Agitate – Solve

The next copywriting formula on the list is called the Problem-Agitate-Solve, which is somewhat similar to the Before-After-Bridge.

The structure is the following:

  • Problem : Present a problem (that your product/service can solve).

  • Agitate : Agitate the problem by using emotional language.

  • Solve : Solve the problem by offering your service/product. 

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

"How great leaders inspire action" is one of the most popular TED talks by Simon Sinek. In his talk, he explains how some of the most influential companies use a storytelling formula called the Golden Circle formula.

In short, the story contains three parts, including:

  • Why : Explain why your company exists.

  • How : Tell your target audience how you're planning to achieve the Why.

  • What : Describe what your company does to fulfill its Why (this is your product/service).

Brand Storytelling Examples

Here are some examples of brands that are using the storytelling approach to better connect with their customers:

spotify brand story

Spotify

One cool thing Spotify does is take its customers' data and use it to really understand who its audience is and connect with it. They have created several campaigns based on the behaviors of their audience to create a connection with their customers. Every year, they do a wrap-up of the year that was in music, and the year it was in the behaviors of their users. Not only that, but they also put a comical spin on their stories to engage the audience.

For instance, their 'Wrapped' campaign was created to help users remember their decade of music. Every user received a detailed report of their top songs from the last year featuring most played, favorite genres, and other stats.

Airbnb

Another company that does an outstanding job at brand storytelling is Airbnb. Although the company uses storytelling in many different ways, one of its most effective campaigns is allowing its community to share its own stories. Not only does this build engagement, but they also take these stories and promote them on their site and social media. In one of their newest campaigns, called Made Possible by Hosts , the company aims to educate people on the magical experiences that hosts bring to guests. They created a series of videos using real photographs from guests staying in the homes of hosts around the world.

Google

Google is another company that's been creating memorable campaigns to connect with its users. One of the most notable storytelling campaigns is their Year in Search campaign that happens annually. In short, the company releases yearly videos that showcase the top searches of each given year, both joyful and tragic. They feature events that have touched everyone in some way in an attempt to evoke a strong range of emotions from viewers.

Conclusion 

To sum up, here's a quick overview of what we learned in this post:

  • A brand story is a written narrative that describes the origins of a company and its products, as well as the company's culture and values.
  • A successful brand has two components: one is the tangible product or service, while the other is intangible—the feelings it inspires in customers.
  • Brand stories are about making your brand recognizable in an increasingly competitive market through the special (and emotionally engaging) experiences it offers its audience.
  • One of the best ways to write a story so that it sears your brand into people's memories is by following the StoryBrand 7 Framework.
  • Some of the most commonly used brand story frameworks are the Three-Act, Five-Act, and the Before-After-Bridge structures.
  • If you're looking for brand story inspiration, explore some of the most popular brand storytelling examples from companies like Airbnb, Spotify, and Google.

Now go out there and start telling your brand story!

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