Brand storytelling is an essential ingredient of marketing and sales success and will help you create meaningful and valuable connections with your audience.
Many businesses know this already. In a 2020 Ragan survey, 62% of communications professionals said the importance of storytelling had increased for them in the previous quarter. According to its 2021 Communications Benchmark Report, Ragan survey respondents also expect brand journalism storytelling to increase in the next three to five years.
As storytelling advocacy grows, it becomes more important to tell the right stories in the most effective ways.
This article shares insights on how you can build stories around your brand that resonate with and inspire action from your ideal customers.
First, what is brand storytelling?
A brand story is the overarching story of a business’s existence and purpose. It’s something you tell through a broad range of actions and outputs, including marketing content.
The main goals of brand storytelling are to:
- Communicate the value of your brand, products, and services
- Trigger emotional responses in your audience
- Cultivate trust and brand advocacy
- Inspire tangible actions like email subscriptions, social media follows, communication, and purchases
Brand stories share the same narrative elements and qualities as the stories we find in books and movies. Regardless of the brand or industry, you’ll find:
- Characters. The business and its customers.
- Status quo. How things were before the business or its product existed.
- Conflict. The issue that disrupts the status quo.
- Resolution. How the business solves the conflict.
- Outcome. The customers’ happy ending.
With that in mind, follow the steps below to tell a powerful brand story that turns prospective buyers into loyal customers and brand advocates.
Four Steps to Effective Brand Storytelling
Step 1: Make your customer the star of the show
For a brand story to be effective, its audience should want to become part of it, so it must be relevant and relatable.
That means, before you even begin crafting your brand story you should know the people you’re targeting well.
Through conversation on social media, customer service queries, and website analytics, build a clear picture of your audience’s pain points, emotional triggers, and desires.
From there, you can work out what prospects aren’t getting from your competitors, so you can tailor your story content effectively.
For example, if analytics data shows that website visitors tend to head straight for content on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and company values, take it as a sign that these things matter and then emphasize them in your storytelling.
Use CRM software to keep track of customer queries, too. This will help you understand your audience’s pain points so you can address them proactively in your content.
Step 2: Use the right formats and be creative
As Pipeline explained in our recent guide on brand storytelling: “There are many ways to tell a good brand story, yet none will do the job well in isolation. Instead, you should aim to consistently convey your brand’s purpose across a range of content marketing outputs.”
Here are types of content that can help you build and distribute your story.
Use regular blog posts of varying lengths, with appropriate images that add value, to bring new followers up to speed with your brand. Give them a chance to learn about what you do and why.
By posting content regularly and being transparent about your business’s changes and challenges, you’ll help your ideal customers become part of your brand story as it evolves. That will help to instill trust, foster loyalty, and ultimately generate more sales.
Take Patagonia, for example. The ethical clothing brand calls its blogs “stories,” and each piece of content aligns with its core CSR messaging.
Real-life case studies
Case studies are short-form stories in written and visual formats that give prospective buyers tangible examples of the benefits you promise.
They’re simple to put together, too. Pick a past success that’ll be relatable to a section of your audience and tell the story using the following narrative.
- Introduction. Background on your customer and their circumstances.
- Conflict. The customer’s initial challenge.
- Resolution. Your product or service.
- Outcome. The positive impact of your work.
For maximum relatability, involve the case study subject by asking them for relevant quotes or conducting a video interview. This will help your audience envisage what life as one of your customers will look like.
For example, Pipedrive’s SiteForce case study has all the elements that matter: client background, the challenge, the features used, our solution, the outcome, and direct customer feedback. Another business in SiteForce’s industry could look at this and see what’s possible.
Social media posts
Social media is the third most popular internet activity among U.S. adults. Its popularity, combined with the content versatility of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram makes it a great channel for real-time storytelling.
With the right following (i.e. people that fit your buyer personas), you can use social media to distribute in-depth content, like the blog posts we mentioned earlier, that brings people back to your website.
You can also provide much shorter updates on your brand’s day-to-day journey that’ll make followers feel like valued parts of your story. For example, if you gain accreditation demonstrating your CSR efforts, shout about it on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever your audience is most likely to spend time) and provide a link to your website for more information.
Social media can help you learn about your audience, too. Digital marketing training brand CXL recently used Twitter to update followers on business activity and ask for feedback.
Imagery, graphics, and video allow you to convey a lot of information quickly, making them great for an audience swamped with demand for its attention.
There’s data to prove visual content’s engagement potential. Twitter reported that tweets with videos attract up to ten times more engagement than text-only posts, while BuzzSumo found that articles with an image every 75–100 words get twice as many shares as those with fewer images.
Tell your stories in person using video interviews and presentations to give your business a human face, and break up text-heavy articles with relevant photography and illustrations that add value for readers.
Top Dog Social Media grabs attention and helps website visitors find the most relevant content in its blog feed using original graphics like the one
Slogans and taglines
Summarizing your brand’s purpose in a sentence or less will give your audience the most efficient possible introduction to your business. That could immediately put you ahead of many of your competitors.
For inspiration, consider how major brands use taglines and slogans as part of their stories.
Automation tech firm IFTTT captures its purpose wonderfully in the five-word slogan, “Every thing works better together.” In the U.K., mobile operator O2 manages to communicate their purpose in just three words without compromising on effectiveness with, “We’re better, connected.”
You can place a catchy and effective tagline or slogan almost anywhere to engage prospects quickly, from website banners and SEO meta titles to business cards and product packaging. The more your target audience sees or hears the line, the more familiar your brand will become to them.
Step 3. Distribute the same brand stories in different ways
Content that works well on one channel may be effective on another, usually with a few adjustments. By using various distribution methods, you’ll reach and engage different sections of your audience.
For example, you may find from analytics data that prospective customers spend more time researching on your website and existing customers prefer to stay updated through your Twitter feed.
To reach both audiences with the same content (saving time and money), you could publish a full case study on your website’s news feed to reassure apprehensive prospects. Then, clip some of the subject’s direct quotes to keep fast-moving social media followers up to speed with what you’re working on.
Here are some other examples of repurposing opportunities:
- Publish a one-minute explainer video on YouTube or your website and break it up into multiple shorts or reels for Instagram followers
- Use the positive feedback of a case study subject as testimonials on a dedicated web page or site banner
- Pay to promote a blog from your website on search engine results pages (SERPs) or social media to increase brand awareness
- Republish a successful brand article under a team member’s name on LinkedIn to target industry groups
Step 4. Create a consistent cadence (with help from a content calendar)
Brand storytelling isn’t a single task to tick off and forget. It’s a marketing tool that requires patience, honesty, and consistency to be effective.
Tell and reinforce your story through everything your company does and says. Reflect what happens inside your organization’s walls in your marketing content to instill trust in your audience and be transparent about successes and challenges.
For example, if you’re running a marketing campaign targeting prospective employees, interview an existing team member to create content your audience can relate to directly. That’ll be more authentic and engaging than a polished ad drawn up by someone in a completely different role.
The same goes for engaging prospective customers: provide real-life, emotionally appealing examples rather than the same types of hypothetical copy your competitors use. It’ll help you stand out and create more authentic connections with the people most likely to buy your products.
Lastly, stay organized. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t (website and social media analytics will help here, but get direct customer feedback, too). Create a content calendar to help you keep a consistent rhythm.
This is important because:
- If you stop publishing content, your audience will forget about you and move on. A content calendar will keep you and other content creators in your team engaged, accountable, and working towards the same goals.
- All of your content should be linked by consistent messaging, tone, and branding. A content calendar will provide a big-picture view of your marketing efforts, so you can see that all outputs follow the same powerful narrative.
All content calendars look different but are essentially just written schedules of content marketing output. You can use a spreadsheet to create yours from scratch or find dedicated content marketing software to help.
Either way, color-code, tag, or separate your entries using factors like content type, current development status, and the team members responsible.
Make sure everyone in the marketing and sales teams has access, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments throughout the campaign period to ensure your content’s always relevant.
A summary of brand storytelling tips
A marketing campaign that sparks and cultivates emotional connections with your audience is much more effective at converting prospects than one that simply grabs attention.
Brand storytelling is about communicating your brand’s value and its products in ways that trigger emotional responses and inspire valuable actions.
Keep your content informed, honest, organized, and consistent to build a loyal following of repeat customers that benefits your business for years to come.