When you think of storytelling, you probably think of fairy tales or audiobooks or your uncle at Christmas dinner sharing some ridiculous anecdote about his drunken escapades. You probably think of a situation in which you feel caught up and interested; in which you’re anticipating what will be said next, delighting when those expectations are correct and when they’re subverted.
Brand storytelling is often conflated with user journey or value proposition, but it goes so much deeper than that on both a conceptual and a practical level. The brand story is about emotionally connecting with your customer first, letting them get swept up in a story, and then introducing your product or service as a part of that story. It may seem counterintuitive to think that this would help sales, but the reality is that people buy from brands with which they feel connected.
‘Properly done, the story is the primary focus and the product takes a backseat to the journey the story provides. A customer makes an emotional connection with the story, and the message is considered genuine. Interestingly, even though the customer is aware that the story is being used to ultimately sell something, they are still more inclined to purchase based on the connection they made through the story.’ Anastasia – cleverism.com
So how can you use storytelling in your branding to better connect with customers and compel them to action?
The number one rule of marketing is to know thy audience, and that is especially true when creating a brand story. For example, we recently worked with a company called Platinum Skies to develop the brand for their new retirement community called Chapters in Salisbury. We wanted to tell a brand story that the target audience would appreciate, enjoy and feel involved in.
We started with the history of Salisbury itself. Local legend is that it was founded when an archer shot an arrow into the valley, pledging to build the cathedral wherever it landed. The cathedral also holds a copy of the Magna Carta, which has huge historical significance. For these reasons we chose a feather for the brand imagery, tying these two aspects together, and made the campaign statement “your place in history,” avoiding the overwrought and overused “write your next chapter” language so common in retirement community marketing.
From there we used the cathedral as further inspiration for the logo, creating a stained glass-effect “mother logo” that, when broken down, creates eight different sub-brands for the different communities. The brand story was then told throughout the brochures through both copy and imagery.
Another important aspect of the brand storytelling was the CGI created for the brochure. The community had not yet been built, so buyers needed a way to visualise their place in the story. Our CGI team worked to create photorealistic images that looked as identical as possible to the actual development, from the views out the window to the art on the walls.
The overall effect of this storytelling is very powerful. Potential buyers experience a seamless marketing campaign through brochures, signage and any online materials they happen to come across, all painting an aspirational picture of a rich cultural experience through inspiring copy and highly accurate imagery. This compels them to book an appointment, where they experience a consistent extension of that same brand story.
Technology gets a bad rep as something that inhibits connection, but when it comes to connecting with brands that couldn’t be further from the truth. While the Chapters audience may not respond to emerging tech or cutting edge web design, the target audience for many other brands will.
AI and immersive tech present new opportunities to tell a brand story in new and exciting ways. Even just good web design is a great way to engage with your target audience, delighting them and making them feel invested in the information they’re processing during their experience. All of this is only heightened when you start introducing new technologies like VR or AI personalisation like what Sitecore offers.
When you’re telling your brand story, you need three things to do so successfully: create connections, build trust and differentiate your brand. Every branding project we do has these three goals in mind, and they are essential aspects to effective storytelling.
To create connections, you have to inspire your target audience. This should be done through both the user experience and the branding itself. Considering aspects like colour psychology, industry trends, history and cultural references will allow you to identify the elements needed to create a successful brand, but putting them together correctly relies on how well you know your audience and what they will respond to. Then these same insights can be applied to the user experience in order to create an engaging narrative at every touchpoint.
In order to build trust, it’s important that the rest of your customer experience matches the first impression your customers had. Branding isn’t marketing; it goes much deeper than that. It should be an authentic reflection of your company values so that everything from the customer service to the packaging lives up to the promise the customers bought into when they first interacted with your brand.
Lastly you have to differentiate your brand from others. There’s a reason people commend novels and films and TV shows as being “original” and “unprecedented” – people want to see something new. But being innovative doesn’t have to be daunting. Your brand is automatically different from its competitors, so just lean into that USP in your branding and marketing. If you’re more innovative in an industry of old school thinkers, choose colours and designs that convey that. If you’re more connected and tech savvy than competing product lines, communicate that with your use of emerging tech in your campaigns. Keep authenticity in mind, but don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. It will make your story more enticing to your target audience.
Every brand has a story to tell, and every brand story is worth telling. The important thing is to know your audience so that you can tell it in the manner and the context that will make it the most effective.