A brand without a story is barely a brand at all. Brand stories help customers see themselves in your product; they let customers fit your brand into their own inner narrative. But picking a great brand story is easier said than done. Not only does it have to connect emotionally with customers, but it also has to be true, and backed up by the brand’s customer experience. With that right story, you can turn your brand into a legend.
Brand Stories Create Trusting Customers
If you want to make potential customers care about your brand, you need to allow them into the brand by providing a way for them to narrate their life with your product. It’s not enough to bombard potential customers with ads that have nothing to say. Spamming your prospects with sponsored posts will only annoy them if those posts don’t speak to them.
The best brands have known for years that brand stories, combined with quality customer experiences, lead to lifelong loyalty and trust. Your competitors might temporarily get ahead, but your loyal customers will keep coming back to you, even when your products aren’t perfect. That is because they know what they’re getting and feel connected to your brand.
Apple doesn’t always have the best product, and they almost never have the cheapest product, but they dominate a large section of the market because they have the best brand. Their customers could go elsewhere, but instead, they return to Apple because they trust the brand. The company’s legend fits the customers’ narratives, and buying Apple products gives them a piece of the legend.
Kissmetrics, a behavioural analytics company, notes that great brand stories have the potential to synchronise emotionally with customers, and that the best stories make people match brain waves through a process called neural coupling. Storytelling is an ancient method of building bonds between people, like the way tribes form connections by telling stories while gathering around a fire.
Stories give people structure to the world and help sort the daily blitz of information. If you batter potential customers with even more information about your products, your message will just get lost in the noise. But a good story can cut through the racket. A good story that fits your customer’s narrative can show them how your brand is an integral part of their life.
What Makes a Great Brand Story?
Brands often use the company’s founding or founders for their story. Apple achieved success, in part, because they innovated on a variety of fronts that other companies ignored. However, the story that sticks in many customers’ minds is how two hippies in a California garage started what is now an industry behemoth. Apple still plays on that trendsetting edge.
Be careful about founding stories, however. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, but his aloof personality combined with the school’s upper-class connotations made the tale of its founding less appealing. Furthermore, being dramatised in The Social Network didn’t help the company’s image. Instead, Facebook focuses its brand story on its role in connecting the world.
How to Find Your Own Brand Story
Above all, your own brand story needs to be true. You can embellish if necessary, but picking a brand story that doesn’t align with reality will eventually lead to blowback. You also need to find a story that will tap into the narrative of your potential customers.
Founding stories about upstarts working against the system are great for technology companies pushing their products as the latest and greatest thing, but if your target market is suburban parents buying toys, it’s not relevant or appealing. Instead, a new toy brand might create a story about how the founders wanted better toys for their children. Or, the same brand might tell a story of how their toys prepare children for the wider world.
Try to find a story that gives meaning to people. Find out what your potential customers care about and align with their narrative. Become a part of what they believe. There is room for a lot of different stories in every industry. Think of how different the major car companies are, especially the smaller players. Big players Honda and Toyota sell a simple story of long-term quality, Subaru plays on the adventure, and Volvo touts Scandinavian safety.
Build your brand around something that connects emotionally with your customers. And remember, stories do not have to be static as time changes. Bill Gates used to have a terrible business reputation. Now he is a philanthropic legend.
Deliver on Your Promises, and Make Customers Miss You
Because your brand story has to be true, you aren’t going to be able to say just anything. You can’t tell people you were an upstart if you weren’t. You can’t claim to change the world if you don’t. You can’t keep customers on board if your story is out of step with the reality of your product.
To turn your brand’s story into a legend, you have to deliver on it consistently with your customer experience. With Steve Jobs no longer at the helm, Apple is not quite what it was. Nonetheless, the firm retains its status as a legend by keeping the customer experience strong.
If you do things right, your story should bloom into a brand that people would miss if it suddenly disappeared. Most people wouldn’t miss Dell or HP if they fell off the face of the earth. They make decent computers at decent prices, but neither has a strong story. But vast numbers of people would miss Apple if it were to vanish.
Finding a story is easy. Finding one that both connects with your customers, and that you can consistently deliver on, is hard. So take your time; a great brand story that steadily delivers will turn your brand into a legend, with cultish customers hanging on every word.
Find the Customers No One Else is Talking To
Picking a good brand story isn’t without some risk. By gearing your account towards some customers, you have to cut out others. It’s tempting to go after the biggest pool of customers, but if another company has already captured that share of the market, you’ll need to specialise your story to a niche yet uncovered.
Apple never captured the business market with its personal computers and has only ever partially succeed there with its phones. Apple’s core market is creative and design-conscious consumers who enjoy the Apple customer experience.
Subaru goes after the adventurous crowd because Honda and Toyota already locked up the purely practical market. Nintendo tells a story family-friendly, innocent fun to set itself apart from the console wars fought between Sony and Microsoft.
When picking your brand story, you will have to ignore some potential customers to form stronger connections with others. Take your time. Do your customer research. Understand what your competitors are already doing. Deliver on your story’s promise, and with time, your brand will have the makings of legend.