How to Create a Brand Story
What is a brand story?
The Birth of a Storyteller
Storytelling has become a huge part of my life. Graduating Long Beach State’s film department in 2005, I found myself engulfed in books, theater and film throughout my college career. It was like a tour throughout the history of stories and breaking them down to see what works and why they do. That’s what we are going to discuss today..stories and how important they are connect with your audience.
But let’s get back to this story about my first year in film school. The very first semester, before we could even declare to be “film majors,” we were required to take a very intense media aesthetics class to further our career as student filmmakers. Oh man, that was the course that made you really think about how serious you are about filmmaking. If forced us to contemplate if we had the dedication and willingness to learn the foundations of film and understand good story.
It was all book work. No camera set ups, lighting or post production. We were expected to read about film theory, principals and what constitutes great composition. Students were required to get at least a B to move on to pursue their film studies. If they got a C, the course could be taken once more. If you got a D or F, your college film days at Long Beach State were done.
For the finals, we were required to produce a compelling story using only 5 images. Our story could be accompanied with music and/or voiceover but the main part of the assignment was to deliver a quality story utilizing only 5 images.
That was a daunting task because we were required to use all the knowledge we learned throughout the semester and distill it into those 5 images. Composition and rules of thirds, chiaroscuro lighting, color theory, aspect ratios and so on. Not only were we expected to integrate these film fundamentals in our images, but the professor was going to pick 10 of the very best projects and share them on the last day of class. It was on. I was super ambitious, an honors transfer student from my community college, so my expectations to be one of the best was top priority.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I came up with a bunch of different concepts, scratched them all and then I settled on a “Falling Down” concept. You know, the Michael Douglas loses his shit movie? That really stuck with me. I wanted to produce a story about a guy going to work and just gets fed up with society forcing him into a box, working like a robot to become a slave to the machine. Now that I think of it, it was really just a Falling Down piece with my own spin.
My plan was put into action. I bought specific film stock that would give my images a bluer tone to provoke a serious somber tone. Then, I casted one of my friends to play the actor and another friend who was skilled at photography to be my DP (Director of Photography). I planned on using multiple cameras using actual film, utilize natural lighting and scout out locations that were fitting to the story.
The stage was set. I planned out the times that were busy with bumper to bumper traffic which isn’t that difficult in Southern California. I did this so that my actor could get out in the middle of freeway and run away from his car–The Departure. I also organized some other friends to hide in the “picture” car so that when my actor was really running through traffic, they could jump in the driver seat and move the car.
Checking off all the requirements to turn in the project, I still didn’t know what to think. Was it good enough? Was there enough quality and film foundational elements to pass? Was it going to stand out from the rest of the 100 eager film students? There were a lot of questions but rested on how passionate I was at storytelling, so I submitted my project and let the film gods do their thing.
Seeing My Name in Lights
It all came down to that final day in class. All of us students were wondering who was going to be picked as the top 10 finalists. We were all was on the edge of our seats. It was also going to help boost my grade from a B to an A if my finals project was that good. The professor went through all the finalists and I thought all my hard work had gone out the window. But he was just saving the best for last…it was my project.
The classroom was in a large symposium. The lights were dimmed and it was the first time seeing a project I created on a large projector screen in room of spectators. When I saw my project up on that huge screen, I was over the moon. It was a special day for me and one I will always remember. I also pulled in Radiohead’s Creep at the part were they croon about “running.” It was a big day for me and it helped me understand the power of story. It doesn’t have to be flashy with the best cameras but it’s the concept and the impact you leave on your viewers is what matters the most.
Write a Brand Story
So, what does this all have to do with explaining what is a brand story? It has everything to do with your brand’s story because when you create an authentic brand story, you’re taking all the visual elements of a brand- the look, the feel, the logo, color pallets and you create a narrative that represents the brand. You can take a stroll down memory lane and discuss how the business was started. When you begin to write a brand story, you start from the beginning and explain your WHY. Why did you start this business and what motivates you to keep going?
The best brand storytelling establish a company’s origins. They stir an emotional reaction and focus on human stories that connect. The most compelling brand stories not only help keep an audience’s attention but they etch a memory in people’s minds where the story takes on a whole new meaning. The most powerful brand story resonates with the audience and helps brand identity stay relevant. This is what separates a good brand story from great ones.
Brand Storytelling Leads to Loyalty
An impactful brand story brings the audience closer. When they hear a compelling brand story they feel more connected to that brand. Overtime, successful brands win their audience over with this connection and that’s known as brand loyalty.
Think about the customer’s perspective. If they can put a story behind the brand they are more likely to have a connection to it. A brand’s mission should be how to effectively communicate to its’ audience? The narrative needs to resemble the brand, be genuine and tell a story that is relatable. Great brand stories help someone buy your product or services because there is a connection established. This positions the brand to stand out from the competition.
Tell Stories, Not Statistics
At Seal Media, we always tell clients that you want to be story driven in your marketing efforts. It’s not about showing off your percentages or boasting about X, Y, Z performance but it’s about how to stir emotional response to potential customers; how you vibe with your audience. This is an essential part to effective brand stories.
From the words of Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said but never forget how you made them feel.” That should always be on your mind when developing a brand story, or any story. People will easily forget about the statistics and facts because we are confronted by numbers at every turn of our day. For example, the cost of breakfast at your local diner, that fuzzy soft sweater you have been eyeing popped up on your social feel again is now 20% off, your bills our due, etc. We are constantly computing numbers in our head that when it comes to marketing, establishing a powerful emotional connection is so much more impactful than more numbers to confront.
Make it Exciting
Make it exciting to buy from you. Do you think Nike’s ambition is to sell you shoes is based on the discount they offering for the week? No, they are creating an perception and lifestyle about what elite athletes go through to be the best at what they do. They don’t sell the average lifecycle of the shoe because it was made out of polyurethane-this or hydrocarbon-that. Nike is driving for the emotional connection. They sell motivation, the dream, the pursuit for what it takes to be the best.
When you think of the Nike brand, you automatically think of sweat on the brow, the look of determination, motivation to conquer anything that stands in their way. This is selling you a story about the athletes, and not just an athlete, but the best of the best and what it takes to get there.
This creates a unique experience and one that works so well with a brand’s stories. Creating a story around the foundation of a brand and what sets it apart from the brand’s competitor. It’s literally the most important aspects to a brand.
So, now that you have a better idea of what is a brand story, where do we start first. Let’s dive in.
3 Cores Principals to Creating a Brand Story
Understand Your Audience
First and foremost, understand your audience and who you will be speaking to. If you have done a full dive into your brand, you probably have this nailed down but it’s also great to revisit every 3-5 years because the changing of the times will require you to recalculate your sails.
Define the Needs of Customers
Next, is to define the needs of your customers and what is really important to them. Ask yourself if your competitors are relating to their needs and look to see where they are falling short. That will be something you can develop further and position your brand in the market. What your competitors are not is what you focus on doing.
For example, do your customers want loud headphones that stand out or do they want sleek ones that are unobtrusive? Defining what the customer’s desires are will help stimulate the context of your brand’s story and be able to clearly identify what your audience is looking for.
Every Great Story Needs a Hero
The next step in developing a brand story is to create a hero. This will be your protagonist, someone or something that aligns with your brand and helps carry your message. This could be a person, real or animated, like Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, or it could be something abstract, like the ocean or forest. This hero should reflect the brand and represents the core values.
Once we understand your audience, lock down the context and needs of that audience, we establish a hero for the brand, then it’s time to get emotional…about the story of course. It’s time to give them something to remember. It needs to have a beginning, middle and end but it also should be memorable. Look to truly connect.
Remember the Maya Angelou quote, this is where you do that. For example, if your passion was telling stories and how you were inspired to tell them in your college film school class (cheeky), tell a story about what got you started telling stories. See what I did there?
In this memorable story, inspire change. Establish a problem your audience may be experiencing and how you and your brand has the solution. For example, not having a enough money to retire with but you have a solutions the ease their worries.
Once you have established this, create a desired outcome and ask “what’s next?” Ask your audience a series of questions that inspire them to think forward. Do you want more social media engagement? Is your business model outdated and needs to have more of an online presence?
What is the overall objective with a brand story besides be memorable? Connection.
Seal Media’s tagline is “Connection is Everything.” This is because when we connect to our core audience and know who that it is, give them emotional, engaging stories it shows that how you care about their problems. This builds trust and brand loyalty. When we truly connect with “our tribe” it’s everything about your brand and what you can offer to the world.
Anderson Seal is an award-winning filmmaker & business owner since 2007. A graduate of Cal State University Long Beach, community advocate, father, & husband.