You might know about brand platforms and even have one that you use, how about a brand story?
It’s easy to get confused about brand stories, so it helps to define what they are not. Brand stories are not the historical version of how your organization got started, nor are they the collection of marketing lines and images that you use in your marketing mix.
Enter the Brand Story.
A story is something that is told, lived or shared – and that’s what defines a business brand story. It’s the story that is being told about your business by all the people who experience it and the way they include your product or service naturally in their lives. Think of it as product placement in real life – Instagram photos of your customers and friends with their new sunglasses. To the consumer the brand story is about them, not the brand. They’ll include you if it fits into their personal image and values.
Brand story can also be told by you and your employees. But the messaging shared by internal voices is the “studio version” of your story – the promo reel. The real story is the one your customers, vendors, partners and community retell and live out with their friends and family. They only tell stories they believe are worth repeating, and worthy of including in their lives.
So your story isn’t told in just one way, but it is carried in the lives, conversations and social networks of everyone who experiences your organization. Hopefully.
Here’s an important fact: if the only one telling your brand story is on the inside of the organization, it’s not really a story yet.
To be real, a brand story should be like a Greek chorus or a good novel with multiple plot lines that are all woven together to create a bigger story. And that’s the goal as customers, employees, vendors, and all of their circles of influence, experience your product or service. If you have a powerful brand – they will carry your story with them into a thousand places. Brand Stories are found in social media, but that’s just one part of the bigger narrative.
A second important idea: Brand stories come from brand experiences – the total package of how people experience your organization. The more powerful (and positive) those experiences – the bigger the brand story.
Creating a brand story that reaches into broad circles of influence is the goal of modern marketing, but the total brand package and the way it’s communicated (the brand platform) have to be powerful enough to earn that kind of influence.
Brand Platforms help Fuel Brand Stories
The brand platform and persona aid in your effort to define the brand story in advance – to craft what you want customers to experience and share about you. They provide several critical elements that you need in order to have a powerful brand story.
The development of personas are critical to crafting your brand story. The research you complete in the persona process, and the conversations you have with real customers, allow you to understand the needs, values and ways that your brand can interact with the target customer.
The brand platform allows you to write the brand story in advance, and most importantly, to keep all of your brand materials, brand spoke persons, media, and marketing in sync so that your story has a chance to catch fire.
If organizations fail to invest the time and money to complete this process right, they can completely undercut growth by having a weak brand story that has no chance of really engaging enough people to create business momentum. Weak stories are very expensive to market because they need lots of advertising, And it’s hard to attract attention with a story that isn’t compelling to the target audience because it isn’t very share-worthy.
Syncing the Brand Platform and Brand Story
The other danger organizations face is a lack of integrity between the brand they want to have, and the actual story people are telling. This happens for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is a poor customer experience with the product or poor customer service. The brand story is the whole customer experience package – communication, the quality of products and services, customer interactions, visual and social elements. If the experience contradicts the brand platform, then experience and emotion will always win, and you won’t like the story customers tell.
If your market is competitive, then the difference between good customer experience and great customer experience can be very subtle. And current research is proving that an emotional connection with your brand story is a significant revenue driver.
Alignment between the story you want people to tell, and the one they are actually telling is the best investment in marketing that you can make.
Steps you can take to evaluate how your brand platform and story sync up:
- Realize that a brand platform has to keep up with the reality of your business and how your customers talk about what you provide. Completing an annual review of your brand platform is one important way to ensure the best impact.
- Intentional listening is another important activity to organizational leaders. This includes listening in on customer interactions, especially when you can be a silent observer.
- Social media monitoring can give you good insights into the kind of things people are saying – or not saying – about your organization.
- Identify the social media activity of your best customers and pay attention to how you fit into their lives, when and where they share about topics related to your business, and how they communicate.
- Increase the number of conversations that you and your employees have with customers beyond formal customer service discussions. The more your team understands how your product or service fits into the bigger picture of customer lives, the greater the insight you can bring to refining how the brand story you want to tell fits the way in which your customer tells it.