Have you captured your brand story?
Making your brand story authentic and practical.
Brand stories aren't invented, they're captured.
In the beginning, you have a brand, but no story.
What is found in a brand story?
A story team is required.
Capturing your brand story.
Developing a Story Deck™.
In 2020, most organizations understand the power of stories.
We see them everywhere in the advertisements we watch, in the clothes we wear and cars we drive - all sold to us with a story. We know that stories are hardwired into the human brain and represent the best way to communicate.
The problem is, we’re still struggling to make them practical in business and nonprofit life. Aside from telling a story at investor, donor or client presentations, or including testimonials in our marketing, we’re not putting the power of story to work very well.
It’s time we understood where brand stories really come from.
Unlike the talented fiction and screenwriters who craft stories that immerse our imaginations in their narrative, real stories that are authentic and become attached to growing organizations originate somewhere else.
The real brand story for your company or nonprofit is already alive in the wild. It exists in the lives of your customers and the interactions between your staff and those you serve. It is a living, breathing experience that you and your company are working with consumers to create. It begins in your customer experience and, when captured, finds its way back into your marketing, sales and customer service.
We believe that if you can’t find the brand story in the wild, it isn’t really a story at all.
When we begin a company or nonprofit we start with a mission statement and a list of services. We give it a name and create a logo. None of that is yet a brand story. As we serve customers and improve our offerings, paying careful attention to the customer experience, hopefully, a real story begins to emerge. The story begins to emerge in some of the real testimonials that people share (not the ones we prompt), it percolates up in social media posts where people spontaneously mention their experience. If the organization is living out its mission, the brand story comes to life in the customer experience.
How brand stories become real.
One of the best descriptions of this process is expressed in the story by Margery Williams Bianco called The Velveteen Rabbit. In this story, a stuffed rabbit wants to be loved by a child so that it can become real. In learning about how this happens, another toy explains, "’Real isn't how you are made...It's a thing that happens to you...It doesn't happen all at once, You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.’”
When you first launch your organization you have a brand name, brand imagery and services you plan to deliver. You may even have a story you hope to tell in the lives of your customers. That may be your “aspirational brand story” that has yet to become real. If you are paying attention to the customer experience you create, the story you hope to attach to your organization can emerge.
Often, companies slip away from their aspirational brand story, and default into industry-standard methods of portraying their brand.
Disconnected brands never attach to their brand.
Many companies leave their stories out in the cold and never attach them to their brand.
An intentional process of capturing and incorporating your story into your brand has to occur after you have created some real experiences with people. For some companies that are even decades old, they have never connected their story to their brand. As a result, their marketing, sales and customer service are weaker than companies who have integrated an effective brand story.
A brand story is an elevated brand status that can only be earned and not manufactured.
To move from a flat and unstoried brand to a powerful brand story, you have to find your brand in the wild where customers lived and work. There you’ll find the stories that are being told and wrangle them back into your company culture. If you haven’t been listening before this, then you might not like some of the stories you discover and may have to change the way you serve and deliver your products before you finalize your brand story.
Take the quiz: quick Brand Story Evaluation to find out the health of your brand story.
Real stories aren’t a single storyline—they are a collection of related experiences. This is what makes them authentic. A simplistic single story arc doesn’t make an authentic story because it doesn’t reflect reality. When you think of your favorite story, consider all the different points of view and narratives that come together. We sometimes think of that as character development, and the more we see multiple characters come to life with their own story, the more immersive the story becomes.
Creating a Brand Platform can be a quick and easy way for your team to identify themes and key elements that should exists in your brand story. It won't give you a complete picture, but it will formalize ideas and concepts that can bring clarity and direction.
You can then begin the process of aligning your Brand Platform to your brand story.
The George Lucas Effect
George Lucas engineered a new kind of storytelling in the movies that he creates. In his movies, every detail of a shot tells its own story. Think of the famous alien cantina scene or the bazaar that characters run through. Every element of these scenes is telling a story. This makes them more authentic and immersive (more powerful).
In fact, the Lucasfilm Story Group is the gatekeeper for all Star Wars content. This story team, if you will, can define what does and does not carry the Star Wars name.
These principles can be applied to your own imagery, and how you tell your brand story in visual messaging. Learn more about capturing your brand story in photography.
Because customer experience is really what generates brand stories, brand stories by definition have to involve the entire story team: marketing, sales and customer service. They are the ones who introduce, win and support the customer experience. Only when they are working together can a brand story really grow and become effective.
The story team participates together in capturing and supporting the brand story. They are the internal owners of the brand story and that shared ownership has important benefits for the brand story itself and the company culture as well.
If your company is ready to capture your brand story, here are the steps you’ll want to follow:
Gather your story team who become the internal brand story owners
Complete the Story Deck process to capture your brand story
Unleash your brand story throughout your marketing, sales and customer service.
Story Collaborative’s workshop provides a Story Deck™ that will help you to define and implement your brand story. The Story Deck™ helps you develop the ownership and rhythms of the story team and to capture and sustain your brand story.
Learn about the Story Deck Workshop