I’m fascinated by the psychology of brands. The fact that people can grow to love a product or service so devoutly is amazing, and over my 10+ years of being a brand builder the one consistent thread that binds all those loved businesses is their ability to draw consumers into their stories.
Human beings can be rational and appreciate functional benefits. We can judge which kitchen cleaner destroys grease best or which car gets the best gas mileage. We can make balanced, well thought out purchase decisions. And while these functional benefits may drive purchase, we will never fall in love with or become loyal to brands that put those factors at the forefront.
And yet, so many companies still use these on the nose tactics to promote and persuade. They insist on focusing on how their products or services outdo their competitors. The key word here is “how” as this is the point at which many businesses stop in their communication strategies. They start by telling consumers “what” they do and then move on to “how” they do it so much better than anyone else. What they fail to address is “why”. Why should a consumer choose you?
A brand story is the essence of your brand identity and defines your reason for existence. It is the narrative that elevates your business from simply providing a product to doing something that actually matters. The brand story gathers up all the hows and the whats about your business and interlaces them with the emotional side of your brand: the why. Why do you do what you do? How did your business get here? What great problem are you out to solve? What space does your business want to occupy in the world? All of these answers provide fuel for the fire that you want to ignite in consumers’ hearts for your brand.
What happens to brands that create compelling stories?
I have seen people love brands beyond any sense of reason, and this isn’t (only) because they love how well the products work. People develop an emotional connection with your brand because of every little story that builds your overarching brand story.
Brand stories build brand advocates. I may tell one or two people about the kitchen spray I discovered that can finally get dried Wheetbix crud off my counter, but I will tell many more than that if the company that makes the kitchen spray is also adamant about creating products that are environmentally safe so they can do their part to save our planet. That’s a story that resonates with me. That’s something I can truly care about.
How do I create a brand story?
The first step is to stop thinking of it as creation, and regard it more as assimilation. Your brand story is already there, buried in your journey to starting a business. Your job is to extract it now by thinking about the very reason you started this business in the first place and why it matters. Once you understand the why for yourself, then you can begin to communicate it consistently to an audience that will hopefully care about this “why” as well.