THE 9 STEP GUIDE TO TELLING YOUR BRAND STORY

BRANDING

typewriter

CONTENTS

17 min read

It doesn’t have to be Mills & Boon, but your Brand Story needs to get your target audience hook, line and sinker.

Sparking an emotional reaction with your audience, one way or another, some way is key.

So you think your brand is practical, but you can’t see how you can put much emotion behind it?

Think again.

Imagine how frustrating it is for a construction worker. He’s been working outdoors all day in the cold and rain. The cement he’s just laid hasn’t set fast enough and someone has walked right across it, immortalising their size 11 steel toe caps in it.

That’s a day ruiner. (Hint – this is where you step in, stage left.)

At this point you need to start telling your own story. Does your cement dry faster than your competitors?

You need to tell your target audience what problem you are going to solve for them. What stresses do you relieve them of, that your competitors don’t?

That can be anything from cost, to appearance, to efficiency.

Tell them how you are going to change their life, and make them believe it.

The 9 Step Guide to Creating a Brand Story

Your brand story is narrated through everything, from your web copy right through to your customer service.

Weaving this narrative through will mean consumers will care about your brand that little bit more at each brand touchpoint, and reinforce everything you’re trying to do in your brand strategy.

Who is your main character?

All good stories need a relatable main character.

Think Shrek. The grumpy, misunderstood Ogre, that just can’t seem to show people that he has layers ffs.

onions

Don’t be shy about going in and really building up the backstory of your main character. But remember, this isn’t about creating several customer personas like in your brand strategy.

Sure, start with your target audience. Then define them. And define them again.

And again.

Until you’re left with one customer.

Think of your perfect customer that stands within your target audience, the person who really encompasses everything that you want your brand to sell to.

Example: Rachel Smith is a Marketing Team Leader from London. She lives with friends in a rented apartment in a trendy part of East London. She works in a high rise skyscraper in Canary Wharf for Barclays bank. She gets to work via tube, using the Central and Jubilee lines.

What Does your Main Character Want/Need/Desire?

Feel free to flesh this out as much as possible. Unlike when you picked a single individual for your main character, there can be multiple things that your character wants, needs or desires.

It helps to split these into internal (emotional) or external (physical) problems.

Try to flesh out a ‘need’ using both internal and external problems.

Example: There’s a promotion going at Barclays, for Marketing Manager. Rachel worries does she have enough respect from her peers at work to get into that position.

She has been tasked with helping Barclays develop a new website. So she’s on the lookout for a design agency that she can trust, to put forward to create the brand new site of the banking giant. (No pressure Rachel!)

Who is Keeping Your Character From Achieving What They Want?

OK, in Rachel’s situation, there are a few problems she’s facing that are keeping her from achieving her wants, needs and desires.

They aren’t impossible, they aren’t your typical storybook villain (they aren’t even Lord Farquad), but they are roadblocks in the way of her success.

There are 2 main things keeping our heroine, Rachel, from getting what she wants;

  1. Her peers, who she needs to lead on this project and gain their respect and the trust of the board, to put herself in a good position of achieving the promotion to Marketing Manager
  2. She is also battling an overwhelming choice of which agency to go with. London is teeming with agencies that offer branding services who she could easily meet face to face, there’s also an agency in New York that would be a great fit. But, there is an agency in the North East that she is certain could totally nail the brief that she has in mind.

Choosing an agency can be tricky, use our quick start guide to help.

How Does Your Character Overcome the Odds?

All good decisions start with a list.

Rachel got the details of one local, one national and one international agency. She got in touch with them, and noted down details about their budget, and timeframe expectations.

She then made a pros and cons list for each of the agencies with her peers from the team to involve them in the task. She then took this list to the Board with her own recommendation with who to go for, for them to sign off the decision.

The board agreed, the North East based branding agency actually made the most sense to go for. Naturally 😉

What is The Outcome?

Rachel tackled her roadblocks head on. By going through this process, which ended with taking a thought out decision to the board and hiring the International design team, she has overcome both her internal and external problems.

Her internal problem was solved by involving the team in her thought process. By asking for and taking on board their opinions and thoughts on each of the design agencies, she gained their trust and respect of her colleagues.

woman leading a meeting

She also impressed the board with her management style, and they respected her ability to make decisions after taking all angles into account.

She has now started working with the North East design agency, which solved the external problem.

What transformation did your character go through?

Think of the emotional change that occurred in your main character, once they solved their internal and external problems.

Rachel went from being unsure, and underestimated by the team, to feeling respected and that her decisions we’re listened to and confident in her choices and leading style.

She went from feeling like she had no support and needed to gain respect and trust, to having the full backing of both her team and of the Board. She also created a new working relationship and contacts with the International design agency.

From timid to confident in her own leadership and decision making abilities, with the backing of a large network of colleagues.

Now Write the Story Down in Full

Now, this can be the tricky part. Take each part of your story that we’ve worked on above, and put it all together, to show the full process that your main character has gone through from start to finish.

Rachel Smith is a Marketing Executive from London. She lives with friends in a rented apartment in a trendy part of East London. She works in a high rise skyscraper in Canary Wharf for Barclays bank. She gets to work via tube, using the Central and Jubilee line.

There’s a promotion going at Barclays, for Marketing Manager. Rachel believes she has the skills to do the job, but worries if she has enough respect from her peers at work, and also the Board, to be put into that role.

An opportunity has arisen; Barclay’s needs a new website. Rachel put herself forward to lead on the task of helping to develop the new site. So now she’s on the lookout for a top notch design agency that she can trust, to put forward to the Board and create the brand new website for the banking giant.

There are 2 things keeping Rachel from what she wants. She feels worried about not having the full support of her colleagues, who she needs to lead on this project and gain their respect, and more importantly the trust of the Board, to put herself in a good position of achieving the promotion to Marketing Manager.

Rachel is also battling an overwhelming choice of which design agency to go with for the new website, making the wrong choice could be a disaster and would cost her the promotion. London is teeming with agencies that she could easily meet face to face, there’s also an agency in New York that would be a great fit. But, there is an agency in the North East that she is certain could totally nail the brief that she has in mind.

There’s lots of different things to factor and it’s confusing!

How does she go about making this choice?

Rachel did some research and got the details of one local, one national and one international agency. She got in touch with all 3 of them, and noted down details about their budget, company ethos and timeframe expectations.

She then asked the marketing team for their thoughts on each design agency, and together they created a pros and cons list for each of the agencies, involving them in the task and taking their opinions on board.

Rachel then took this list to the Board, and noted her own recommendation out of the 3 design agencies, for them to sign off the final decision. The Board agreed with Rachel, the agency from the North East had the best pitch and made the most sense to go for.

Her internal problem was solved by involving the team in her thought process, but showing the Board that she had taken the lead with decision making. By genuinely taking on board the rest of the team’s opinions on each of the design agencies, she gained their trust and respect of her colleagues.

She also impressed the Board with her people skills and great management style, and they respected her ability to make a strong decision after taking all angles into account.

She has now started working with the Northern design agency, which solved her external problem.

Rachel went from feeling unsure and underestimated at work, to having the full backing of both her team and of the Board. feeling respected and confident in her choices and leading style. She also created a new working relationship and contacts with the design agency from the North East.

From timid and unsure, to confident in her own leadership and decision making abilities, with the backing of a large network of colleagues, and a solid candidate for the promotion.

Now, we have to reverse engineer this story, into a story about your business and how you can help your customers.

In our example, Canny Creative is the North East design agency that Sarah chose. So how did we help her reach the decision to choose us?

Let’s highlight key points in the story:

Rachel Smith is a Marketing Executive from London. She lives with friends in a rented apartment in a trendy part of East London. She works in a high rise skyscraper in Canary Wharf for banking giant, Barclays. She gets to work via tube, using the Central and Jubilee line.

There’s a promotion going at Barclays, for Marketing Manager. Rachel believes she has the skills to do the job, but worries if she has enough respect from her peers at work, and also the Board, to be put into that role.

An opportunity has arisen; Barclay’s needs a new website. Rachel put herself forward to lead on the task of helping to develop the new site. So now she’s on the lookout for a top notch design agency that she can trust, to put forward to the Board and create the brand new website for the bank.

There are 2 things keeping Rachel from what she wants. She feels worried about not having the full support of her colleagues, who she needs to lead on this project and gain their respect, and more importantly gain the trust of the Board, to put herself in a good position of achieving the promotion to Marketing Manager.

Rachel is also battling an overwhelming choice of which design agency to go with for the new website, making the wrong choice could be a disaster and would cost her the promotion. London is teeming with agencies that she could easily meet face to face, there’s also an agency in New York that would be a great fit. But, there is an agency in the North East that she is certain could totally nail the brief that she has in mind.

There’s lots of different things to factor and it’s confusing! How does she go about making this choice?

Rachel did some research and got the details of one local, one national and one international agency. She got in touch with all 3 of them, and noted down details about their budget, company ethos and timeframe expectations.

She then asked the marketing team for their thoughts on each design agency, and together they created a pros and cons list for each of the agencies, involving them in the task and taking their opinions on board.

Rachel then took this list to the Board, and noted her own recommendation out of the 3 design agencies, for them to sign off the final decision. The Board agreed with Rachel, the agency from the North East had the best pitch and made the most sense to go for.

Her internal problem was solved by involving the team in her thought process, but showing the Board that she had taken the lead with decision making. By genuinely taking on board the rest of the team’s opinions on each of the design agencies, she gained the trust and respect of her colleagues.

She also impressed the Board with her people skills and great management style, and they respected her ability to make a strong decision after taking all angles into account.

She has now started working with the North East design agency, which solved her external problem.

Rachel went from feeling unsure and underestimated at work, to having the full backing of both her team and of the Board. Feeling respected and confident in her choices and leading style. She also created a new working relationship and contacts with the design agency from the North East.

From timid and unsure, to confident in her own leadership and decision making abilities, with the backing of a large network of colleagues, and a solid candidate for the promotion.

We’ve shown you how, now do the same to your story. Think, how can YOU help the customer overcome their roadblocks and achieve what they want.

Now List Out the Key Beats

First things first, what are key beats?

The key beats are the key points that we’ve highlighted in the story above that needed attention or actions to overcome.

The key beats from our story are;

  1. Marketing Executive from a top bank in London, looking to get promoted to Marketing Manager
  2. Her company needs a new website
  3. Needs to find a trustworthy design agency
  4. Needs to win over the trust of her colleagues and the Board
  5. Has to consider budget and timeframe
  6. Overwhelming choice of agencies
  7. Wants to be confident in making the right decision.

Now make a list of your own key beats, but try not to pick more than 10. Keep it simple and concise.

Rewrite the Story Using the Key Beats

Now, we’ve rewritten the story from Canny’s perspective, using the key beats as a framework.

Canny Creative helps ambitious Marketing Managers create websites that your customers will love! (Your board of directors will love them too!)

As we know board approval can always be a challenge at financial firms, we’ve designed a streamlined process that helps you get decisions faster.

Other agencies work with anyone and everyone, but we only work with top finance firms!

Therefore, we have a wide range of experience in designing law firm websites that are on budget, on time, and get results.

This is an abridged version of Rachel’s story, and is positioned to address each of her pain points. This is our Brand Story.

We’re saying:

  • We’re here to help people exactly like you
  • We understand your pain points and have a solution
  • We’re specialists in your field, and can show you a wide range of examples
  • Not only will we be on budget, and on time, but we’ll also get results!
  • There’s also an element of exclusivity in saying “we only work with…”

This Brand Story positions Canny Creative as the sensible choice. It tells the story, and hits all of the story beats for our character, and more importantly, puts the benefits above everything else.

So what are you waiting for, take your characters pain points and write your own brand story!

Let’s go through a brand story you may be familiar with.

TOMS shoes. You’ve most probably seen people wearing these in summer. They’re the ultimate holiday shoe.

toms shoes

You also may know about their ‘One for One’ selling format. You may not know that TOMS stands for ‘Tomorrow’s Shoes’. Read on to find out why.

TOMS story started when Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur who appeared on the TV show ‘Amazing Race’, revisited Argentia after traveling through it briefly during the tv show.

While in Argentina, he soon noticed that many people in the country wore this one certain style of shoe. Super versatile, super simple.

This got the cogs in his entrepreneurial brain whirring, could there be a market for this back home in the US?

On the same trip he got talking to a volunteer, who told him about the stark reality of how many children were living in poverty in Argentina, who didn’t actually own a pair of shoes.

The organisation she volunteered for worked to provide shoes for these children, but as they relied on donations, the process could be sporadic and unreliable, with many children still going without because the charity did not have enough shoes to go around.

Blake decided to travel with the charity and visit the villages and children that were in need. He witnessed first hand the painful injuries, infections the children encountered due to not having any shoes. Living barefoot also had a huge impact on how they were able to live, socially, where they were able to go and what they were able to do.

Blake was motivated to create a solution for these children. He had a history of starting his own businesses, and decided that he was going to sell Argentinian alpagarta style shoes back home in the USA, and for every pair he sold he would donate a pair to children in need.

Back home in America, the story soon caught traction and buyers were captivated by the story behind the brand.

The press then caught wind of it and the story of TOMS ended up on the pages of the fashion powerhouses such as Vogue, Elle and even Time magazine. Major retailers then rushed to make orders and get the brand into their stores.

The TOMS brand story sparked an emotional reaction that inspired magazines to write about them, global retailers wanted to stock them and ultimately, customers wanted to buy them. They cared about the cause, so they cared about the brand.

TOMS has now provided over 60 million pairs of shoes for children, and have also branched out into other products while always keeping consistent with their ‘One for One’ ethos.

Conclusion : 13 Step Guide to telling your brand story

Accurately creating and telling your brand story gives your target audience a chance to warm to you, and care enough to buy from your brand over your competitors.

If they are able to align themselves with the main character in your story, that will keep you in that front of mind position when they come to buy.

Have you created your brand story? How has it helped your customers relate to your brand and vice versa?