What is a brand story? Does your business need one? How to build your brand story? Let’s figure it all out.
So you’ve started a business.
You know what you’re going to sell, and whom you are going to sell it to. You’ve been labouring for months, and you are finally ready to take your baby from the design board and prototypes to the final product.
But wait? Aren’t you missing something? Have you given a thought to the marketing aspect of it? Have you considered how you are planning to build your brand story?
Wait, what? You don’t know what that is?!
Well, it’s about time you learn, because brand storytelling is one of the most immersive, profitable ways to market your product.
And in this guide, I am going to take you through the step-by-step process of building your own.
What Is A Brand Story?
A brand story is “…a cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand.” [via Echo Stories]
While traditional marketing focuses on a show-and-tell template, a brand story (indeed, like any story) is only as good as the emotional response it inspires.
You see, humans are drawn to storytelling. It is one of the oldest traditions of our species, and we continue to find ourselves being pulled by the magnet of stories. And that is why your brand needs to have a story too!
We are naturally geared to understand narratives because we express our own histories in that form. And being geared towards them makes it easy to connect with them when we find them out in the wild.
That’s exactly what your brand story should do as well—build a world, immerse the consumer in it, and give them the ability to participate in the storytelling process!
Cafe Coffee Day Case Study: Consumers Are Implicitly Drawn To Experiences
If you are of a certain age, you might remember the Cafe Coffee Day boom. This company revolutionised coffee shop culture in India with one simple trick: it wasn’t just offering coffee. It was offering a place to hangout.
Usually, when you go to an eatery, you are aware that you have to enter, purchase, consume, and exit. Not in CCD, though. Here, you enter (preferably with friends). Everyone orders one item. And then you get to pretty much chill for as long as you want.
And you could tell that they wanted this to happen, because every CCD outlet had visual and textual prompts which encouraged this. Images of young people, laughing and enjoying coffee and snacks, chatting. They were hep boys and girls, dressed in the casual cool clothing of the mid-noughties, looking like they were having the time of their life.
Eventually, they got Wi-Fi and fancy Lounges, and basically anything to promote the idea that you come here for a good time and a long time. That was the CCD brand story.
And if you notice, coffee shops that followed took this cue. The same story plastered across walls: young people, enjoying coffee, chatting, working. By 2010, the CCD brand experience was the universal coffee shop experience in India.
And most importantly, they did most of this implicitly. No one openly said, “Come and sit here forever.” No, they just implied that bit. And we caught on.
That’s the power of brand storytelling. If you build it well enough, people will be drawn to the world through the emotional core it represents.
The emotional core of CCD was that there was finally a cool, non-shady place for the youth to hangout in. And it worked.
The Brand Story Is As Good As Its Emotional Core
A brand story builds the bridge between brands and the emotional need it is attempting to fill in its consumers.
An emotional core serves a few important purposes:
1. Meaning-making: It gives a depth to your product, which in itself simply fulfills its duty. This depth becomes a foundation on which the brand story, and sometimes the brand itself, rests.
2. Ubiquity: Turning your brand into a keyword is very hard, but getting even partially to that point is a success in today’s market. Maybe your business might not be the Xerox of the photocopying world (i.e., synonymous). But it could become the Coca-Cola of the soft drink one (i.e. related or adjacent)!
3. Brand loyalty: When you make a product, you want people to keep coming back for more. Retaining customers is one of the biggest advantages of a strong emotional core. For example, people continue to use FeviStik, despite there being numerous new additions to the gluestick market in India.
4. Image-building: A positive emotional correlation to your brand creates a positive image of it, which in turns affects the way consumers interact with it.
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How To Build Your Brand Story
A brand story answers some of the most important questions when it comes to your business. Let’s tick them off.
What Is Your Mission?
You need to be able to succinctly articulate the objectives and ambitions of your business.
A mission statement should list out what you primarily aim to do, and why. It is an umbrella statement for who you are as a brand.
For example, the Kool Kanya mission is to “…create a nurturing ecosystem for women to connect with each other and build careers they love.”
A good mission statement describes:
- What the platform wishes to do.
- Why they wish to do it.
- How they aim to achieve it.
When the time for branding comes, your business needs to be able to do the same.
It should also encompass future plans. Take the Kool Kanya mission statement: it covers the various ways in which the platform has expanded over the last year. This is because it describes the goals of the company in a way that visualises future developments.
Who Is Your Audience?
A good story can only come out if it has good characters, and your customers are the characters in your brand story.
You need to understand them demographically, and then further break that demographic down into personas. Who, in generic terms, are the people who will want to consume your product?
Other good sub-questions to ask include:
- What other brand experiences do they enjoy?
- What are they interested in, and how can the brand weave itself into the fabric of those interests?
- What do they avoid, even when it is designed to cater to them?
Knowing your audience means knowing where in their lives your product would fit in.
Remember the CCD example? They found success in their intended audience, because young people in urban Indian cities were struggling to find a non-shady place to chill. That’s where their brand fit in, and it worked well for many years.
Who Are Your Competitors?
Doing a competitor analysis can help in two ways. First, it helps you understand their successes and failures. Second, it shows you what they do, and gives you an idea of what you should do differently.
This isn’t about rivalry, per se. This is about making sure that your brand story is unique, and stands out from the crowd.
Take a look at how your competitors engage with their audience, what they advertise as their USPs, and how they use their voice on digital platforms.
Use this analysis to learn, and of course, grow your brand uniquely.
What Sort Of Sentiment Do You Want To Build?
There was a time when poster and newspaper ads worked well. And there was a time when billboard and television ads were the thing to do. But all of these forms of advertisements were too distinct from the customer.
In the digital-first age, a brand has to fit itself into the puzzle of a consumer’s life without towering over them like a billboard. You have to be included in their lifestyle.
You do that by building a relationship with them. Whether it is one that is quirky and funny, like Kurkure, or hard-hitting and honest, like The Hindu.
How Do You Plan To Engage With Them, Human-To-Human?
Engaging with your consumers is a one-on-one experience in the era of social media. It can be done in a number of ways, especially with so many social platforms at our fingertips.
1.Brands can choose to build parasocial relationships with their customers, through humorous and meme-worthy interactions on Twitter. Or they can put their employees as the face of their brand, to inspire empathy.
2. They can create campaigns that have social impact, such as Puma’s Propah Lady. Or they can involve influencers as their major advertisers, which happens annually during the Myntra End Of Reason Sale.
3. Also, remember coupon books for fast food chains like Domino’s? Now, these brands circumvent by involving customers to become the advertisers themselves, by asking them to post something on their social media to avail a discount.
So there you have it… all the building blocks you need to sketch out a strong brand story which will carve out a fresh, unique path for your business.
Go forth, answer these questions and ponder upon these ideas, and become a bestselling author with your brand story!