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Hope Felton-Miller September 29, 2017 No Comments

Marketers are in love with storytelling, and for good reason. Human beings are hardwired to listen to, connect with, learn from – and most importantly, remember – stories.

Just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature – a face, a figure, a flower – and in sound, so too it detects patterns in information. Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns, we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise,” according to Frank Rose, writing in Wired.

So as marketers, we focus on telling stories in our content marketing, in advertising, in our presentations. But there is one important story that your firm may be neglecting: your brand story.

As Bernadette Jiwa explains, “A brand story is more than a narrative. The story goes beyond the copy on your website, the text in a brochure, or the presentation used to pitch to investors. Your story isn’t just what you tell people. It’s what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings, and interpretations, which means that part of your story isn’t even told by you.”

Beyond brand attributes and positioning, beyond brand strategy, your brand story is bigger than any of those. Including your history and heritage, your mission, and your values, your brand story explains your reason for being. This story is a richly detailed and emotive connection to your customers. Because your brand story is bigger than your current brand strategy, it delivers these important benefits:

  • Customer experience. Your brand story connects with and reflects your customers’ values, and as such becomes part of the experience of consuming your product or service. An example of this is Ritz Carlton. Despite being part of the global Marriott hotel chain, staying at the Ritz comes with the history of elegance, fine living, sophisticated and well-to-do ladies and gentlemen, and excellent service that has been part of the brand for decades. The Ritz brand story is significantly different from the story evoked by the Marriott brand.
  • Competitive Advantage. One of the challenges in maintaining competitive advantage is staying ahead of competitors’ attempts to copy and catch up. Because your brand story cannot be credibly copied it is unique to your brand, like a fingerprint. Your brand story may well be one of your only sources of competitive advantage that cannot be replicated by your competitors.
  • Differentiation. A strong brand story can give a commodity product a differentiation. For example, in Atlanta, there is a brand of chicken that uses local restaurant chefs to talk about how they use the chicken in their farm-to-table menus. Springer Mountain Chicken does not focus on how it is different than other chicken, but leverages the local, farm-to-table quality of these restaurants for its brand story.
  • Constant Evolution. Your brand story is not static. Neither are you the sole owner of your brand story. Brand stories evolve and grow, are added to and interpreted by your customers, your employees and partner, and others. Every time a story is told to another, it gains something new in the telling because a brand has an ongoing relationship with its public with a two-way influence between brand and its audience. Especially now through the power and pervasiveness of social media, everything that happens can have an impact on and change your brand story.

So, what’s your brand story?

There may be parts of your brand story that you don’t understand, or that you may have indeed forgotten. Or you may be assuming a brand story that has in fact, evolved. The first step in telling your brand story must be to discover it as it is today through research.

While each project has its own requirement and therefore its own research design, there are two main sources of brand story information: secondary research and qualitative research. Secondary research, as we use it here, goes beyond data collected for some other purpose, and includes a wide range of sources in the sciences and humanities. Secondary research into history, art, archeology, literature, and much more, allows you to understand what has been documented about your brand and category, its history and heritage, and how that connects to your customers deep and motivating values. Qualitative research can help you understand how your brand story has been told, how it is now being evolved and renewed in new telling, and how it connects with your customers to motivate behavior. It is important to periodically conduct qualitative research to listen to others tell your brand story.

Your brand story is a powerful tool in your marketing efforts. It may be challenging or difficult, but you owe it to your brand to uncover its story. Your competitors cannot compete with or copy your brand story – it is uniquely yours. And, as we discussed in our recent blog on motivation (How to Uncover Marketing Gold), if it truly touches consumer values and motivates their behavior, that is a powerful competitive advantage that you should not neglect.

Discover your Brand Story! Contact Felton Willis today.

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