How to tell Your Brand Story Part 1: The Hero’s Journey

How to Tell a Brand Story

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Like most B2B marketers, you’ve likely heard the buzz around the importance of brand storytelling. Whether you’ve read Donald Miller’s Storybrand or Seth Godin’s quote that “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” you probably know that storytelling is a significant trend in marketing communication.

Why brand storytelling?

Marketers have come to realize that stories evoke emotions and help prospects build relationships with brands. Compelling stories stick in our minds. Lively words, vivid images, emotional takes better connect with our brains. Classic brain: we remember less about what someone said and more about how they made us feel.

Studies support the value of storytelling

A Spanish study in 2006 found that sensory words stimulated the most brain activity. For marketers, this means hooking a prospect for that extra millisecond. A Headstream research study on storytelling determined that people who loved a brand story are

  • 55% more likely to buy
  • 44% more likely to share
  • 15% will buy immediately

A 2019 research study showed that using the StoryBrand marketing approach

  • increases profitability
  • boosts employee confidence in creating marketing messaging
  • saves time and money in developing subsequent marketing collateral

The numbers back up the concept. So what now?

Want to tell your brand story? Where do you start?

Brand Storytelling can be used all along the customer journey, from awareness to advocacy. But where do you start? Since telling your brand story may seem overwhelming, we’ve compiled a framework to get you started.

Getting your overarching brand story right involves many moving parts, so we are drilling down each of the critical considerations and focusing on one piece a week over the next four weeks:

Part 1: Following the Hero’s Journey

Part 2: Examining your USP

Part 3: Connecting the Dots

Part 4: Simplifying for longevity

Think of your brand narrative as a series of stories

Your brand story is composed of one overarching narrative. Once you work it out, you can share versions of it on your website’s homepage, in your PR boilerplate, as your elevator pitch, and as your tagline.

Then there are the short stories that support each of your key benefits. The stories explain why those benefits matter to the prospect. As you know, different people and organizations have different motivations. To resonate with diverse audiences, you can create narratives for each.

You can tell stories about product launches, such as how you’re launching a new solution because your heroes had a problem that you, as the guide, are solving.

You’ve got stories as social proof. Yep, your case studies or testimonials are stories as well. Why do we do testimonials? One, because it proves that our solution will work for similar organizations, and two, they tend to be personal, relatable stories. They bring life and reality to what your brand accomplishes. They tell stories of joy and transformation.

Once you embrace the concept of storytelling, you can up your game and better resonate with prospects and customers because:

  • You’re emotionally connecting with their pain points
  • You’re entertaining them with stories
  • You’re demonstrating that you’re relatable and authentic
  • You’re helping them to remember your brand as they move along on their customer journey

What is the Hero’s Journey?

A key objective of organic content is to join an existing conversation in the prospect’s head—answer the questions that they’re thinking about at a particular step of the customer journey. Brand storytelling conceptually aligns with this notion. You’re joining the prospect’s narrative. Your brand becomes a part of their journey.

The Hero’s Journey is one of the seven to ten basic plots or formulaic structural templates that define every narrative or story that we know. These basic plots apply to novels, films, theatrical plays—essentially all stories as we know them.

In his book StoryBrand, Donald Miller realized that the significant paradigm shift for him was that the story’s hero was the customer, and his company would play the role of guide. Every human intuitively understands a good story and is living their own story. If a company could understand the customer’s story related to a brand, they could stop selling and instead join the existing narrative.

Russell Brunson, co-founder of ClickFunnels and master storyteller, teaches direct response marketers a similar framework called “The Epiphany Bridge Script.” He expands on building rapport with the hero in his script, “The Hero’s 2 Journeys”.

Together these frameworks provide the basis of how you can tell your brand story.

Who is the Hero of the story?

If you want your brand to resonate with customers and prospects, then the first thing you must accept is that the customer is the hero in your story, not your brand. Accepting that your brand is not the hero is a hard lesson for many marketers after spending so much time creating content that makes the brand the center of attention. But don’t despair! The brand plays a vital role as a sidekick.

The guide is the one who helps the hero transform. That’s a pretty magnificent role. You’re Sacagawea to Lewis & Clark. And now you can change the narrative, so you’re no longer selling to a prospect. You’re guiding them to help solve a problem, escape pain, and transform their life.

What is the basic framework you can use to tell your brand story?

  • A character: this is the hero of the story. The more clearly you understand this character, the better. Your ideal prospect. Your best customer persona.
  • Has a problem: this is the problem that your brand solves. When describing this problem, your description must go deeper than “wants to save money” or “wants to get more done.” Reviewing your USP helps here (more on that in Part 2). You need to dig down into what you know about your ideal persona and identify or ascertain the more significant problem—why do they want to save money? How does that help them in their role? For instance, keeping their job or not being called out by the boss is a bigger motivator than getting a promotion. Keep in mind, people are much more likely to take action to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.
  • And meets a guide: this is you, the trusted advisor. Sacagawea. The one with the solution that will help them overcome their problem.
  • Who gives them a plan: this is your brand’s solution, product, service.
  • That calls them to action: This is your call to action. Describe what the hero needs to do to execute this plan. How does the use of your product or service help solve their problem?
  • That results in success: Here is what happens, specifically, when they use your brand. What does success look like on the surface and on a deeper level?
  • And helps them avoid failure: What failure or pain are they averting?
  • Describe the transformation. Recap and describe the hero’s transformation: From (pain) to (joy). Consider the term “digital transformation.” The phrase doesn’t tell us anything about the benefits. But when you say “Frictionless Customer Experience,” you begin to imagine what a digital transformation can actually do.

Simple until you start

Simple, right? It becomes complicated when you try to build it out. Why? Because as marketers, it’s antithetical to how we typically communicate. We’re used to starting with a hook, getting to the point, dropping in stats and benefits, and going for the close. We don’t think as much about eliciting emotions as we communicate, even though the entire entertainment industry has shown us differently. Donald Miller offers a free tool (with login) where you can work through your brandscript draft to get started.

Your prospect wants to be entertained

How will you entertain them? Just like kids around a campfire… with a good story. As Donald Miller explained in his book StoryBrand, “the companies with the best products in the marketplace do not always win. The companies that can tell the best story and communicate clearly with the best story will often win out in the marketplace.”  

How to start your brand’s story today

No matter where your organization is in its history, from startup to legacy megabrand, it’s never too late to tell your story. Going through the exercise alone will sharpen your clarity and solidify your purpose. By telling the story through your customer’s eyes, the true hero of your brand’s story, you will be forced to articulate your USP (unique selling proposition) (the focus of our next blog) and clarify how your solution solves your hero’s problem.

Telling your story is a process. It doesn’t happen in a day. Laying the foundation is heavy work. Once you’ve got the story sketched out, it’s time to start connecting the dots and simplifying your messaging. Then it’s time to get creative to find a way to explain it simply.

Many people skip to the brainstorm to “come up with a tagline” for a brand, a new segment, or product launch. In reality, if you don’t nail WHAT you’re trying to say first, you fall prey to developing creative for creative’s sake. You might tell a good story or have a clever tagline, but if you could swap that line with your competitor, or even worse, with any other company, then you’ve failed to stand out.

And that’s the goal. Tell a story that clarifies why the hero should choose YOU as the guide.

7 baby steps to brand storytelling

Is your organization reticent to “rebrand” with a story? Try a different approach with these seven steps:

  1. Take the time to build your brand story anyway, even if it’s not published on your webpage.
  2. Identify a place where you could use a good story. Where are your communications falling flat? How about your next piece of organic content? Or perhaps to a business vertical in your ABM program? Or as a piece inside your next webinar.
  3. Examine your existing metrics for this place. Set some goals.
  4. Using your overarching brand story and the framework as a guide, tell a story to get your point across. Use the story to highlight a key benefit of your brand. Or a pain point specific to a niche audience. Remember, the framework is tried and true.
  5. Evaluate the impact. A/B test. Compare engagement to your average metrics. For bonus points, track the leads through the funnel to see how they compare to those from other sources.
  6. Use the results to tell more stories throughout your marketing ecosystem.
  7. When the time is right, pull out your overarching story, polish it up as needed, and post.

Next week, we take a deep dive into Part 2 of How to Tell Your Brand Story: Examining Your USP.

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Want to create a brand story but don’t have the current capacity? We can help! Check out our current offer on crystallizing your brand story.

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