Storytelling might seem like something that your start-up can do without—there are other things, you may feel, that require your funds and your effort more—but it is vital and cannot be neglected. Before entering the market with your product or service, it is essential that you build a story around it. Why? Because people connect best with stories.
A pretty prominent philosopher named Walter Fisher even said that a effective communication occurs in the form of narrative or storytelling, and he has millennia of history to back them up. From passing stories and events down through oral traditions to written ones, human beings have always recorded their experiences narratively. History, in fact, is a form of fact-based narrative. But, instead of thinking broadly, lets look at something closer to home. Think about the most effective ways in which you share information— with your children, your relatives, your spouse, your colleagues, your students, your friends—and you’ll notice that more often than not, you’re telling stories.
Human beings are story-telling animals.
Dove knows this, and did a great job building a story around “Real Beauty” for women. Let’s break it down as see what they did.
Dove realizes that women are increasingly tired of unattainable beauty standards see in magazines. They are air-brushed and photoshopped, and promote body dimensions that may actually be unhealthy. They see ordinary women talking about it, they see celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence speak up about it.
Dove looks at their brand, which is about beauty. And they decide to rebrand slightly by crafting a “Real Beauty” campaign. Statistics showed that less than 5% of the women in the world felt beautiful, and they decided to rebrand the product so that it appealed to ALL women, especially the 95% who didn’t feel beautiful by conventional beauty standards.
They launch the “Real Beauty” campaign. They have ads, signage, digital ads, videos, print, everything. They use ordinary women as models. They use women of all sizes and skin tones as models. They use women who look like their customers. They even use their customers in their branding.
By setting themselves up against the trend of “fake” beauty standards, Dove managed to work with customers who were tired of being sold beauty products to make them beautiful. Dove told them they were already beautiful. They inserted themselves into a larger narrative about beauty by challenging beauty norms.
So, in the end, did Dove customers buy the product or the story? We think it was the story.
Clearly, narrative is powerful, and clearly, you need it. So how do you go about building one? Here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind
When coming up with a brand story, it’s really important to come up with something that everyone on your team can get behind, even your technologist and financial advisor. Get talking to people in your start-up and figure out exactly what people think about the product you are creating, and what they think the story should be. While the story matters, it matters much more that everyone is behind it 100%.
Even writers get this advice, and it’s good advice—always write what you know. Whatever the story behind your start-up, it has to be authentic. Maybe you’re opening an organic grocery store because you realized that organic products are not readily available, and you wanted your kids to start eating healthy. That’s a great place to start.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t have a good “origin story”. It doesn’t matter, because most brands don’t. In these cases, this story needs to be about how your product impacts lives. Maybe you produce innovate and cost effective copper wiring. Copper wiring goes in homes, and needs to be safe. Copper wiring is installed by professionals who depend on its quality for the quality of their own business. These are places from where you can pull stories about your product. Remember, the story will resonate so long as it is authentic.
Consumers generally have a short attention span for business communication, whether it’s a billboard, a TV ad, or a brochure. They won’t engage with your brand story if it has the intricacies of the Lord of the Rings. Epic fiction with a whole host of characters and innumerable plot details has a space in literature, but not in marketing. Make sure that your story is streamlined and easy to follow. It is possible to pack in a lot of emotion and messaging into an uncluttered script. Less will always be more when coming up with your brand story.
Have you seen the Budweiser puppy commercials? They’re amazing, and each ad is a part of a story. Your brand story has to be something that’s ongoing. If your story ends, so does your brand. Make sure that you’re always adding to the story that you come up with. Adding to the narrative is essential.
Make sure that every piece of advertising and communication your produce ties in with your story. Your story should also be a part of your organization. People who work with you should know it, and should introduce your start-up using it.
Once you develop a story for your brand, it can end up being your greatest asset. Get started on your branding story today.