Creative Best Practices Social Media

Savvy Brand Storytelling

Posted by Tom Shapiro on March 11th, 2014 at 6:50 am

Want to be a branding ninja? A branding all-star? A branding supernova? Start with a story!

Better yet, start with a storytelling strategy. Who are you trying to be? What are you trying to do? Whom are you trying to help? Woven into every stellar brand story is a notion of what your company stands for and how your solutions meet buyer needs. Moreover, the goal of brand storytelling is to communicate these points indirectly, actively and effectively. Ernest Hemingway once said, “Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.” In other words, show – don’t tell – the world just how compelling your story really is! (tweet this)

Every brand has a story. It’s your job to extract it and communicate it in a compelling way. Your story is what sets you apart from competitors, and can never truly be replicated. (tweet this)

A story is an ongoing conversation where each piece of content and each interaction are connected to the next. You want your customers to stick with you for the long haul, so stop communicating with them via separate, singular statements. Instead, connect the dots to create an ongoing storyline that captures your customers’ attention and drives a single outcome. Use your unique story to build trust with customers and make them feel something powerful when they think of your brand.

"Stop telling the world about your features and start telling the world about how it actually connects to somebody." – Emily Olson LaFave, Co-founder,

Stories Make Your Message Stick

Teaming up with Toshiba in 2012, Intel developed a social film, The Beauty Inside, which amazingly conveys Intel’s “core” message (i.e. what's inside counts) without ever delving into commercially-boring chat about computer chips and microprocessors. Thinking way outside the B2B marketing box, Intel created a story-based experience that appealed to customers in an innovative way. The film allowed audiences to be interactive on social media, adding to the narrative in real time.

In an interview with AdAge, Intel Marketing Manager Billie Goldman said, “It all comes down to the exchange of value with the audience. If you're giving them something of value, then it's a winner. Also taking risks is a good thing. We need to do more of that – the audience rewards you for it.” That’s true. The film earned 23 awards and touched the hearts of millions of viewers.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin (tweet this!)

Involve the Audience

Give your audience a starring role in your story. Ask questions. Make your content interactive. Launch a contest on social media. Give them a reason to engage with your brand. Just remember, if it feels like marketing, no one will share it for you. Storytelling works because, when executed correctly, your sales pitch is nowhere in sight. (tweet this)

Think of Esurance, which earlier this year solidified its image as “a company that saves you money” by airing a perfectly timed commercial immediately after the Super Bowl, paying 30% less for air time as a result, and giving away those savings ($1.5M) to one lucky winner who tweeted using hashtag #Esurancesave30. This stunt has inextricably linked Esurance to the idea of “saving money.” Mission accomplished. And while Esurance’s story was certainly compelling (Hello, million-dollar prize!), more intriguing is how the brand attracted an audience engaged enough to keep listening even after the winner was announced: the company’s Twitter following has since gown by 1585%!

Follow Esurance’s lead and tell a story to help customers see past your marketing exterior and actually relate to your brand. By creating content that holds meaning for customers, you can form a two-way connection with your audience where you both benefit from the relationship. Isn’t that nice!

Get Started

Not ready to make your directorial debut or give away a fortune? There are many other ways to reach your audience.

  • Start with a business blog, the perfect platform to articulate your story and express your brand personality through text, design and graphics.
  • Host small, local events that allow your team to bring your story to life in a highly personal way.
  • Create ancillary “behind the scenes” products that reveal your core values. Both IDEO and Basecamp are good examples of companies where the executive leadership continually releases books to share their philosophies on business.
  • Amp up your ‘About Us’ page to tell customers everything they need to know about you – straight from the horse’s mouth. Highlight your employees; they are, after all, central characters in your brand story.
  • Allow your personality to shine through on your social media accounts.
  • How about rebranding your office so that your brand story comes through in a vibrant, compelling way for all visitors?
  • You can even inject your story in your advertising.
  • And remember good ol’ word of mouth. Make sure all of your employees know your brand story and are communicating it to others.

Storytelling Dos

  1. Be personal in recounting your history.
  2. Make your company and people relatable.
  3. Use your brand story everywhere. Tell your story across multiple channels.
  4. Captivate readers with the element of surprise. (Make it fun for them to retell your story!)
  5. Make your story visual through videos, images, slides and infographics.

Storytelling Don’ts

  1. Don’t make it all about you.
  2. Don’t talk about your company in the third person.
  3. Don’t make it emotionless.
  4. Don’t be fake.
  5. Don’t be boring.

Whatever you do, make sure to keep your audience on the edge of their seats asking, “…and then what happened?”. Once you have their attention – keep it!

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