If you think about it, there’s a story in just about everything. How we came to be, the things that have happened to us along the way, how our relationships have formed. We have lots of different relationships; with our partners, friends and families, with colleagues and suppliers. Brands are another relationship that we have. Where once upon a time we might have said that we have relationships with brands, nowadays the brand itself is becoming the relationship. We expect so much more out of the brands we interact with today, but in return we are willing to engage on a much deeper level, moving from one-dimensional transactions to holistic experiences.
Just like any relationship, brands should be cultivated and managed over time. When you meet a person for the first time you normally ask them questions about themselves and you use this information to form an opinion. The sharing of information is equally as important for brands, and a significant aspect of how brands become relationships is through storytelling.
So why don’t some brands tell their stories?
I think it comes down to the fact that so many businesses are focused on what they are doing and how they do it that they forget brands are relationships that need constant attention. A finely tuned business isn’t any good if there are no customers to buy its services.
Today’s consumers want to know more about the brands they are interacting with. They want to understand how it came to be, the people behind it, values and ethics. A brand that tells a genuine, rich story with honesty is far more attractive than a nameless, faceless business with no apparent purpose or personality. A brand that tells its story well connects emotionally with its customers, taking them on a journey, establishing deeper, more meaningful relationships that go far beyond sales. This type of relationship is brand utopia – long lasting and fruitful.
A strong brand story will help define an organisation’s proposition and establish relevance to its target audience. No brand is able to be all things to all people and if you apply the 80/20 rule (as in 80% of revenue is generated by 20% of customers), then it’s best to be genuine and true to your purpose when articulating your brand story, with a proposition that caters predominantly to your best (20%) customers. Watering down your proposition to suit a wider audience runs the risk of not engaging anyone, and if you do want to widen your target audience, there are plenty of other branding options to assist with this.
Authenticity is such a key point these days and consumers are much more acutely aware of brands that are genuine and those that are not. With so much choice, the power has shifted to the consumer and they now look for brands that align with their own personal values. This means that storytelling is not just important, its essential. If the brand story is authentic, genuine and well-crafted, it’s much more likely to resonate and align with what the customer feels, values and is looking for. And it better facilitates the shift towards the brand being the relationship.
The best types of brand story are those that close the loop on what the story actually means for the customer. So while it’s great to craft a story about a brand’s history and why it came about, there must still be meaning for the customer. How does the experience and knowledge held within the organisation enrich the lives of its customers? How could this relationship fulfil its customers’ wants or needs? Where does the brand story intersect with the customers’ own stories?
Always think of your brand as a relationship – something that has the ability to become embedded in people’s lives. This is something that happens over time through constant nurturing, open communication and transparency, a sense of belonging, shared interests and reflected values. And just like the story behind each of us, there is richness and history within each brand. So take a leaf out of Willy Wonka’s book and open the gates – share your brand’s unique story.