If you’re curious about how to write a brand story, keep reading … because like it or not, your brand’s story is already out there: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is,” Scott Cook said.
So? Let’s make sure you have a say in crafting that narrative. 🙂
Millennials like me (maybe you, too!) sit at a peculiar fork in the road as it comes to media and storytelling (thus writing in general): we grew up on classic Disney and bedtime stories, but learned how to craft conversational stories on AOL Instant Messenger and chat rooms.
We learned to diagram sentences with a ballpoint pen—which was juxtapositioned with breaking all those same rules with short texts and wall posts.
But there’s one thing that sticks through all the medium shifts:
“Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life. There’s no escaping stories, or the pressures to tell them.” – The New Yorker
A good story grows trust, authentically amplifies strengths, and builds brand momentum.
Simply put, purchase power is a way of saying “when your story aligns with my worldview, we have something to discuss.”
Storytelling is a business buzzword, duh.
But I HATE vague, etheral business terms … give me the practical and bite-size takeaways, please. 🙂
Today, I’m drilling down how to ACTUALLY implement storytelling in your creative small business—starting with WHY you would want to do that in the first place.
I’m giving you a quick rundown on crafting your signature brand story, and showing you brand storytelling examples in action for your swipe file.
What is Your Brand Story?
Let’s back it up and define what in the heck “brand story” means. Story leads are hot—look at the top offers of products out there, they’re story-driven. <<< aka you may not even realize when brands are using story to market to you, it feels so naturally persuasive.
When I work with clients & students, we try to identify these 3 signature brand stories that they need to have back-pocketed as they market their business.
✖️ Your origin story, how it is that you fell in love with what you do
✖️ Your a-ha moment, the moment you saw a need & realized you could fill it by serving your prospect (when did you find the “you” shaped gap in the market)
✖️ A testimonial or transformation story that your client can see themselves in
Here’s the kicker: You have relay these stories in a way that allows *me* to be the star of the show. Marketing storytelling looks a lot less like YOU being the hero … and more like you being the guide to your client as the hero. You’re coming in to assist her on her path to greatness.
This is where people seem to mess up BUT I’ve got 3 tips to help you with just that. 🙂
*Before* we jump into those 3 brand story creation tips, let’s back up and talk through WHY story sells.
3 Pillars of *Why* Story Sells
These are the 3 reasons why sharp, story-centered copy matters. In all three, I think you’ll see the overarching theme: narrative marketing feels less “pitchy” than direct sales copy … which a lot of creatives are more comfy with.
Reason No. 1 | We’re moths to the flame (even subconsciously) for conflict, risk, and adventure.
We don’t like boring chick flicks (Well, we DO like predictable when we don’t “want to think.” Right?! The Bachelor, anyone? I put it on because I do zero thinking.). We want the knight in shining armor to fight for us. We want to be the hero that came out on top and survived the struggle.
Storytelling permeates the fibers of our humanity so deeply that the practice predates farming and agricultural practices. In fact, storytelling is so innate, that you likely spend 30-50% of your day daydreaming (not counting the moments spent in pillow-rested, silk eye-mask dreams!) according to a Harvard study.
And, interestingly, when you ARE soaking up a Netflix binge, according to studies, your brain is most likely *not* daydreaming … why? Because the screen does it for you.
“Long before the first formal business was established … the six most powerful words in any language were, ‘Let me tell you a story.’” – Mathews & Wacker, What’s Your Story
Those facts fascinate me. Somewhere between one third and half of my day, my brain’s wheels churn & daydream. I heard somewhere that’s a survival tactic, and it makes sense: I can plan for what can happen in the future when I allow my mind to wander out of the present.
Reason No. 2 | Story is sticky.
As I mentioned earlier, our brains check out when we can predict the story. But our brains remember the joke, recall the anecdote, and retain the illustration.
(Well, unless you’re like me and remember everything but the punchline.😬 )
If you want to sell anything, do it with story, anecdote, or analogy.
It’s why great speakers and teachers use fables and tales (Ahem, Jesus, Aesop, and TED Talks): Forbes noted that according to psychologist Jerome Bruner, we are twenty times more likely to remember a fact if it’s told to us with or in a story.
The best emails in my inbox catch my eye because they tell me an unexpected story I never saw coming.
Look at this one, from Courtney Foster-Donahue (who’s Facebook marketing course is SO GOOD—nope, not an affiliate, but CHYUP, you should take it!).
The best conference speakers and webinar hosts, enthralling authors, professors, and even some of my favorite girlfriends or family members earned their stripes in my book in part due to giving you that “where is she going with this” moment—THEN quickly getting to the point.
A well-told story is remembered more accurately than boring facts and figures.
Reason No. 3 | Story is universal.
Stories are demographic-proof, and no matter the age, race, or gender, we like them. Watch your mind the next time you’re listening to something “boring,” and see how your brain flits on when a new story starts.
Storytelling works for every type of learner: visual learners picture it, auditory learners hear it, and kinesthetic learners experience and feel it.
(I have LOVED my Michael Hyatt LeaderBox over the years—you’ve probably heard me talk about it—because it’s pushed me to read things that, I’ll be honest, I would completely walk right past 100 times out of 100 days in the bookstore. Lead with Story by Paul Smith was fascinating if all of this topic of story interests you, if you’re a leader, or if you do public speaking.)
“Experience is the best teacher. A compelling story is a close second,” Smith said. Heard!
Alright, now you know WHY story sells—let’s jump into 3 brand story creation tips.
How to Create a Brand Story
Tip 1 | Drop me in the middle of the action.
Quick story: My 23-mo.-old snagged a cardboard book off his shelf the other night & flipped STRAIGHT to when protagonist Max falls down and gets a boo-boo.
^^ The kid can barely talk, but knows things get interesting in the MIDDLE of the rising action.
He wants to go where the good stuff starts.
Your readers are the same: Don’t wind up the pitch forever & ever as you draft email copy, website copy, or social media copy.
Most of the time when I see this as a problem, it’s on about pages: No one really cares where you were born & went to school … tell me immediately how you can help ME.
It’s like Eugene Schwartz said: “If your first thought holds him, he will read the second. If the second holds him, he will read the third. And if the third thought holds him, he will probably read through your ad.”
Don’t be afraid to drop me into the rising action … don’t wind up the pitch forever and ever.
Action Step: Refine Your Elevator Pitch
Let’s say we are at a cocktail party, flutes of champagne in hand, & I need to introduce myself to you.
If you ask me how I started my business I’m not going back so far that I’m telling you about college and journalism school—you probably don’t care (in fact I know you don’t 😜). That’s why I’m gonna drop you in the middle of the rising action.
Example: “I noticed a lot of creative small business owners were passionate about their craft and their art, but they had ~no idea~ how to figure out the right words to actually market & SELL.
So, Ashlyn Writes comes in to help people just like that, figure out how to make more money with their words. We do that through done-for-you copywriting services or education tools that teach you how to flesh it out yourself.”
Sometimes the best thing to do is just start off in the middle of the story—confuse your audience a little. They’ll hang with you as they wonder where you’re going … right at that moment, pull into the point you’re trying to make.
One more example of how to write a brand story I want you to see is from an email campaign in my business—if you’re on my email list, you’ll see I do this all. the. time. 👇👇
Notice how I simply START into the story right away—in the rising action—then, catch them up as they read.
Tip 2 | Step out of the spotlight.
American scholar Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces is something that’s impacted you, whether you know it or not.
He crystalized the narrative pattern of story archs that’s gone on to shape so many screenwriters’ approaches to creating films and drafting scripts. George Lucas cited it supported his writing of Star Wars, for one.
(Disclaimer: I personally think Campbell was a loon in a lot of ways, but The Hero’s Journey concept is one thing he nailed. 😉 )
In a nutshell, the hero’s journey describes the typical adventure of a hero archetype on their way to achieving greatness.
How does that correlate to you marketing your art, craft, or services?
When you’re using your 3 signature brand stories to market, position your customer/client/reader as the hero of their story—they’re lookin’ out for number one.
When you tell your origin story, your a-ha moment, and that transformational story, it’s imperative to make sure that your ideal target audience reader sees themselves reflected in your journey. They have to relate to it.
A good story *typically* doesn’t have two heroes. They’re looking for someone like you to come in and assist them on their path to greatness. If they see you as the hero, they’re just gonna go on their way and find somewhere they do fit in.
Let me show you a quick example of this done in some ad copy, so you can see what I mean.
Action Step: Run this 5-second test.
Pull up a page on your website, any page, and hit control +F.
Search for the words “I” and “me” and count those.
Add it up and then search for the word “you”.
Which one wins?
This is a good litmus test to who’s the star of the show in this copy … and remember, if first-person pronouns win, at least confirm they’re through the lens of letting your reader see themselves in you.
Psst—as you craft stories in your copy, get a swipe file list of voice descriptors, characterization ideas, and more with my 11-question “What’s Your Selling Style Brand Voice Vibe” quiz right here.
Tip 3 | “Story” ≠ long.
Whenever you want something to stick, try story, anecdote, or analogy.
That doesn’t necessarily equate to long. Watch any TED Talk—see how quickly stories are relayed to us, the audience? It can take less than 10-15 seconds most times.
Action Step: Use a 3-part “story” to explain how you work with clients on your services page.
Here’s are some quick examples of story—beginning, middle, and end, more or less—on a “Work With Me”, services or sales page. You could even put the concept I’m about to show you in your home page or about page.
These are a few examples from some of my Copywriting for Creatives students that nailed it.
Go ahead and carve out some time on the calendar to at least think through 3 overarching steps to your process … can you publish that on your homepage, services page, or elsewhere on your website?
I hope this article helped explain what in tarnation (as we say in the South) “brand story” even the heck is, but more so, I hope this gave you specific ways to get cranking on it in your own copy & how to write a brand story.
Now you know the WHY behind story and you have your brand story crafted, add an extra layer of hook with a magnetic brand voice.
Click to take my quiz & assess what your personality has to say about your brand voice. Tap through 11 questions to get a list of words that describe your voice, a curated list of resources, characterization help, and more ideas.
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