How To Write a Brand Story That Makes Businesses Stand Out

How To Write a Brand Story That Makes Businesses Stand Out

Every larger-than-life goal like this needs a story at its heart. A story speaks more for a brand than a good-looking media campaign

Take the example of Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF). They work for disability inclusion in India and use adventure as their medium to drive the change they want to bring about.

How does it work for them?

There are 200 million persons with disabilities (PwDs) in India. Almost all of them are invisible to employers, civic authorities, and educational institutions. Access to physical and mental recreation for them is a wishful dream.

Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) has employed a simple three-fold strategy to change this.

  1. Host outdoor events to initiate dialogue and build friendship between PwDs and able-bodied folks.
  2. Build on the interaction from those events and the awe of their achievement to demonstrate that PwDs are as employable as everyone else.
  3. Ride the post-event feel-good wave and get corporates to commit to funding and providing jobs.

Every event is the next chapter in the story ABBF builds on for their fundraising and engagement strategy.

The setting (outdoors), the unfiltered interaction (discovery) and the realization (a great experience to share) all are players in the story, which can begin like this:

Storytelling is often associated with fiction and entertainment. But it is equally valid when sharing what product, service or experience you offer and what difference it will make to a customer.

People remember stories far more than they remember facts.

How many folks you know relish sitting down for a presentation v/s people who are eager for a story?

What Is a Brand Story?

A business strategy has a lot of elements. It communicates the company’s aspirations and capabilities, competitor reviews, customer needs, and market trends.

The brand needs to translate these so that the consumer can understand what the brand is about. The three essential elements of a Brand story — it evokes emotions, it is relatable, and it inspires.

Recall ABBF’s three-fold strategy.

  1. Initiate dialogue and build friendship — Appeals to emotions
  2. Demonstrate that PwDs are as employable- Relatable
  3. Get corporates to commit — Inspires

Powerful stories like these rally people to the cause. They get people to act.

Organizations are better off weaving a story around their plans.

No one is swayed by seven-sentence vision statements that sound grand but are devoid of emotion.

Why Are Stories Powerful?

Stories move us. Did you not learn anything from your ancestors?

To drive the desired action — employing PwDs, others need to share the vision — that PwDs are employable.

Stories bridge intent and results, dreams and actions, and strategists and implementers.

Since we began recording the history of mankind, everyone has loved a good story.

There are two sides of a story.

What it communicates and how it impacts the audience. It is a narrative intended to engage and stay in people’s minds longer than anything else.

We are primed to receive narratives that are dramatic. The sad and happy times in the lives of our heroes and heroines. A quest for an achievement that makes the suffering worthwhile.

Stories are a narration of someone’s direct experience and a way for others to learn from it.

Sure, a story needs to be backed by facts, but no one was ever won over by facts alone.

Stories compel people to act in a way facts cannot. That makes them a powerful medium of selling your vision/service/product.

What Makes A Good Brand Story?

Behavioural economics confirms that people are not motivated by facts and reasoning alone.

By using stories to present unconventional narratives, you tend to plant a seed for your brand in the consumer’s mind.

Stories invoking fear, hate, love, delight, sadness, and much more.

After each event, ABBF usually calls on participants to share their experience.

Disabled participants narrate incidents when they were happy to have buddy to help in navigating a difficult patch on the hike.

Able bodied participant’s meanwhile speak in awe about how they had difficulty keeping up with their disabled buddies or how soon they were out of breath and could only proceed with encouragement from their disabled buddy.

The idea is to make us squirm, to make us think differently.

It is this story with the ‘feeling’ that hammers home the message. That is what makes it a great strategy story.

Stories Are Flexible

A story can be retold with new context and new learning. It can be moulded to suit a new situation and a different audience. The central message can be changed.

These features make stories a natural choice for a fast-changing world like ours, where rapid learning is the norm.

Stories also fill the comprehension gap when complexities come into play.

Don’t you often notice that after a lengthy explanation in meetings, someone usually says, “Can you give me an example where that is applicable?”. They are looking for a story to go with what you just described.

Far from oversimplifying something, stories make everything relatable, interesting, comprehensible and memorable.

Brands can harness stories for business strategy.

ABBF promotes several adventure sports, not just hiking.

Every year they participate in a 10K run at a marathon event. It promises excellent visibility and a chance to raise funds. The distance bar is deliberately set low so that people from both communities can participate.

When they announce the 10K run, they tell the corporate bosses, see, it’s just 10K, you can choose to walk or run and help a PwD at the same time. For PwDs with locomotor issues and for whom the hills are out of bounds, it is a distance they can be encouraged to practice for.

Participation can exceed 200 people where C suite bosses interact one on one with their PwD run partners. People from two extreme strata of society are running as one.

It makes one hell of a story for the brand in different theatres of sports.

To Tell A Memorable Story, Collaborate

The world where the CEO dictated the strategy based on the inputs from his close team is changing fast. It is not just the people at the top that take decisions today, nor is it the company mandarins.

Collaboration tools are inseparable from your work, and everyone gets a chance to pitch in.

More people have a say in how the story is told because they are the stakeholders in it. Different voices add credibility to the story. That makes it more likely to bring in results.

The Brand ABBF’s story is a collaborative story is owned by many who have a part in telling it. This shared ownership drives results. Each PwD and able bodied participant becomes the ABBF Story ambassador, amplifying the message of inclusion where the ABBF’s team cannot.

How To Build Your Brand Story

1. Set A Context For Your Brand

To get the context right, you can ask your team to put together answers to some indicative questions. They should address the fine balance between the supply and demand for your brand.

  1. What does your brand do?
  2. What needs does it address?
  3. Is it the unique solution it provides?
  4. What does this uniqueness mean for the customer?
  5. How does the brand change customer behaviour?
  6. Where is the customer located?
  7. How many years have you been at it?
  8. Have you failed before you succeeded?
  9. If yes, why did you fail, and how did you make a comeback?
  10. What is your revenue, and how has it changed over time?
  11. Why did that change happen?
  12. Did your product/service change over time?
  13. If yes, in response to what?
  14. And if not, was there no reason to change?
  15. Who are your competitors?
  16. How different are their products/services?
  17. And so on.

Before responding, set aside some time to review the questions and explore your journey. Let your thoughts be as messy and unstructured, to begin with. Take care to record them via written or voice notes. Keep notes such that you can recall them later.

Once the messy part is done, it’s time to structure them. This exercise will add much-needed coherence and vividity to the story. You do want to make it memorable, don’t you?

But it is not time to tell it yet. Gather the bones before you can add the flesh.

While the story is about the past, it must also be forward-looking.

When ABBF started operations, it came out of a singular need — to provide visibility. Inclusion was the end dream, not stated upfront.

Once they ran through the questions and the messy draft they were sure of two things — adventure as the medium and inclusion as the message.

2. Write The Brand Story.

Every good story has a structure. A hook that reels in the reader, the meat or middle that contains the bulk of the story and an end that signs off with a flourish.

Your strategy story follows the same framework and outlines your brand’s past, present, and future.

Let’s look at ABBF’s story again.

  • Past: There are 200 million PwDs in India today, but they’ve been invisible to everyone forever.
  • Present: PwDs are employable, but the corporates don’t know it yet. Organize outdoor events that promote empathy and educate the corporates.
  • Future: We are looking at a very different India 10 years hence when PwDs are not begging for jobs. Their talent makes them a natural choice.

Answer the question raised in point #1, and you will have your answers that fit this framework. Your narrative will begin with what the company does, describe the change it is driving, and end with its future goals.

3. Test The Brand Story

Now the hard part is over. It is time to ensure your story is engaging, clear and amplifies your past/present/future message.

Tell your story to an internal audience. Team members, the Board, and trusted external stakeholders, all of whom will be living it eventually. Without being obvious, feed it to your social media followers as well. Use writing, videos, podcasts and whatever your media team can come up with.

Invite swift, constructive feedback. Use it to refine and make the story sharp. Run through the questions again — does it answer them successfully?

And then ask these hard questions just to be sure. Once out in the world, you cannot ctrl + z the story.

  • Do all stakeholders relate to the strategy story?
  • Can someone who has no clue about your business understand it?
  • Can it be conveyed in a short time?
  • Does it end with a call to action?

Once you are satisfied with the answer, get ready to bombard the world with it in its various formats.

Use interviews, videos, and testimonials to build the message.

Continuing ABBF’s example, let cross check:

  • Able bodied supporters, PwDs, well wishers, sponsors and funders — all echo the same message — disability inclusion.
  • When general population is shown an ABBF video at a promo event, they instantly know what the foundation does.
  • From 3 min video to a 8 min article — the message is clear.
  • At the end, it asks for donations, volunteers and corporate funding. Always.

4. Tell The Brand Story

Your story is finally polished to a high sheen. Everyone has ✅ it.

Prepare to tell it.

Prepare a core message that will be repeatedly used to popularize your story, leaving your audience wanting to hear more.

“Ten persons with disabilities attempted to cycle and reach the world’s highest mountain pass. Some were blind, some were missing a limb, and the rest couldn’t hear.

The world told them it could not be done.

And yet, on 12 May, they were standing at the pass, lifting their cycles high over their heads. How did they do it? Read the story of their grit and tireless conviction.”

While expanding on the core, make a compelling case for action. Then sit back and enjoy as the world laps it up until it is time to retell the strategy story with new characters, plot twists and endings.

Building a memorable brand is essential for success in today’s world. With so much clutter, people struggle to retain. A powerful story will speak for your brand and make it stand out.

Stories possess the power to transform facts into a shared mental model. They deconstruct a business’s inner workings and trajectory into an understandable form.

Brand stories serve as the bridge between context and intent. As they change, so should your stories. It is a critical competitive advantage in this ever-changing landscape.

If your brand has no story, you are invisible.

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