Back in 2017, a book about building a brand story was published that really shook up the marketing industry. It’s called Building a Story Brand, and it was written by the author, public speaker, and owner of the StoryBrand marketing company, Donald Miller.
As of 2020, Building a StoryBrand had sold more than half a million copies, and there’s good reason for that.
The book points out the flaws in much of the marketing Miller was seeing at the time, like companies not clearly explaining what they do, and talking too much about themselves, rather than focusing on the desires and pain points of potential customers, and what their products or services can do for them.
I have to say, Miller really hit the nail on the head with this one. When I read his book, it totally changed my perspective on marketing and made me think long and hard about the approach many marketing companies were taking, including my own.
But while many of the tenets of his book are still relevant today, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, it was published more than five years ago, and a lot has changed since then.
Consumers today are becoming increasingly savvy, and less trusting of pretty much everything, including institutions, businesses, and even each other.
A big part of the reason for this is that as COVID pushed everything online, the way people were interacting changed dramatically, and this includes the way brands have been connecting with their audiences.
As a result of these factors, and undoubtedly many others, trust is now one of the highest forms of currency in the worlds of branding and marketing.
That being said, because so much trust seems to have eroded over the last several years, I think some of what’s found in Miller’s book is now a bit dated.
For example, some of the ideas espoused in his book are that you should basically never talk about your business unless it’s in the context of what you can do for potential customers, and that the customer should always be the sole star of the show in all your branding and marketing efforts.
Even though much of this advice still holds true today, I think the emergence of the trust economy has created a lot more room for brands to talk about themselves, particularly when it comes to their missions, values, and motivations.
With that in mind, it’s important to mention that this kind of emotional branding is absolutely crucial in today’s trust economy, and despite what Miller said in his book, I think it’s only going to become more important as time moves on.
So, if you’re thinking about building a brand story for your business, trying to wrap your head around the idea of emotional branding, or racking your brain trying to figure out how to establish an emotional connection with your audience, then you should definitely keep reading.
Because in this article, I’m going to explore the basics of building a brand story, explain why they’re so important for building an emotional connection with your audience, and offer some examples of how we’ve done this for our clients, so you can have a better understanding of how it all works.
The Basics of Building a Brand Story
In Building a StoryBrand, Miller explains the seven elements of great storytelling, and how they can be transposed into your branding and marketing.
I don’t want to give away too much of what’s in his book, but the important thing to understand is that most successful stories, no matter what medium they’re found in, tend to follow a similar set of principles.
And from my perspective, the best pieces of advice found within those principles, as they relate to marketing and branding, are that the customer is the hero of the story, not your brand, and your brand needs to be positioned as the guide that’s going to be able to help that hero.
These aspects of Miller’s storytelling framework are something every business owner should understand, and they can be of great use if you’re trying to figure out how to start building a brand story.
But in my experience, the problem for many business owners is that they’ve never actually sat down and thought about the mission or values of their brand, what inspired them to get started, or what motivates them to continue doing what they do.
Miller’s book talks a lot about how to take those elements and turn them into a compelling brand story, but it doesn’t really explain how to figure those things out in the first place.
And if you don’t have a firm grasp of these aspects of your brand, then building a brand story is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.
I think this is something that many business owners struggle with, so to explain the basics of building a brand story, I’m going to start right at the beginning of the process, and focus on how you can figure that stuff out, so you’ll have all the puzzle pieces in place before you even start building your brand story.
Define Your Mission
Most great stories follow some sort of hero who’s on a mission to do something.
Throughout these stories, the trials and tribulations of these protagonists, and the ways they must mature in order to overcome these obstacles, create a deep emotional connection between the hero and the audience, and this is a big part of the reason why these kinds of stories are so popular.
So, if you want to make sure you can build that emotional connection with your audience, the first thing you should do is define your brand’s mission.
In order to do this, you need to think about the overarching objectives and motivations of your brand, including what you’re trying to accomplish, whom or what it is you’re trying to help, why you got started in the first place, and what inspires you to keep going.
Once you’ve done this, the first brick in your brand story has been laid, and you can now use that as the foundation for the rest of your story.
Determine Your Values
While a brand’s mission defines what it aims to achieve, its values determine how it goes about achieving those objectives in alignment with its principles.
When we think about this in the context of great storytelling, if the hero’s mission is what you’re rooting for them to achieve, their values are the reason why you’re rooting for them in the first place.
In terms of emotional branding, this is arguably even more important for building an emotional connection than your mission is, as it sets moral parameters around how you’re willing to get to your goals, showing consumers that your intentions are good, and you’re not willing to achieve your objectives by any means necessary.
So, once you’ve determined your mission, your next step is defining the values that set the ethical boundaries you’re going to follow when accomplishing that mission.
Think about things like what your brand stands for, what it opposes, what kind of culture you want to cultivate, how you want to interact with stakeholders, and what’s going to inform your decision-making.
Once you’ve defined those values, you’ll be one step closer to creating an effective brand story, and building a deep emotional connection with your audience.
Explore Your Audience
Speaking of your audience, how much time have you spent narrowing down exactly what audience it is you’re targeting?
In my experience, many business owners don’t put much thought into this, and when I go through the process of analyzing their brand, and ask them to define their target audience, many of them aren’t quite sure who these people are.
That being said, regardless of the medium in which it’s being told, great stories need to be written with their target audiences in mind.
Because no matter how great a hero may be, or how noble their intentions are, you can’t expect everyone to identify with them, and if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, the effectiveness of your story, and the emotional connection it builds, is going to be severely watered down, if not ruined altogether.
That being said, before you can begin building a brand story, you have to figure out whom the story is targeting.
When doing this, you should try to focus primarily on your products and/or services, and how they relate to your ideal customers, particularly in relation to what they’re going through in their lives.
Think about the problems they’re having, their desires, what state of mind they’re in, how your offerings can help them with these aspects of their lives, and what their lives are going to look like after they’ve purchased your products and/or services.
It’s also good to consider other aspects of your audience, including things like their morals and values, geographic location, gender, age, education, income, profession, marital status, and more.
So, now that you’ve defined your mission, determined your values, and narrowed down your target audience, you’re ready to start building a brand story.
DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of Born2Invest, its management, staff or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information. This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the Company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the Company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the Company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.
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