This one is for my founders, creators and entrepreneurs who want to share a brand story with the world.
I truly believe that your brand is one of the most valuable assets your business has. The data also supports it. If you own a business and want it to have impact in the world and in the lives of the people it exists to serve (customers, users, community, etc.) then you need to at some point get clear about your brand and bring it to life with clarity and consistency.
Working with my own clients, I go through a weeks and sometimes months-long process to interrogate a business, it’s people, culture, customers, context, and category competitors to unpack what they are, why they exist and how they contribute to culture. I take that information and organize it into a brand framework. From there, with the brand clearly articulated and understood, I work with them to bring that idea to life and show them how to do it for themselves consistently over time, leaving room for it to evolve and adapt with its customers and the changing context of the world. That is brand storytelling; Yes, it’s the articulation (often what consultants and agencies are hired for), but it’s also the expression—aka the fun stuff.
My evergreen definition of a brand is simple and built after years of listening to others articulate it and bringing them to life for clients. A brand is the collection of associations, words images and ideas that make up your business or product (shout out to Seth Godin whose articulation helped me a lot in landing on my own). Brands are built through thoughtful and consistent effort, over time. Just like there’s no such thing as an overnight success there is also no such thing as an overnight brand.
A brand story requires three foundational elements for it to truly live:
Purpose is your reason for being. Your “why?” I wrote about it in detail here and stand by everything in that post. Your stories need purpose, your brands need purpose, I might even argue your life needs purpose. Because it infuses meaning and creates a reason for all your efforts. It’s an essential element of providing value to your audience as a storyteller and brand builder. It’s the end of the sentence, “We exist to _____________________.” What are you here to do?
Clarity is about understanding your purpose and the context of your brand. All the elements that influence and impact your brand (category, culture, competitive, company). But the most important thing you need to be clear about is who you serve and what value you add to their lives. This will guide how you engage with them. With my clients I always make sure they define the emotional benefit of their product. Most MBAs will tell you about functional benefit and value propositions (which are important), but if you can’t articulate what, ultimately, your customers get from you—how you make their lives better—you may struggle to effectively engage and retain them as customers for the long term.
Consistent expression is probably the thing where many folks get tripped up. It’s about showing up in EVERYTHING you do with consistency and reflecting your purpose and values across all your touchpoints. That means your design (aka branding), your customer service, your in-store or website experience, your packaging, your copy. It should all feel like it’s coming from the same place and idea and inspired by the same reason for being (purpose). That’s when the magic happens. Apple is really good at this if you think about what unboxing one of their products is like (this is a lazy example as everyone uses it, but it’s a good one). But Nike is even better. If you think about how they show up in the world from their apps to their ads, there’s not one thing they do that makes you scratch your head and think “why’s Nike doing that?” And they’ve evolved their brand over time while remaining consistent and THAT is masterclass level consistency. It’s hard to do though, so take it easy and know that you’re building to that over time.
We’re doing a two-parter on this topic because brand storytelling is my jam, but also because I want to arm you with all the knowledge for this type of storytelling. Next week I’ll dive into how to bring your brand story to life once you’ve established purpose, clarity and consistent expression.
A Story Well Told
I love a good newsletter (hence this weekly sweet storytelling treat). Something that comes into my inbox, shares a bit of the world in the morning and promises a bit more of the same each day or each week. One that I’ve been a subscriber to for years and does a wonderful job of sharing stories of all kinds each day is The Daily Good from The Good Trade. It’s an eco-conscious lifestyle platform/blog/outlet (I’m not sure what to call it), but stylish and not guilt inducing. To me it is a joy and an essential part of my morning routine. I hope you check it out and find it as useful as I do. It’s a nice thing to wake up to in your inbox.
Also, if you’re enjoying this or if there’s something you’d like me to cover in a future letter—an element of your storytelling you may be struggling with, please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’m here to help.
Thanks for reading and I’ll “see” you next week. Whatever the world may bring, there will always be important stories that need you to tell them. I’ll be here to help.