#35 Telling Your Brand’s Story Part Two

The Brand Storytelling fundamentals to start bringing your brand to life

Okay. So last week I introduced you to the three foundational elements you need to understand to help your brand live. They were purpose, clarity, and consistent expression. Once you have those things you need three storytelling fundamentals to start bringing your brand to life. They will help with consistent expression. I’ve included some points below to help you take action with each. The fundamentals are:

  1. Voice

  2. Plot

  3. Narrative

(All good things come in threes)

Let’s dive in.

Voice in its simplest form means tone, what’s the energy behind how you show up as a brand? This can come to life in design, copy, and other forms of creative expression. (Think VICE magazine in the days before it became a struggling media company.) But a sophisticated marketer and storyteller would tell you there’s more to voice than that. It’s about personality. Character. It’s the notion that if your brand were to come to life as a person, who it would be—who would walk through the door if invited to a party? It should be super clear to the people communicating for your brand and also the audience engaging with it. This is supported by clear values (I just realized I’ve never written about values in this newsletter and I will be sure to rectify that post haste) and a strong sense of self—back to purpose, sorry to obsess over it, but it’s really important.

Take Action: Define your voice by bringing your brand to life. Describe that person who would come to the party. Get detailed, think about what drink they’d order, who they’d bring with them, etc. What in their heads, hearts, and hands (what are they thinking, feeling, and doing in their lives?).

Plot: This is the sum of your efforts. In many ways the takeaway you create through narrative/executional efforts. It’s key moments and conflicts resolved in your brand story that you bring to life over time. What’s keeping it going and what are you driving toward next? It’s your momentum and it requires a destination. The next launch, campaign or moment in the life of your brand. The ways in which it impacts the world. Think of it as a form of strategy. You’re not just creating narrative moments for the sake of narrative, it’s working against a larger plan that helps drive your story (and your business) forward.

Take Action: Outline your brand’s key plot points both past and into the next year for your brand. What are the key moments on the timeline? What are you working toward this year?

Narrative is the through-line of your brand—the consistent idea that runs through all you do that brings your audience along. It is the core of brand storytelling. It’s the story you tell, both literally and by how you show up in the world. It includes your history, people, the values, the category context, the mission, all the things you would have written down when defining and articulating your brand. The beginning (how you started), current context (what you’re up to lately) and end in mind (what you’re building toward each day). You can share these things literally, but what’s more powerful is showing them. Reflecting them in your actions and how you show up in the real context of the world through your product, your approach to customer service, your behaviour on the internet. Execution is an ongoing narrative that you need to ensure all builds on what’s come before and helps the brand continue to evolve (and grow).

Take Action: A good way to get started on establishing your narrative is to write down your stories. Starting with your core business story. Do it in long form, medium form and short form. This life storytelling post can help you approach writing out your brand narrative. Bonus: how can you leverage your narrative to help drive toward the next key plot point for your brand story?

Remember: these three elements work together, they do not compete. They are essential for any compelling story and are the driving force and energy behind your brand and actions.

In marketing terms, and pulling away from the language of writing, your voice is your brand personality, your narrative is your creative execution—all the ways you show up in the world NOT just advertising, and your plot is the strategy and momentum behind your brand. Together they bring your brand to life in real and meaningful ways.

I’m going to be lazy and use Nike as an example again (because they’re good at what they do). Their voice is embodied in the spirit of athleticism and effort (think Serena Williams, but also the everyday athlete they bring to life in their ads) e.g. the encouraging but driving tone of their app reminders. Their narrative is wrapped in the idea of trying and effort and pushing yourself to achieve your best in whatever arena (the whole “Just Do It” thing). Their plot are all those key moments along the way. The ads and product launches that changed their brand—e.g. the launch of Jordans or their Colin Kaepernick ad, even the launch of Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog. They all come together as a masterclass in brand storytelling—I would happily teach that class…

A Story Well Told

And keeping with the Nike theme, they have a design book that came out in December, which I came across as I did a bit of research for this post. I haven’t read it, but I imagine it it’s fascinating. If you have read this newsletter consistently then you’ll know I have a professional crush on designers of all kinds. They are the storytelling g.o.a.t.’s in my opinion. The book, Nike: Better is Temporary, is a “behind-the-scenes exploration into Nike's internal design philosophy.” The book is not cheap, but the link I shared gives a nice overview of the content and this site provides a lens into the experience. Another masterclass from these folks—keep in mind they’re a multi-billion dollar company so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re in the early days of telling your story. You’ll get there if that’s your ambition.

If you know someone who has a story to tell and may need some help crafting it, please share this newsletter with them and encourage them to subscribe.

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.

You can follow me on Twitter here, and Instagram here. And you can always reach me through my website.

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.

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