All companies have a story to tell.
There is no reason to invent stories to communicate your company’s message. Genuine stories add credibility to your message and are far stronger than fictitious ones.
This is the advice given by Klaus Fog and Christian Budtz in their excellent book called “Storytelling: Branding In Practice.”
If you want to study brand storytelling in depth, this is a good place to start.
They point out that everyday stories spread through your organisation like a living organism, providing you with the raw material necessary for good storytelling – regardless of whether the sign on the door says The Coca Cola Company or Backwater Office Supplies.
It’s just a question of knowing where to look.
First, find your core story.
What is the essence of your brand, your reason for being in business (besides making money)? This is a good place to start.
If you know why your company makes a difference – what the one central thing is that you seek to do better than anyone else in the world – then you have your core story from which all other stories spring.
Nike’s core story is “the will to win.” More than trainers and sporting merchandise, they sell ‘the desire to succeed against all odds.’ Customers who proudly wear the swoosh logo somehow align themselves with that desire to succeed. If they believe in themselves and ‘Just Do It’ they can also be winners.
Some other examples pointed out in the book:
- Volvo is about safety designed with families in mind
- Alfa Romeo is about driving pleasure
- Harley-Davidson says ‘freedom’
- Apple is creative diversity
- Virgin brands are all about following your dream and challenging convention
- Greenpeace fights for the global environment
- LEGO stimulates children’s learning through creative play
- Your company is about___?
The authors emphasise that if you don’t find your core story then you’ll be sending out lots of confusing messages and your customers will end up seeing you much differently than you see your self.
Finding the raw material for Brand stories.
Your employees embody your core values on a daily basis and these are at the very heart of your company.
Interview employees who are great ambassadors for the company. You’ll find authentic stories showing how they communicated your core values in serving your customers. Dig for situations where they’ve stood out and made a difference.
Ask about their experiences, good or bad, and what stories they tell family and friends. Also, what they hear about your company from others.
The CEO’s role has a symbolic significance since they are the front man or woman in the company. Their actions are analysed by both employees and customers.
Are there any particular rituals that the CEO is well-known for? Have they had any major successes and helped the company through challenging times? What does this say about their management style and their values?
These are a rich source of stories about ‘how it all began.’
How did the Founder steer the company through the precarious early stages of growth? What inspired them – what was their vision, their dream? Give examples.
And does the original vision correspond with the vision the company has now?
Milestones – successes and crises:
There have been decisive turning points in every company’s history – events of special significance which have been decisive in shaping the company and determining its future.
There are lots of stories in this vein that show the core values and why the company makes a difference.
Was it the landing of an important deal; a buyout; a lurking crises that was turned around to save the company; a product that took off; or a true team effort?
Long-time employees are a good source of Milestone stories.
These are always a good source for interesting stories.
Maybe it was the way the product was invented or developed. Possibly accidental discoveries or unforeseen opportunities that seemingly arose out of nowhere.
How did the idea for the product come about and who was involved? Where did the name come from? What’s unique about it?
Customer experiences bring your values to life. They show in real terms how you make a difference.
This naturally has much more credibility than when you praise yourself, and requires dialogue and direct feedback from customers.
Look for concrete examples of customer experience. How did your company or product deliver that experience, and if it was not up to standard, how did you fix it?
A few ‘rules of thumb’:
- Use specific incidents, events or situations that express your values
- Put faces on the characters in your story
- Tell your story so it conjures up images in the mind of the listener – this makes it much more memorable
These are just some of the sources for finding storytelling material that will enlighten the world about your brand and it’s values.
But as you can see, you’ve got to dig a bit to find these unique stories – they don’t come to you on a silver platter.
About the Author: Robin Kirkley helps business owners and companies create remarkable content for their brands so they enjoy a profitable return on their marketing spend.