A brand story is the fabric that weaves your ideal consumer and your service or product together. And every single business on the planet has one. A company is the result of someone’s vision. At some point in time, it was crafted from a pure, entrepreneurial spirit. That spark is powerful. It’s also the starting point for a really good brand story, and where you should begin with your own.
Where does your brand story start?
The very first thing we do at Lindentree when we’re tasked with writing an ‘Our Story’ or ‘About Us’ page is to speak with a person who has in-depth knowledge of where the brand begun. It can be a founder, someone who’s been in the company for a long time, or a marketing exec who knows the brand like the inside of their own pocket. Find this person, and they’ll have some aspect of that initial spark engrained within them, whether it came from themselves or they’ve studied it.
In this interview, we’re more concerned with the how and why than the what and when. This approach comes from creative writing, where the concept of showing, rather than telling, is pivotal to 101 storytelling. Take a look at these two sentences:
“We started our business in 1994 because we wanted to improve bicycle repairs.“
“Half-wheeling, half-carrying our bikes to the local repair shop since we were kids, we decided in 1994 that we could do better.“
Both sentences represent the same origin story for a bike repair service. The first one tells the audience why the business was started, the second one shows them. A brand story that shows tends to be infinitely more enticing than one that just tells.
What are your fertile facts?
Good stories are good because they are the right combination of details. The same goes for your brand story. That’s why a thorough interview with someone who knows the business well is important; the most resonant details are often overlooked or ignored as just that: details. Fertile facts (most famously coined by Virginia Woolf in The Art of Biography) are the facts that make up the soul of a business.
They’re things like memories of a grandparent being the first to tell you about the wonders of what would later become your passion. Anecdotes that illustrate (show, don’t tell!) the customer service spirit of the business. The underlying reasons for why the company was founded in the first place.
And put together, they are the pillars of your brand story.
Let’s say you’re the manager of a locksmith store that’s been in business since 1925. A fertile fact is not the age of the shop, although this is a fact that’s typically used in brand stories, especially if the brand is old. The problem with this is that a year isn’t evocative. Very few people alive today will have any sort of emotional connection to 1925.
If you want to highlight the history of the store, you should do it in a different way. An experience many people can relate to is being handed the key to their very first home. Or cutting a key to give to someone they’ll soon be sharing that home with. In the case of a locksmith store from 1925, a fertile fact might be that the shop’s very first customer was a man who was going to surprise his wife with a new home he’d bought them and needed a beautiful key cut. What did the key look like? How long had the man been saving to buy that home? Why did he want a silver-coloured key instead of a gold-coloured one? It’s an arbitrary example. But it goes to show that the meaningful story of any business is generally found in the details.
Voice in your brand story
A story is only as good as the person telling it – it’s true for plays, for films, for products. An idea or a concept may be great, but if it’s not communicated in the right way, it’ll slip through the cracks. As important as the brand story is the brand voice. This is your business’ storyteller; the template for how you sound when you communicate with your customers.
Voice includes things like word choice, syntax, structure and tonality. At Lindentree, we like to think of it as the sound of your business. Are you a serious, distinguished company? A fun, easy-going, friendly one? When you approach your online content as having a narrator, a plot line and numerous stories, that content is elevated – and your brand story in particular.
Remember that your voice is your chance to create consistency and credibility in what you say and how you say it. As such, brand voice and brand story go hand in hand, and are really just two sides of emulating a company’s core values.
How long should your brand story be?
Once we have the fertile facts and brand voice in place, we can start writing the story itself. Many businesses get stuck here, either because they feel like they have too little to say – or too much. No one wants to scroll through an ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Story’ page. Then again, no one wants to read the same three sentences about ‘Our promise to you…’, ‘Our mission…’ or ‘Our core values are…’ either.
These are classic telling, not showing mistakes. If you don’t prove why you’re promising, how your core values came about, why you have the mission you have, no one is going to believe you. That proof is in the details; in the resonant peculiarities that makes your company what it is. The length, then, should be determined by the specific details you need in order to prove your core values – your business’ identity, really – to the reader.
Make sure that the story resonates
Finally, once the brand story is complete, you should always circle back to make sure that it evokes the kind of feelings and connotations you intended. See what your employees think of it; the management team; loyal customers or newsletter subscribers. If the idea is to build a larger community with your story, it’s important to check it with your existing following base.
The editing stage is crucial to a good brand story. Far too many businesses publish their first draft and leave it on their website for years. Remember that we’re trying to teach you how to approach your online content differently. And no movie script, pilot idea or novel has been published or filmed without some serious revision rounds. A brand story is infinitely shorter than all of these – so editing it should be a piece of cake.
If you scrolled to the bottom, here are the main steps that go into writing a brand story:
- Identify where your business began – the origins of your journey
- Figure out which details show, rather than tell your business’ journey. These are your fertile facts, and you can think of these as the why and the how – rather than the what and the when
- Have a clear idea of your brand voice and use it when telling your brand story
- Remember that the length needs to match the fertile facts you’ve chosen
- Test your brand story on individuals who will know whether it does the job or not