Storytelling is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of communication, so it only makes sense that an engaging brand story is one of the most effective ways to connect with your customers.
Early humans painted pictures on cave walls. Ancient civilizations told tales to explain natural phenomena. And for generations, societies have shared myths, legends, and fables to educate and entertain.
Today, brand stories take shape in a number of ways—from websites to commercials to social feeds and beyond—but the core truth remains: a powerful narrative grabs audiences’ attention.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what exactly a brand story is, explain why it matters, and share a few of the best brand story examples so you can build your own.
- What Is a Brand Story?
- Why Your Business Needs a Brand Story
- Characteristics of a Powerful Brand Story
- How to Write a Brand Story
- Examples of Brand Stories
- The Takeaway
What is a Brand Story?
A brand story is the narrative thread that connects a business’s communications, leveraging storytelling fundamentals, like the narrative arc, conflict and resolution, point of view, etc., to define its purpose and resonate more deeply with customers.
An effective brand story—also called a company story—puts the customer at the center of the action, rather than the brand itself. It’s more than a simple origin story or a history of how a business came to be but rather a demonstration of how the organization helps the people it serves overcome unique challenges.
A brand story is often documented in a short summary known as a brand narrative. But its spirit can and should inspire the entire ecosystem of content that comprises brand experience. So, while an ad campaign, for example, isn’t a brand story in and of itself, it should feel inspired by the story even as it builds upon it.
Why Your Business Needs a Brand Story
The benefits of brand storytelling are far-reaching. This is because company storytelling not only makes your content stronger but can also have a real effect on your business and your bottom line.
You can see the power of a brand story in many a successful business. It’s why Zappos positions itself not as an online shoe store but as a passionate customer service company. It’s why Unilever’s Dove focuses not on the hygiene its personal care products deliver but on the beauty and confidence they create. It’s why for decades GE successfully elevated the functional concept of technology to the emotional idea of “imagination at work”.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the ways brand storytelling can impact your business for the better.
Connect with the Right Audiences
Storytelling is scientifically proven to elicit emotion. According to a 2021 study, storytelling was shown to increase oxytocin in hospitalized patients, while decreasing their cortisol and pain levels.
When applied to brand storytelling, this genuine biological response can foster stronger feelings of connection—making audiences feel closer and more attached to your company.
Beyond simply connecting with audiences, though, your brand story can help you connect with the right audiences.
From loyal customers who are willing to pay more for your products to ideal employees who will go the extra mile for your organization—your brand story can further solidify these bonds, helping you attract and continue to engage the right people you need to increase sales and improve retention.
Stick in Customers’ Minds—and Stand Out from the Crowd
Beyond sparking positive emotions, stories are also known to enhance memory. Research conducted at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business showed that content when delivered in story form was 22 times more memorable than facts alone.
Conveying information about your organization through a narrative arc not only makes it more engaging and easier to understand, but it also makes it more difficult to forget. And that can translate to increased sales, keeping your brand top-of-mind when customers are making purchasing decisions.
Another way your brand story can make your business more memorable? Through competitive differentiation. A unique brand story can help you stand out in a crowded landscape, which ultimately ensures you stick out in the minds of your buyers.
Humanize Your Brand
Behind every brand is a business, but brands who leverage effective storytelling in their brand messaging feel less like a profit-making machine and more like an old friend.
Reframing your offerings around emotional benefits and sharing a more empathetic narrative with your buyers humanize your brand and cultivate good will among customers in the process.
Take Nike. In appealing to its customers, Nike focuses not only on the quality or performance of its products but on the emotional outcome those products enable: empowerment.
The result? By creating a conversation that feels more human than transactional, Nike consistently outperforms in the market—ranking as the most valuable apparel brand in the world, seven years in a row.
Characteristics of a Powerful Brand Story
From apparel brands like Nike to B2B stalwarts like GE, brand stories can come in many different flavors. There are, however, a few characteristics that are common to every good brand story:
- Relevancy resonates: A successful brand story has to resonate with the people reading it. Making your customer the hero of your brand story means speaking to them on an individual level wherever possible and staying focused on their unique needs, answering the question every customer has: “What’s in it for me?”
- Emotion strikes a chord: Storytelling—and brand storytelling specifically—evokes an emotional response that creates a feeling of connection. Focusing on the emotional benefits your products or services enable can help augment this response (for example, instead of efficiency, talking about the freedom it delivers in time saved) and make your brand story more captivating in the process.
- Simplicity says more: When you try to jam too much into a brand story, it can wind up confusing your customers. Finding a lead note by focusing on a singular idea will streamline your content and ensure your brand story is more digestible and more memorable.
- Being genuine goes a long way: An effective brand story shouldn’t sound rehearsed or curated. It should feel honest and authentic. Leveraging your brand voice while writing your own will ensure it stays true to your company’s personality—helping you further connect with customers.
How to Write a Brand Story
While every brand story should have an angle that’s unique to the business behind it, there are some best practices to keep in mind when crafting your own. Let’s take a look at a few key steps involved in writing any successful brand story.
1. Find Your Why
Before figuring out what your brand story is, it’s important to understand your business’s “why.” Also known as your purpose, the reason you exist beyond making money is ac central component of your brand compass. Whether your company exists to revolutionize an industry or simply to make life more enjoyable, establishing this crucial North Star is the first step of any brand story.
2. Understand Your Audiences’ Challenges—and How Your Offering Solves Them
Conflict—and the resolution of that conflict—is at the heart of every good story. Chances are you already have an intrinsic understanding of your customers’ needs. (If not, customer research should be high on your to-do list.) This insight is a prerequisite to developing a successful brand, after all. But by crystallizing these needs into a simple “challenge, solution” statement, you’ll have a solid framework around which to build a compelling brand story.
3. Write it Down
It helps to have a centralized articulation of your brand story in the form of a brand narrative. A short statement that unpacks who you are, who you serve, the problem your customers are facing, and the unique way you solve it, the brand narrative is an important component of any brand brief or brand positioning platform. This is your chance to tell your story from A to Z, but don’t forget our last tip when doing so…
4. Keep It Clear and Concise
As with most writing, shorter is better when it comes to your brand story. As you write your foundational brand narrative, aim for no more than 100 to 150 words, if possible. Remember: this narrative will serve as a springboard for further content development, including website copywriting, ad campaigns, and more. In those executions, additional details can be added. But in its core state, brevity is a brand story’s friend.
Examples of Brand Stories
When it comes to branding, there’s no substitute for real-world examples. This is especially true with the brand story. The good news is, there are no shortage of great brand stories out there, as Smile.io notes in their article on “The 10 Best Storytelling Brands.” Below, we take a closer look at two of our own favorites—each a master class in storytelling.
One of the oldest soft drinks in the world, Coca-Cola doesn’t sell soda. It sells joy. Coke has built its story around a universal, uplifting emotion, rather than any of the more functional features of its many products.
Some beverage brands highlight health advantages, like Sierra Mist: “Zero sugar. Zero calories. Zero reasons not to fall in love.” Others, like Red Bull, focus on the energy benefits they bring: “Red Bull gives you wings.” And there are many that position themselves around flavor (think: Dr. Pepper’s “Can you handle the taste?”).
Coca-Cola has reframed the soft drink story for customers, making it much bigger than the ingredients in its cans and bottles. The brand wants buyers to know that when they crack open a bottle, they’ll simply feel good. The company has successfully brought its joyful brand story to life in multiple ad campaigns that span decades.
From its iconic 1971 “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” spot (which showed people exuberantly singing together on a hilltop) to its 1979 “Have a Coke and a Smile” slogan to its 2010s “Open happiness” advertisements and its adorably charming seasonal polar bear commercials—Coke consistently tells a brand story full of cheer and delight.
Another best-in-class brand story example is Google. While Google is one of the most recognized consumer brands in the world, it makes most of its revenue through its B2B advertising services. But a brand story centered around helpfulness applies to both audiences.
Instead of building a brand narrative around its core search product, its ongoing pursuit of innovation, or even its leadership in the market, Google puts its customers—both B2B and B2C—at the center. The brand consistently paints a vivid picture of how it helps users live better lives and businesses operate more effectively.
When we think of Google, we think of tools to overcome the conflicts of our day-to-day—whether its trivial curiosities or building brand equity through far-reaching advertising. From its poignant “Hey, Google” campaign to the uber-user-friendly and universally familiar design of its products themselves, Google truly lives and breathes a story centered on helpfulness.
An exceptional brand story is more than a basic marketing tool. It’s an indispensable cornerstone of your company—one that helps you connect more profoundly to customers.
By understanding the foundational components of your story—including your purpose as a business and the essential needs of your customers—you can craft an engaging narrative that can boost customer acquisition, stoke brand loyalty, and drive business growth.