Brand Storytelling: How to find compelling stories


In an article for the Talk Business Magazine website, I wrote about using brand storytelling to market a company’s products and services.

I drew on three examples of companies that had used compelling stories to engage the emotion or imagination of their prospective customers — Saddleback Leather (which I have mentioned before), Waitrose, and one of my own clients (discretion requires I keep the name concealed).

But identifying the stories that will help sell your business isn’t always easy, so here are a few suggestions for finding stories that will engage your prospective customers or clients.

Use case studies

Whether helping educate children in Africa, or installing business management software, you can tell the story of how what you do helps make lives better or improves businesses. Make it specific and make it personal so people can identify with the experiences described. If you can draw parallels between the case study and your prospects — similar pain points, or same goals, or same industry, for example — you’ll move those prospects closer to a sale.

Computer manufacturer Dell uses case studies extensively to market its services and products.

Brand-Storytelling - the Dell website

Tell your origin story

It’s not just superheroes that have origin stories — every business owner had a reason to start doing what they do, and often, as with Saddleback Leather, there’s a good story behind it.

Tap into imagination

If we can see something in our mind’s eye, we can easily picture ourselves in a situation. Association or empathy is only a short step away.

In a previous post, I examined the use of story in some advertisements for Marks & Spencer. The M&S posters, although brief, used specific details such as the length of time one woman’s family had grown fruit or the fact that an Orkney fisherman, Shaun Dennison, goes out on a small day boat. Armed with just those little nuggets our imaginations do the rest, creating an image in our minds of the centuries-old farm, or the hardy fisherman battling the elements as he hauls in his pots.

Brand Storytelling - Marks and Spencer poster

Tap into emotion

Use imagery and evocative language to engage your prospects emotionally. If you’ve ever seen the scene in Mad Men where Don Draper presents his pitch for the Kodak carousel, you’ll know how powerful this can be.

An advert for Budweiser appeared during this year’s Superbowl featuring the brand’s clydesdale horses. It was beautifully scripted, and very touching. By engaging viewers’ emotions the advert became a “water cooler moment”, generated huge media coverage, and has racked up over 12 million views on YouTube.

But you don’t have to produce an expensive TV advert to use emotion — the same can be accomplished through well-crafted text, or even audio. If you need assistance in crafting emotional copy, I highly recommend Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias. Although written primarily for screenwriters, it is a useful book for anyone looking to write material that engages the emotions. Another handy book is the Describer’s Dictionary.

Tell a narrative visually

Business software provider SAP, in its Run Like Never Before campaign, produced a range of engaging videos that used brand storytelling and great visuals to demonstrate the power of its products. But visual storytelling doesn’t have to be confined to video.

Brand Storytelling - the Dangers of Fracking website
The website The Dangers of Fracking uses modern web techniques (including HTML5 and CSS3) to tell a visual story of how the process of hydraulic fracturing is used in extracting natural gas, and illustrate the potential environmental and health dangers of the process. As the user scrolls down the page the images change accordingly with relevant textual information being delivered at key points. There may be ways in which you could use similar techniques to explain your organisation’s processes or activities.

So, when you are next looking to find messages that will engage potential customers or clients with your brand, I hope you will look to storytelling, and that the above suggestions may help.

About the Author

Nick Irons

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Nick Irons is Co-founder and Creative Director of Tribus Creative Ltd., a brand communications company for small businesses. He spent almost fifteen years in the entertainment industry as a writer, producer, and performer, before moving into branding and design consultancy. He is a fervent believer in the power of storytelling to unlock the value in brands both big and small.