John Cinquina, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Perth, Australia, is the CEO of Red Meets Blue Branding--a brand strategy agency--and the author of Build Great Brands. We asked him about the best way to craft your own brand's story and why it will be valuable. Here's what he had to say:
Since the beginning of time, we have communicated in stories. They capture our attention and we learn best from lessons hidden within those anecdotes. It's no surprise, then, that effective storytelling is a shared skill among great speakers, leaders, and entrepreneurs; great entrepreneurs create great brands. Why? Because great brands articulate their story and find ways to tell it masterfully and authentically.
The Power of a Great Brand Story
Companies and brands engage audiences on many levels. An advertising message focused purely on a transaction or the 99-cent deals at your local grocery story are met with an immediate yes or no reaction; most people will forget the ad several hours later. However, branded advertising that tells an authentic story engages people on a deeper level. This is what makes stories so powerful--they are memorable and lasting. A prospective customer will make a decision on whether to buy-in to a company based on its brand narrative. It makes sense, then, to consider your brand story and how it goes beyond the "you-buy-we-sell" principle and opens the door to connect authentically.
Three Steps to Write a Great Brand Story
- Take a notepad and write your past, present, and future story. The story of your company and brand starts with the founder and why he or she started the business in the first place. Spare no detail, and write this story from the beginning as an historical account. Include anecdotes, interesting facts, and a testimony of what has brought the organization to this point. Every great brand story considers the purpose and dream that birthed the company, and understanding what has brought you to this point and where the company is going is a strong place to start. Highlight the parts that reveal the purpose of your organization, and you'll be ready for step two.
- Develop a statement to sum up why the company exists. Your brand statement is something you'll say externally, so you want to be creative and have fun with it. It is neither a mission statement nor a vision statement; a brand statement considers what matters to customers and stakeholders and the deeper purpose of the company. It goes beyond the money you want to earn and sets an ideal future to reach for, driven by values. It asks, "Why are we here?" and "How are we making the world a better place?" By answering these questions, you find the seed from which you'll build your statement.
- Write a story around that statement. The statement you created in step two becomes the starting point for what will become your brand story, and you'll write a one-page document to support it. A great brand story is succinct and tells the narrative of your brand, including where you've come from and where you are going. A great brand story must be true, authentic, and honest. It cannot be made up or derived; consumers sniff out inauthenticity in a heartbeat and will punish you for it. A great brand story must also be deep rooted in purpose. When there is a purpose driving your story, audiences engage. It invites the audience to be part of where you are going and is written conversationally. It shares your heart and why you do what you do, and as a story, you must learn to tell it masterfully.
I have a story. So what now?
Every brand needs activation in the market. We need to know how to share our story, where to share it, and how we can use it as a launch pad for innovation. First, you need to ensure your brand is aligned to your story. Review your content, the brand assets you have, and your brand touch-points to consolidate your brand around the story. For it to be true, honest, and believable, it needs to be consistently told.
Second, your brand story is a launch pad for ideas. It can exist within a brand story book, on your website, and as the building block for onboarding new team members. You'll find that your brand story is as important for your team as it is for your customers. A great brand story should also spark ideas for campaigns that are aligned with your purpose and help deliver a consistent narrative throughout advertising rollouts to generate leads. For something so simple, you'll find the process of writing a brand story gratifying and consolidating for the future.