When you think of unforgettable stories, which ones are they?
When you think of powerful, epic brands, which ones are they?
Have you ever noticed how powerful brands usually have powerful stories associated with them?
There's no coincidence there. That is what Donald Miller has mastered. He is a NYT bestselling author and founder of a company called StoryBrand which has helped the biggest brands in the world, right up to the White House, develop powerful stories that explain their brand.
I met him last year through amazing friends in Nashville and it was incredible to sit down with him when I was there again for an interview. Not only is Donald a master storyteller, but he has also learned firsthand how to tap into the power of vulnerability in storytelling. No matter what kind of business, project, or hobby you are working on right now, his insight into telling your story is golden.
I've noticed the power of storytelling in building my own brand so I wanted to get Donald's insight into why stories are so powerful in connecting people to brands.
Stories are what people relate best to.
People can see themselves in a story much easier than they can see themselves in a hypothetical situation that a brand might present to them. So telling stories to build a relationship with your audience is usually far more effective than other methods of marketing or publicity.
The key in telling stories that people relate to is, not surprisingly, vulnerability and authenticity. That means that letting people know the struggle behind your brand - the failures and mistakes - and how you got through them is really important. As Donald told me, "The only way that we actually change is by overcoming hard things." So audiences relate to stories of how you overcame challenge to change into what you are. That takes a willingness for you to share the non-glamorous side of your story, but it's the most powerful part.
Donald had some specific advice around storytelling to really capitalize on its power for branding. He pointed out that most people, at least in the U.S., understand communication that is geared to about a 4th grade level. That's why politicians who speak simply, rather than using over-educated language, end up winning elections. For the most effective storytelling, keeping the details, sentences, and words short and easily understood is what works.
He also revealed his process for consulting with major brands on their brand story. His method includes writing out all the pieces of the story and then simplifying and editing down the actual story into the simplest version possible. He also explained that short, easy to remember sound bites are really effective at helping your audience understand what you're about and how you can serve them. It takes the human brain 8 times of hearing a piece of information to remember it (on average). That means that short, simple repetition is the most effective way to land your core message with your audience.
Finally, I asked Donald what sets apart the brands that customers really fall in love with.
Successful brands make everything about their customers - not about themselves.
This may seem obvious since companies generally make their products FOR their customers, but that doesn't always translate in a brand's story. Instead of telling a story about how great your brand is, try telling a story that shows you completely understand and empathize with your customer and their life.
Coming from a place of service rather than promotion is far more powerful.
However, there's one more piece to powerful branding that Donald also pointed out. "The people who have the biggest impact in life are the people who think they should," he told me. I completely agree. If you don't have the confidence to own the worth of your brand and share it unapologetically, you won't make a massive impact. Finding the balance between service and owning your value is the key to building the best brands.
To hear our whole conversation, listen to this episode at