Brand storytelling: It's something every brand knows it has to engage in but only a few do really well.

The simplest reason for this? Brand storytelling is hard. It's hard to distill the things that make your company what it is into a cohesive story that grabs your customers' attention and turns them into fans.

But it can be done, and done well. Here are the 3 things that every brand telling unforgettable stories does.

1. They dig deep, soul-search, and ask tough questions about what their company stands for

Brands that excel at brand storytelling are unafraid to look inward, and to ask the tough questions about who they are and what they stand for.

They ask questions like:

  • What are our values?

  • How do we express those in our everyday business dealings?

  • Are we living up to the standards we profess for ourselves?

  • What are our biggest challenges?

  • How do we approach those challenges -- with energy and ambition? Avoidance? Fear?

  • If we asked our customers to describe our values, what do we think they'd say? Would their answers match our own?

It's easy to pull out your company's mission statement and stop there, without taking the time to reflect on how that mission is actually lived out by the company as a whole, day in and day out.

Brand storytelling without soul-searching and reflection will be mediocre at best and insincere at worst.

2. They bake their story into every aspect of their marketing

Brands that tell unforgettable stories are able to bake those stories into their marketing in a holistic, comprehensive way.

Today's consumer -- the connected consumer -- is bombarded with marketing messages and branded content. Some studies suggest the average consumer sees 3,000 to 4,000 marketing messages in a day.

This volume of messaging means that consumers are becoming better and better at tuning out anything that doesn't immediately hold their attention. This usually includes anything that feels too promotional, as well as content that seems inauthentic.

That inauthenticity can be the kiss of death for a brand today. Stories that feel tacked on to the rest of the brand's messaging, or that don't cohere with other stories the brand is telling, will cause your customers to put on those blinders.

3. They use lots of different mediums to tell their brand stories

Storytelling should be dynamic, which is why the best brand storytellers out there use a variety of mediums to construct their story.

Airbnb is one of the best at this technique. Their Airbnbmag, an online and print magazine about "being at home in the world," offers video, photos, long-form reportage, and traditional travel stories that all reflect the company's belief in the sense of belonging, and joy, that comes with getting to know a place through the eyes of its locals.

You don't need to start a magazine, though, to make your storytelling dynamic. One way to start is to take existing content that you believe tells your story well -- whether that's a blog post, a video, or a photo essay -- and translate it into another medium.

If you have a written interview with your CEO, try adding to that by interviewing her on camera.

If you've got a large video library, but not many articles or blog posts, try choosing one video and turning it into a blog post or infographic.

Not only does this exercise increase the types of content you have available, allowing you to appeal to a larger number of customers and potential customers -- it can also give you a new perspective on a story that was very familiar to you.

Brands that want their storytelling efforts to succeed need to be honest and truthful about who they are, while making sure that the stories they do tell are authentic, cohesive, and holistic. For more, read my post "What's the Best Valentine's Day Gift for Brands? Self-Care."

Published on: Feb 28, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.