Just like your favourite big screen characters, your brand needs a backstory, otherwise known as a ‘brand story’.
This little narrative is more than a historical account of the formation of your business. It explains the driving purpose behind what you do. And, if it’s done well, it can present your brand as more relatable, likeable and trustworthy.
Humans love stories. Our brains are wired for them. That’s why a compelling story not only helps us remember, but as we see ourselves mirrored in the characters, it also encourages us to connect emotionally with it.
So, how can we write a brand story that builds relatability and trust? Today, I’m sharing a 4-step recipe that will help you put together a winning brand story in under 30 minutes.
The Simple Storytelling Formula
If you distill down your favourite books, movies or fairytales, you might notice they all have similar elements—
- A main character or hero with a desire;
- A challenge or obstacle that prevents them from getting what they want;
- An opportunity that provides a new path towards getting what they want; and
- A resolution that gives us hope.
These are the same 4 elements you can use to tell your brand’s origin story.
1. The Character
First, you’ll introduce the hero of your story, in this case the person or people who conceived of your business idea and brought it to life. Set the scene by giving your reader a bit of context about the type of person you were (or the founder was) before starting the business.
- What year was it?
- What was the situation you were in?
- What did you believe to be true at this time?
- What was life like for you?
Irrelevant details clutter your story and detract from what’s important, so make sure everything you include is either relevant to the story or mirror the beliefs or lifestyle of your ideal customers.
Check out these examples—
- From GoPro—“GoPro was founded in 2002 by Nick Woodman—a surfer, skier and motorsports enthusiast...”
- From Oscar—“In 2012, Oscar CEO Mario Schlosser and his wife were going through their first pregnancy in New York.”
- From Lavva—“On a recovery journey from advanced-stage cancer, our CEO and founder, Elizabeth, built her diet around nourishing, high-fat foods.”
2. The Struggle
For most business owners, there was a triggering event, situation or frustration that made them want to create a new product or service. This is a desire, hurdle or challenge that you were grappling with at the time. Maybe you were fed up with how your industry operated, you really wanted to do or achieve something, or you couldn’t find the solution that had the exact features you wanted.
- What event or situation triggered the idea for your business?
- What challenges were you facing at the time?
- What did you want most?
Let’s take a look at some examples—
- GoPro founder Nick wanted a better way to film his mates surfing—“ in search of a better way to film himself and his friends surfing.”
- Oscar founders were shocked at how hard it was to navigate the health care system—“Confronted with a maze of insurance jargon and no practical way to identify the best obstetrician, their first meaningful experience with the health care system put them at a loss as to how to navigate care or hold anyone accountable.”
- Lavva founder Liz just “wanted was a plant-based yogurt that didn’t taste like an ‘alternative’.”
The struggle you talk about here humanises you because it shows you weren’t always in the successful position you are now and perhaps have felt the same way as your customers. If you have walked in your customers shoes and your past reality reflects their current situation, sharing your struggle allows you to inadvertently communicate ‘if I can do this, so can you.’
What you write about in the struggle should directly connect with your new opportunity that you’ll reveal next, so let’s take a look at that new opportunity.
3. The New Opportunity
This is the turning point in your story. It’s the opportunity that presented itself that allowed you to overcome the challenge you faced. This should link back to your current product or service offering and the values which govern how you operate. This usually relates to a new found approach, a missing step or ingredient, or a way to simplify something that’s confusing or complex.
Let’s go back to our examples—
- Go Pro found a new approach to filming while surfing—“What started with a 35mm camera and a wrist strap made from old wetsuits and plastic scraps…”
- Oscar wanted a way to simplify insurance so that consumers could be in charge of their health— “Mario and Josh knew that their experiences were reflective of a larger problem in health care: consumers were powerless. That spring, they founded Oscar Health.”
- Lavva founder Liz stumbled upon an ingredient that no one else was using—“That’s when Liz discovered the Pili nut. Grown in volcanic soil in Southeast Asia, Pili has the highest vitamin E and magnesium of any nut. Blown away by its rich, buttery flavor, Liz began blending Pili nuts with coconut milk.”
Your new opportunity is a great place to share what makes your business unique and how you do things differently to other brands.
4. The Outcome
Finally, you need to share your results and give your customers hope in the process.
- How did your new opportunity create change in your life, or the lives of others?
- How has your business grown or evolved from that point?
- Do you have proof or data to back up any results you share?
- Now that your customers can see how far you’ve come, what does the future look like?
- GoPro—“...has grown into an international company that has sold over 26 million GoPro cameras in more than 100 countries. But it’s the millions of passionate GoPro users around the globe who bring the magic to life. They humble and inspire us every day with incredible creativity that helps us see the world in an all-new way—and fires us up to keep creating the most awesome, innovative products possible.”
- Oscar—“Since then, Oscar has been focused on one mission – to be a health insurance company centered around the patient, engaging members and guiding them to the right care. Along the way, a team of 700 of the most talented, experienced, and mission-driven individuals from the halls of technology, health care, politics, design, and data have come together in service of the Oscar mission. And 250,000 individuals and businesses now know what it feels like to finally be in charge of their own health care. Although Oscar can’t dismantle and rebuild the country’s broken health care system on our own, we can work every day to offer you more for your money, give you access to the best doctors, and make your experience within the health care system better. And we will continue to do just that.”
- For Liz— “The result was unlike anything she’d ever tasted before; spoonably thick, deliciously rich. Over the next three years, Liz worked on perfecting the recipe. Instead of taking industry shortcuts like gums, coloring agents, artificial flavors, or sugar—she forged her own path. She discovered young plantains added a beautiful texture and hint of natural sweetness. And vegan probiotics added the perfect tartness. Today, Liz is healthy and Lavva is alive for all to enjoy.”
Write your story.
Now, it’s over to you to use these 4 elements to write your own brand story.
If I can leave you with one last tip to consider it’s this— don’t forget who you’re writing for. Even though, yes, this is your story, you are writing it for your customer to understand who you are, why you operate in a certain way, and what you stand for. Make sure it’s relevant and inspiring to them!
I hope this article helps you to craft your own powerful brand story. And if you think it might be helpful to someone else you know, don’t forget to share it.
Now I’d love to hear from you— will you be using the simple storytelling formula to write your brand story? Let me know in the comments!