What’s a brand story?

It’s not the content on a website.

It’s not the text in a brochure or the presentation pitch to investors or the latest social post. They’re just pieces of media.

Bernadette Jiwa knows that a brand story isn’t simply what you say. It’s also what people think about you based on the cues your brand gives off. A brand story is a whole image made up of events, emotions, and interpretations, so you aren’t even the one who tells that portion of the tale.

Everything you do, every aspect of your business or organization, from the hues and textures of your packaging and business cards to the people you recruit, is a reflection of your brand story, and each element should give your audience a true understanding of your brand.

Why you need a brand story

If you don’t have a compelling brand story, you’re just another commodity.

Without an engaging brand story, there’s no way for you to distinguish your company or organization. There’s no way to attract people to you.

Making a successful brand story involves more than just sticking out and attracting attention. Building something that others will care about and want to support is the goal.

It’s about defining your value and framing your scarcity. It involves going beyond the practicality and functionality of goods and services and aiming to establish lasting relationships with clients based on trust and loyalty.

Grande Starbucks

Starbucks distinguished itself from its rivals by founding a brand-new coffee story and category.

Because of their brand story, millions of people go out of their way, past 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts, to pay three times more for a cup of coffee. 

Starbucks’ goal was to be the third place between work and home, not just to sell coffee at a premium price. The foundation of companies like Apple and Starbucks goes far beyond the features and functions of their goods.

A brand story is not just about your goods. A potential customer’s relationship with your brand starts well before they buy your product. They buy your story before they buy your product.

Conflict is key

At their core, stories are about overcoming adversity.

If there’s no conflict presented, there’s no drama or emotional journey that people can relate to. And if your story has no drama or emotional journey, it won’t hold anyone’s attention - let alone resonate with and inspire them.

In the business world, brands are horrified to reveal any adversity or conflict they’ve faced. They believe that spinning a rosy, blemish-free story about how their company only experiences hockey stick growth will convince people that they’re the industry’s best-in-class solution.

They think any adversity or conflict during their company’s history will expose their imperfections, deterring potential customers from buying their product.

This is a huge misconception. Why? Because nothing’s perfect. Everything has flaws. People don’t relate to perfection. They relate to the emotional journey of experiencing adversity, struggling through it, and, ultimately, overcoming it. Why? Because that’s the story of life.

Conflict is key to telling compelling stories. Be transparent about the adversity your company has faced, and own it. The more honest you are about your shortcomings, the more people will respect you and relate to your brand.

Status quo and resolution

Conflict isn’t the only thing you should focus on when crafting your brand story.

A compelling story has two other fundamental elements - the status quo and resolution.

The status quo is the way things are or the initial nature of your situation. The conflict disrupts this situation and puts something at stake, forcing the protagonist to actively find a solution to this problem. The resolution describes how the protagonist solves the problem, giving your audience an emotional payoff.

Your brand’s story structure should follow this simple universal pattern - status quo, conflict, and resolution.

Older note Newer note