4 Ways to Make Your Brand Story Compelling

The word “brand” probably makes most of us think of sterile corporate logos, but in my last Flight Log article, I wrote about how a good brand story actually advances your work by adding human warmth to an overly commercialized and anonymous world. In this Flight Log, we’ll look at four traits that can make your brand story so compelling that your audience not only remembers it for years, but wants to connect with and support your business or organization.

First a quick review:

In my last article, I defined a brand as the personality of a business or organization … which can be vitally alive and personable instead of “salesy” or dryly business-like. It’s your choice what characteristics or atmosphere you or your group cultivate to create your brand, and you’ll want to strategically choose what appeals to your customers or constituents. If you are an organization working with inner-city youth, for example, you might be most successful if you keep your atmosphere casual and the staff dress and talk not so differently from the local teens. Yet these characteristics must come from a genuine place or people will straight through them as fast as any teenager sees through an adult “trying” to dress and talk like them.

My last article defined a brand story as a human interest story that makes the reader or listener feel connected to the organization’s personality and feel good about supporting it. You did an exercise to consider how you would describe the personality of your business or organization, and what events in its life story can illustrate those characteristics and how they developed. Now we’ll look at what traits make a brand story truly compelling.


A good brand story….

1. Shows instead of telling.


    ust about anyone who has ever been in a fiction writing class has heard the mantra, “Show, don’t tell.” The same applies to brand stories. If I say my client became a couple’s therapist because “she has strong conflict resolution skills,” you are left completely cold and I’ve done my client very little good. Yet, if I write about how she became a therapist because she found herself as a teenager helping her parents regain a harmonious relationship when their marriage was falling apart after her brother died, you feel completely different. She comes to life as an earnest, caring person with a natural talent nurtured by both life and higher education in psychotherapy. It is the combination of the two that will make you see her as someone you would feel comfortable going to and confiding in, and someone whose advice you would trust for something as critical as working to repair your relationship.


2. Enables the listener or reader to get to know the main character.


    good story has a coherent, multi-dimensional personality for each character, shown in how the character thinks, feels, acts, and responds to a variety of situations. Likewise, your brand story needs to focus on events and situations to which your organization’s responses illustrate how your multiple traits combine to form who you are.
    For example, my own brand story shares how, before striking out and starting my own business, I was criticized and passed up for promotion when I recognized and stood up for social justice issues. My target clients are people doing mission-based work, so it is important that my brand story demonstrate that I not only have the writing and consulting skills they need, but that I share their values. My story shows that like them, I am not just doing this work for money; like them, I do it because I am someone who looks for and sees systemic issues, and is willing to rock the boat and make personal sacrifices to effect change.


3. Illustrates how the character’s personality developed and what it means.


    he truth is, no matter how much time you have spent with someone and how much you know them, if you don’t know their background story, the person remains somewhat mysterious. There’s an “Aha!” moment when you hear someone’s story; you see them for the first time in the context of their life, and begin to understand how and why they became who they are. This builds your confidence that they are who you believe them to be, and that builds your trust in them. Think of your brand story as the story of how your business or organization developed the personality that it has, the story proves that personality genuine and trustworthy. Looking back at my previous two examples, imagine how hearing the therapist’s story would help you feel you could trust her with delicate thoughts and feelings, since she no longer feels like a stranger and has been through similar experiences. Remember how hearing my story made you feel that you can trust me because we are already on the same team, just playing different positions to work together toward a common goal.


4. Makes the listener or reader root for the main character.


    good story always has conflict, and the same is true of a good brand story. It needs to show what challenges or obstacles were in the way, and how the main character overcame or transformed them. Only then will the audience really start rooting for the character, and if we see them stumble first, and get kicked down, we will root for them all the harder. Imagine a great little restaurant with a cozy ambiance and delicious food. Now pretend you know that the chef was a police officer disabled in an accident while on duty and virtually home-bound during recovery, but he’d always wanted to learn how to cook, so while he couldn’t leave the house, he dove into cooking to avoid depression, and became so passionate about it that he opened this restaurant. Now you not only enjoy his restaurant, but really want it to succeed as a business.


I n today’s world, so much is stripped of life and transformed into a commodity, so we find ourselves interacting more with devices than with people, and we are even taught to treat people like devices, interacting with them via prescribed patterns and keeping our hearts hidden (how many of you automatically say “good” when someone asks how you’re doing, and then realize you didn’t even think first about how you actually felt?). This means that a human touch can be pure magic. Tell your story in a way that makes it feel human and uplifting, and you will be amazed by what happens.

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