Marketing / Branding

How to create a brand story

Laura Dolan

Updated: Jan 17, 2020 · 5 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

how to create a brand story

There’s a compelling story behind every brand. As consumers, we don’t normally give a brand’s story a second thought, we just assume that it’s always been there and it just so happens to have what we need at the time, and then we go on our merry way.

On the business side of things, it’s a different scenario. It’s the branding and the marketing that reveal the story of the company, built into its products and services. Whether it’s through advertising images or the copywriting, every brand has a story to tell.

The best brand stories answer the existential question of “Why?”—why does this brand/product/service exist? Why should it matter to the customers? Why did the company think it would have an impact on its audience?

As a business owner, have you given your brand story much thought? Does the tale of your product resonate with the needs of your customers? Does it align with your company’s mission and your message? Read on to learn more about how to create a brand story that will stir emotions and leave a lasting impression on your consumers.

Keep the customer in mind

When your brand story revolves around the customer’s journey, it creates a sense of heroism, that the customer is the reason for the existence of the company and that they’re not just the object for making a profit.

Compelling brand stories and narratives are the guide to help customers navigate their journey successfully because of the products and services you provide for them.

The trick is to capture the full intent of your brand that gives your customers a reason to listen, care, consider, and ultimately, buy. The end goal is a conversion.

At the dawn of early media including the newspaper, radio and television, companies had more liberty to tell their brand’s story through many effective campaigns in a “long form” structure, meaning 30 seconds. The extra time left the readers or viewers with a deeper understanding of the brand’s inception and how it evolved to where that brand could improve their lives.

When the internet arrived in the mid-1990s, the format of brand storytelling improved with new formats and new degrees of interactivity. Companies started formatting their ads to become more of a conversation with the audience rather than a message to the audience.

Fast forward 15 years and we entered the age of smartphones and social media, where instant gratification and capturing people’s attention have become more challenging. The format of the long-form branding story is no longer conducive for the overstimulating nature of how the audience consumes digital content.

In an effort to keep up with the new digital standards, it’s important to know how to create an effective branding story and what that looks like in 2020.

You have six seconds

Yes, six seconds. You’ve seen these ads. They sometimes precede YouTube videos, which are actually refreshing considering how long and tedious 30-second videos can seem, especially when the video you actually want to watch is shorter than that.

That six-second window poses a challenge to companies though. Creating a compelling brand story in six seconds still has to answer all the questions pertaining to why consumers should care.

The short attention span is now something with which marketers now have to compete. They know if something hasn’t captured their audience’s attention in six seconds, their message is lost.

This is an opportunity for marketers to tell a simple, concise story that acknowledges your customers’ desires just enough that it piques their interests. You want to generate just enough curiosity to compel your audience to look further into your product.

In an effort to tell a story quickly, very quickly, a few elements are essential to a successful, albeit brief, branding story. Some of the more successful six-second ads involved humor, no sound and a call-to-action.

Humor will always grab people’s attention. Take Geico’s playful ads, for example, this one jokes that you can’t skip it because it’s already over.

The video is brilliant, as Geico fits its initial message (which is one word) into the first six seconds, with the rest of the video demonstrating an exercise in doing the mannequin challenge with two men simulating a handshake that is frozen in time, as life still goes on around them. The rest of the video really has nothing to do with the company’s message, but it’s so well done you just can’t stop watching to see what happens next. Pay attention to what the ad does with Geico’s logo. Did you catch it? (Don’t read ahead).

Notice: Geico’s company name disappears when the elevator doors close and reappears after they open, suggesting that the men have now become frozen as the company’s new logo. It captured my attention and it just works.

Another tactic is an ad minus the sound. As contrary as that may seem to marketers who insist on increasing the volume of commercials to grab people’s attention, which seems aggressive and antiquated these days, no sound is actually a desired feature that forces the viewer to actually watch what’s going on. Lack of sound can be replaced by text, whether it’s the company’s slogan (all Nike has to put on its ad is “Just Do It” and we all know who we’re watching) or spelling out what the situation at hand is, such as how eating a Milky Way caused someone to accidentally dial their ex.

Using the call-to-action, or CTA, is another great way to build a six-second ad. Airbnb’s ad below is the perfect example of a brief message and a CTA at the end that says, “Book your family home now.” The message evokes that even though you’re on a family trip, you can still create memories by making homemade baked goods in your vacation home. In a six-second period, this is an opportunity to direct your audience toward a goal, which is to use your company’s services or buy your products.

Creating your six-second story

Even though the length of the ad is significantly shorter, the preparation it takes to tell your brand story in six seconds still requires the same amount of devotion that reflects the depth, complexity and richness of your company’s message.

One way to do this is by understanding the Customer BuyWay. This involves understanding what your customers’ needs and preferences are by determining what motivates your customers to care, engage and purchase. If done correctly, it results in a productive and profitable experience that will transition your customers into brand ambassadors, helping spread the word about your company, its products, services and story.

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