When we tell stories or jokes, we become hooked on the narrative. The building, the suspense, the eventual satisfying payoff. They’re all designed to keep you hungry for the next part. And when the story is over, or when you’ve laughed your head off at the punchline, it feels like it has done its job. But what happens then? Well, if it’s good enough, it sits with you. And later, you feel compelled to share it. You recount the same story or joke to another, this time, with a minor addition: “[name] told me that.”
This is because when you inspire, entertain and engage people on an emotional level, you create a lasting impact. The trick, for marketing at least, is less about recounting an anecdote, and more the construction of a narrative that will have the same effect and reach.
Brand stories are a declaration of who you are. Not to mention, the most effective way of communicating what your brand is about and what you stand for. It’s your means of detailing your company’s purpose, what you do and why it’s done in this way. All to highlight what makes you stand out from the competition. But that’s not really answering the question, is it?
Put simply, these are a type of video narrative that often serve as an individual’s first encounter with your brand. Not just a specific product or service, but your entire company. Therefore, it’s an introductory conversation. So what do you want to say? If you only have my attention for one to two minutes, how can you best encapsulate your brand’s legacy, attitude and direction?
The best approach to building a brand story is to be human. Because creating a sense of authenticity is one of the most underrated ways of connecting with your audience. It’s not just about boring blurbs and “we had a dream,” so don’t feel you have to go down the path of “this is how we came up with the idea for our company.” For example, I could be really passionate about card games. But if every time I’m asked why, I convey a tired story about the first game I played, it would get very old very quickly. Why would I limit myself to the same one narrative over and over, even if it’s true?
Taking this example alone, there are so many ways of saying and showing how that passion is felt. I could talk about my favourite card game, or the one I recommend to new players. Alternatively, I could detail the way winning or losing a card game makes me feel. Or what about how playing these games has changed my worldview and outlook on life? All of these individual narratives are far more compelling than trotting out the same old anecdotes. And all of them will have a deeper resonance with the person I’m speaking to.
That being said, there are a few examples where this origin aligns perfectly with frustrations experienced by the target audience. So it makes complete sense to put that story front and centre. Let’s take Warby Parker for example. They’re a glasses manufacturer founded by four business school friends. And the origin of their company came from one of these individuals being taken aback by the price of replacement prescription glasses. From there, an online model was formed around the idea of subscription and the four friends became an overnight success story. To the extent that Warby Parker has become shorthand for any new company which takes an established product or service and applies a subscription model to it.
To take another example, let’s look at Airbnb. The concept of a bed and breakfast is one that had grown stale, felt dodgy and didn’t appeal to a younger generation. So Airbnb changed the narrative. Shrugging off the perception of staying in some dusty cottage covered in doilies, they projected a world of adventure and connections waiting to happen. Bed and Breakfast was 20th century stagnation, whereas Airbnb was the 21st century’s answer to dynamic holidaying. More than that, they also took a stab at hotels. Why stay in a faceless, nondescript box, when you could live with Paulo for a week? As he takes you around the local hidden hot spots, to ensure your holiday isn’t just another stamp in the passport, it’s a treasured memory.
With both examples, you get a feeling for not only what the respective companies do but what makes them special.
So are brand stories solely limited to video? No, of course not. Whether a print campaign, automatic emails or broad brand guidelines, all of it should be used to express your fundamentals, acting as the lifeblood of your company.
But video should be your primary focus. Why? Facts, basically. Video has a 92% global reach online, video helped increase sales for 78% of marketers and studies show that viewers retain 95% of the information contained in videos. So by pairing the success of video, with your own engaging brand story, you’re able to produce something of lasting significance. And to boot, you'll also want to consider another type of video to support higher conversions - the humble explainer video.