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The Importance Of Storytelling For Agile Brands

The following is based on a chapter in my new book, The Agile Brand. For more thoughts like these, as well as to read the rest of the book, please visit my website here.

As branding has evolved, the need for brands to tell unique and authentic stories that portray their mission and values has grown continually stronger.

Jay Baer, author and founder of Convince and Convert, says,

If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.

An obvious place to tell your organization’s story is on the “about” or “history” section of your website or marketing collateral. But the most effective brand storytelling occurs organically throughout everything you do.


Make it educational

Think about the last time a friend or colleague told you about a brand or product they like.

Chances are, one of the things that stood out was something they learned while reading about the product, reading its history, or maybe even using the product.

People like to share something new or unexpected about brands they love with their friends, family and colleagues. Giving them something they can use to teach others motivates them to embrace and remember the information. In the act of teaching someone else, they also build greater affinity for your brand or product.


Make it authentic

It’s time to stop thinking in the broadcast mode of marketing. Simply saying something isn’t enough. Claiming to be the best, the fastest, or the friendliest means nothing without proof, and proof isn’t just statistics, but meaningful interactions that build relationships.

A recent global survey by Cohn & Wolfe found that a large majority (87%) of consumers felt it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times.” This is even more impressive when you take into account that the survey participants ranked authenticity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%) when asked what they valued most in a brand.

It’s also time to stop taking obvious actions that can easily be read as plays at being genuine. Or, as Jill Byron said in a recent article in Advertising Age, “Don’t say you are authentic—be authentic.” Being the best means proving that continually over time.

Authenticity is not established overnight. It takes a long-term commitment to staying true to a set of values and acting on them.


Make it relatable

The best way to make your brand’s story memorable is to relate it to your audience. With all of the changes, different focus areas, and competing or conflicting tastes, you have your work cut out for you.

Fortunately, by focusing on the essence of what makes your brand unique you can cut through the clutter and find a way to relate to your audiences. You may be able to filter your brand’s values through a slightly different lens for each audience.

To be relatable means that you appeal to someone’s sense of values, and that you solve a problem for them. Appealing to values has become a very important focus for most brands, which do everything from engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns, to encouraging employee volunteering.

Brands that truly solve their customer’s challenges find ways to relate to them by understanding what the customer needs to accomplish to be satisfied.

Solving a challenge could be as simple as making them laugh (who doesn’t need a little humor in their life?), but when someone truly relates to a brand, it’s because that brand addressed a need. When a brand tells its story, it should incorporate a relatable challenge that they’ve addressed.


Make it shareable

What good is a story no one remembers, or isn’t easy for your customers, fans, and employees to tell? While it may not be as obvious as the first two points, having a story that is easy to share is every bit as important.

While an effective story arc (beginning, middle and end) is important, it’s not enough. The story needs to resonate enough with both the teller and the listener. For example, it isn’t beneficial if you have a story that could be compelling, if it can’t be embraced by the storyteller to drive the point home.

By telling a story, and finding ways to draw your audiences into it, you can build a stronger relationship. But a story alone isn’t enough.

It must come from a genuine place that connects not only with your brand’s values, but with your audience’s. It needs to be something that both your employees and your customers can tell and want to tell others about.

The benefits of a message that is easy to share means your story can take on a life of its own and allow your customers to feel they are a part of that story. That is a win-win.

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