Learn how to create a brand story that aligns your business with your ideal clients and makes the right impression. Learn what elements you might be missing, how to add them, and how to share your story consistently.
At Tailor Brands, I’ve found that so many of our customers (independent business owners) look at how to create a brand story as something they decide to actively start doing, without realizing that their brand has already been created the minute they have an online footprint or business presence.
They tend to spend so much time trying to design the perfect logo or obsessing over the perfect imagery that they don’t focus on what really matters: Establishing trust with their audience.
The best way to establish trust? Connect to your audience through storytelling.
A brand story is simple: It’s the story of your business, the one that elicits an emotional response from your audience and helps them form positive associations with your brand. A strong brand story can connect you to your audience on a human level and also leave a lasting impression that motivates them to stick with your brand in the long term.
But what makes for a good brand story, and how do you get it across?
Let’s take a look at several tips that will help you come up with your brand story and share it with your audience!
1. Nail your mission statement
Ultimately, your brand story should be a meaningful answer to the question “Why does my business exist?” (Hint: That answer should NOT be “in order to make money.”) Any business can make money, but why did you start your specific brand?
TOMS may sell shoes, but they exist to improve the lives of those in need. Microsoft came to be in order to make computers accessible to everyone. Airbnb started so that anyone can find a home no matter where they are in the world.
At the heart of every great brand story is a one-liner, or mission statement, that sums up what you do and why you do it. Once you have your mission statement down, it’ll be much easier to assemble your overall story.
This may sound pretty basic, but I’ve seen a lot of small business owners have difficulty boiling down what they do into one, clear sentence.
To come up with your one-liner/mission statement, you can do a short exercise. Write down answers to the following questions:
- Who are you? Ex. I’m John, and I’m a Wellness Coach.
- Who is your ideal client? Something like “Anyone who likes healthy food” isn’t as strong an answer as “new parents who want to eat healthy without investing too much time into cooking.”
- What do your ideal clients need? Ex. To lose post-partum weight in a healthy way.
- How do you offer it? For bloggers, this could be through actionable tips and recipes; course creators may offer an 8-week online cooking class; product sellers might provide kitchenware that makes it easier and faster to chop vegetables.
- Why do you offer it? Mention some core values that you hold, e.g. I believe healthy living should be accessible to everyone.
The more specific you get with creating your mission statement, the better!
When you’re finished answering the questions, you should have a sentence (or two, max,) that says something like “I’m a wellness coach who has created several dietary programs to help new parents lose weight in a healthy and stress-free way.”
2. Think connections, not sales
A lot of independent business owners believe telling their brand story means selling themselves—but that’s a mistake.
Your brand story should be focused on connecting with your target audience and forming these connections through shared human experience. That’s because your audience is much more likely to trust you as a brand if they connect with you as a person rather than a business.
In fact, a study found that nearly 80% of people want brands to tell stories, and most of them are interested in hearing compelling stories about “regular people” as opposed to celebrities.
So, what does this mean in practice?
The easiest way to form connections with your audience is to think of your business as an actual person. What would its archetype be? Are you experienced and wise, quirky and fun, charitable and kind? As an independent business owner, typically, this should come naturally. Your personal brand, including how you represent yourself, how you communicate, and more, will make up your business brand.
Of course, this also means you have to understand your audience (see why creating a one-liner was important?), because your brand personality should be one that they would get along with.
Take Chipotle as an example; though a huge company, they manage to communicate their brand story in a personalized way that both creates trust with their audience and highlights their shared values— the importance of sustainable food systems. (Check out their Back to the Start campaign to see what I mean.)
3. Stay authentic
Because the internet is saturated with content from brands trying to make their mark, many independent business owners feel like they need to embellish in order to set themselves apart from the competition and get noticed.
But when it comes to telling your brand story, that’s a huge no-no. Today’s consumers can spot inauthenticity like it’s a fire in a freezer, and nothing will make your audience distrust you faster than if you pretend to be something you’re not.
Do you remember when Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015? They were trying to encourage the story that they were a clean, green brand, but they got caught and were met with huge backlash that tainted their name until today. And honestly? There’s no need to oversell yourself or stretch the truth in order to create a powerful and authentic story. If your business was built on any sort of values, be it innovation, beauty, creativity, quality, etc. that’s enough to create a point of common interest with your audience and be remembered for what you actually stand for.
4. Put your ideal clients first
What makes up a brand story? From old-school literature to modern branding, every great story has 3 components:
- Hero – A relatable figure who embarks on some sort of journey
- Obstacle – Something that the hero cannot achieve or attain on their own
- Resolution – The solution that makes the hero’s problem go away
But here’s where a brand story becomes slightly less intuitive. You’re not the hero of your story—your clients are. While you created your business with a goal in mind, your clients are the ones who help you reach that goal.
Your brand, on the other hand, is the resolution. It’s the solution to your audience’s pain points, and it shows them that you relate to them, understand them, and can help them out.
This means that when telling your brand story, you shouldn’t put the focus on why you’re so great—you should be focusing on how you help your clients. The story is that they need help with X, and that’s why you’ve brought them Y. Instead of persuading your audience to join your brand, your story invites them in.
The prescription eyewear company Warby Parker does a great job of this; rather than pushing their products, they focus instead on the belief that everyone deserves the right to see, and that buying glasses should be easy and fun.
In other words, they highlight their shared values with their customers as the reason for their existence—which is ultimately what makes their customers keep coming back.
Now, take the answers you wrote down in the one-liner exercise above, and translate them into the “hero, obstacle, resolution” format. What journey are your customers on, and how are you helping them navigate their obstacles?
Make sure to keep the story simple and straightforward. A simple story is easier for both your audience to remember and for you to market. If there’s too much complexity, you run the risk of diluting your core brand message and confusing your audience in the process.
The importance of brand storytelling
A great brand story will capture people’s attention and drive your ideal clients to want to work with you. It creates the emotional connection with your business, that when paired with your visual brand identity, causes customers to think about you and your services when they’re looking for a solution to their needs.
How to share your brand story
You’ve created the story; now it’s time to get it out into the world.
Your jobis to make sure that every piece of content you create and share directly or indirectly reinforces your brand story. It should be present in the About page of your website, your Instagram page, your marketing collateral, and much more.
Here are a few ways share your brand story:
Include client stories on your website
Like I said before, your story ends with your audience—and soon, they’re (hopefully) going to start telling your story for you. Encourage them to send you reviews and testimonials, whether by offering an incentive (discount!) or offering to feature them on your social pages. Not only will positive testimonials help to spread your brand story, but they’ll also signal new potential customers to start engaging with your brand.
Integrate brand story in your blog posts
The content on your website should have individual goals, but you should still be able to weave in your brand story. Your blog posts are a great channel to do so. Even if you’re writing about something educational, you can connect it to your business and how your brand delivers beyond offering a solution.
Meet your audience where they are
Seek out the social media channels your potential customers are using and start engaging with them there. Your audience is more likely to relate your brand story if it’s being told to them on a medium where they’re willing to pay attention, and being active on social media enhances the chances your brand story will get traction.
Post valuable, shareable content (i.e. content that is entertaining or instructive, and not just advertising your offer) that is relevant to your brand story, and use CTA’s to encourage your audience to share it. The more content of yours that gets shared, the more your brand story will get told.
Sell your story
Don’t think of your offer as “products” or “service”; incorporate your story into your offer. ASOS doesn’t sell clothes but “feel-good-‘fits.” Apple doesn’t give support, they provide a “Genius Bar.” Brainstorm ways to shape your offer in light of your brand story, whether by simply re-naming it or designing packaging that speaks to your values.
Share user-generated content
Share user–generated content. In addition to testimonials, you should be on the lookout for content referencing your brand that your customers create—tagging you in posts, talking about your brand, etc. You can use social listenting tools to get notified every time your brand is referenced online, and then make sure to respond to the poster and repost the content.
Above all, the most important thing from here on out is to use consistent messaging on every single platform, because inconsistency leads to confusion—and confusion leads to a lack of trust.
No matter where they come across your brand, your audience should see the same brand story being told over and over again, so they can learn it over time and even tell it themselves.
Start telling your brand story
The minute you formed your business, you already had a brand story—the trick is just learning how to formulate it and share it consistently. Remember to always keep your customers at the center, focus on forming connections with them rather than on selling yourself, and you’ll be telling a story that resonates with your audience and keeps them connected to your brand for the long haul.