11 tips to tell your brand's story

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Stories have put us to bed, inspired us and taught us valuable lessons to pursue great things in life. But how do you tell a brand’s story?

Since the beginning of time, people have always been attracted to stories. Stories have put us to bed, entertained us, taught us valuable lessons and inspired us to pursue great things in life. Stories can be found everywhere, they’re engraved in our lives, and they’re the most essential method of communication, dating back to prehistoric cave paintings.

Funnily enough, no one has really reinvented the wheel when it comes to telling a story. Every good story still follows the same structure. They all have a beginning, a middle and an end. This is called a 3-act structure, a structure that officially dates back to Aristotle’s poetics and which is used in all kinds of scriptwriting and narrative prose.

Stories can be found in nature, in history, in our family anecdotes, in our country’s folklore, and of course in the world of advertising. Your story shares a message between yourself, the speaker, and whoever’s listening, your audience. A story’s message is the reason why your story is being told in the first place, it’s what it’s about, it’s what happens and it’s also the means to an end, the goal of the story.

It starts with a set-up, your “Once upon a time…” scenario. It is in that moment where you establish the ‘where’ and ‘who’ of your story. The set-up is your beginning and the status quo. It’s always best to start with a location. It immediately paints a mental picture and creates a vibe in your audience’s mind.

A really good story will get your audience not only reacting, but also acting, which translates into physically doing something.

Then, of course, there’s always a character. Your character is your hero, your leading lady, your mascot or, if you’re in the business of advertising, your character is your brand. Your character should be the one who directly or indirectly takes you on a journey and shares a message, which ultimately sways you towards the story’s goal.

Now, what comes after your set-up, after you’ve established your location and your character is very interesting. It’s where real emotions and engagements start to flourish. The middle of your story, also known as the conflict, problem or confrontation is where you will find some kind of obstacle which your character will have to overcome.

There’s nothing more exciting than drama or challenging events. It’s a burden dealing with them yourself, but hearing about them or relating to them is what keeps us on the edge of our seat at cinemas, as well as addicted to trashy reality TV and all other kinds of guilty pleasures. In advertising storytelling, this is the part where you hook your audience with the problem or the cliché line of “are you tired of feeling…”.

The reason why stories have been told since the beginning of time is because they affect us, teach us, create emotions, help us escape our reality and enjoy ourselves.

All good things come to an end, and so do our stories. Endings present your audience with a resolution, the solution to the problem and the ending of the journey. They provide closure, and explain how it all works out. After you reel in your audience and take them for a ride, this is where it all culminates and reaches that climax.

The reason why stories have been told since the beginning of time is because they affect us, teach us, create emotions, help us escape our reality and enjoy ourselves. The art of storytelling is an incredibly effective communication tool, heck, sometime’s they’re even what helps us become rich and famous due to their inspirational qualities. Most of all, stories have a poetic sense of immortality, they withstand the test of time and stick around much longer than we do.

A good story affects your audience but a really good story will get your audience not only reacting, but also acting, which translates into physically doing something. That’s what you want your story to do in marketing. You want your audience to react and purchase, am I right?

Here are some useful tips on how to get started with basic storytelling.

1. Sum it up in one line. Treat it like an elevator pitch. Before you tell a story, you should be able to narrow it down into a logline (an ultra-short synopsis). Loglines are those short descriptions you read when checking a film on IMDB, and which either convince you or dissuade you from watching it.

2. Speak visually. Your opening should intrigue your audience. You have to capture their attention in a matter of seconds, so make sure that whatever you say is appealing and evocative, in other words, painting a mental picture from the very beginning. The best way to paint a mental picture is to describe every detail and by using interesting adjectives.

3. Come up with a killer title. You can read more about what’s in a name here. Your story’s title is your message’s name, so make sure it hits your audience like the hot summer sun. That’s what’s going to attract people to your story.

4. Make your audience SLAP. Just like in marketing copywriting, your story should get people to SLAP. Not literally, but affecting them enough to make them stop, listen, act and purchase (the product or idea you’re selling).

5. Deliver something of value. Make sure your story has a purpose. There’s nothing more pointless than a wasted, open-ending, vague-meaning anecdote. What you want to do is open someone’s mind to something new and exciting, taking them away and bringing them back to reality with more information, knowledge, insight and opinion.

6. Keep it simple. It’s not about showing off your vocabulary or your highly intellectual opinions. Good stories are easy enough for a four year old to understand. Having a simple story follows that ‘less is more’ approach, and can definitely help you broaden your audience and likability as a storyteller.

7. Review and reduce. Get rid of the unnecessary. Make sure every sentence or piece of the story has a purpose. If it’s not telling you anything, it’s just taking up valuable space and time to provide people with something that truly matters to them.

8. Change someone’s mind. There’s nothing more refreshing than tilting other people’s perspectives. If you can have them thinking differently after engaging with your story, I’d say you’ve created a good one or better yet, a lucrative one. Try make people discover something new and out of the ordinary.

9. Play on emotions. Emotions are what make us feel, so try and tap into your own real-life experiences to create those connections with your audience. If you can make them feel something, you’ve already won half the battle. Just like with music, a good story should give you the goosebumps.

10. Listen to your audience. Know who you’re addressing and simply give them what they want. If you’re telling a child a bedtime story, throw in some ‘far, far away’ lands and adventures.

11. Avoid hyperbole. Your audience can smell desperation, exaggeration and lies. Avoid using excessive and unrealistic descriptions to try and prove a point or describe a character. Instead of using superlatives, describing something or someone as the “greatest”, explain why and let the story speak for itself.

Even this article follows a 3-act story structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end. So this is our resolution, if you have a brand that needs some storytelling, try taking our advice to tell a compelling story or get in touch and let us do the work for you. Never underestimate the power of storytelling, because as it happens, stories tend to outlive us, overpower us and take us on wild, imaginative journeys.

Click on the "rock on" icon at the bottom of our website for some short, fun stories of our own.