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Human beings are compulsive storytellers. Stories are how we make sense of the world, give meaning to our existence, and connect with each other – that’s why stories are such a powerful way to build your brand.
Advertising and branding agencies are obsessed with the idea of storytelling – brands are even rated annually in terms of their storytelling capabilities. Guinness told the story of an American jazz producer defying racial intolerance, Milky Bar told the story of an heroic cowboy freeing a wild western town from its tyrannical sheriff, and perfume adverts, of course… well, who knows what story those adverts are trying to tell, actually.
The point is that thanks to the internet and social media, even the tiniest micro-business now has the opportunity to engage vast audiences with compelling narratives. Effective storytelling on a website, blog, or social media platform can woo new customers and retain old ones – but how do you do it effectively?
Let’s start out with our own story – the story of how one ambitious entrepreneur, frustrated by the constant trials and tribulations of traditional accountancy firms, created a fairly priced, all-inclusive service for freelancers, contractors, and small businesses, uniting easy-to-use software with unlimited in-house support available with an affordable monthly subscription. That man was our very own CEO, Darren Fell.
Over ten years on, and we’ve never forgotten what drove Darren to establish Crunch: forward-thinking, modern, innovative, flexible, and dedicated accountancy support that continues to help make the dreams of our clients come true.
Well, that’s our story – but what about yours? How did your business come to be, and how can you tell your story in the most evocative way possible?
Telling your story all begins with a platform. A lot of companies have a blog section on their website – we’re no different, and you’re on it right now!
The Knowledge section of our website is an invaluable tool, not just for the thousands of people across the UK looking for answers to their accountancy or self-employment questions, but for us as a business. Our Knowledge articles guides and tools get over 700,000 visits a month, attracting a huge amount of traffic, new users and leads for us each month.
The Knowledge section gives us the chance to help our target audience, to show them we know what we’re talking about, and demonstrate the qualities Crunch is founded on: simple, jargon-free support with your interests at heart.
A blog is the perfect opportunity to interact with your audience, to answer their questions, to demonstrate your business’ qualities and expertise, and, yes, to tell your story. So now that we’ve discussed “where”, let’s talk about “how”.
Storytelling is all about creating an emotional response and building relationships. Despite our scientific and technological development, we humans remain driven more by our emotions rather than rationality and logic.
Neuroscientists in Southern California have even conducted research to prove this point. Their experiments showed that, when evaluating brands, people primarily use emotions, feelings, and experiences rather than information and facts. So, think first and foremost about how you want people to feel about your company. Write down those adjectives and use them to underpin all the content you create.
Take the yearly John Lewis Christmas ads, for instance. They’re not designed to make you think – they’re designed to make you feel. Whether it be an old man living a solitary, lonely life on the moon, or the outcast dragon desperately trying to find his niche in a world that fears and hates him, John Lewis aren’t trying to sell you a product – they’re trying to sell you their brand.
At this point, the John Lewis Christmas ads have become an annual event: a reminder of what’s so important about the holiday season. Giving, caring, sharing, supporting, being there for one another – all attributes a brand would just love to have associated with them.
This is one of the basic rules of any piece of creative writing. It means you need to exemplify values or characteristics, rather than boldly laying claim to them. It’s much better to prove how your brand embodies or upholds values through actions or examples. Bragging will only make you look arrogant and self-assured.
If you want generosity to be one of the key themes of your business, prove your generosity: partner with charities, dedicate a page on your website to them, and let people see those qualities in action.
Your brand is your hero. In fact, your brand is your superhero, and every superhero needs an origin story. Of course, we’re not suggesting you make up some fantasy about radioactive spiders – the story needs to be authentic if it’s going to resonate.
One good example is organic skincare brand Green People, which came into being when its founder couldn’t find pure and gentle skincare products for her eczema-suffering daughter. This is an origin story that many parents can instantly connect with, and that connection is what storytelling is all about.
A superhero needs a mission. What gap in the market does your brand fill? What problem does it overcome? A story is not a story unless there is a problem to be solved or an obstacle to overcome.
The energy company Bulb is a great case in point. Its website makes clear that it is setting out to revolutionise the way energy providers in the UK work.
Humans like human stories. Writing about individuals who use a product or service is always going to work better than simply listing that product or service’s features. Cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support makes great use of personal stories when explaining its array of services and what they mean to individuals. Simply listing those services would have had far less impact or emotional resonance.
Likewise, brands can tell stories about the people involved in a business, including employees and suppliers. Coffee giant Starbucks does this extremely well – not only telling stories about individuals involved in creating the Starbucks experience, but also telling stories about people unrelated to its workforce who embody values – of tolerance, fairness and compassion – with which the brand wants to be associated.
One of the main points of a brand telling a story is to differentiate it from its competitors. Indeed, one of the fundamental aspects of any kind of marketing is communicating what makes a brand unique. So tell stories that no-one else is telling.
Software security company Bitdefender went against the grain to partner with the Wall Street Journal to tell the full story behind its greatest enemy: hackers. This brave and unexpected content not only positioned the company as being at the forefront of its industry – showing it had detailed expertise and knowledge about those trying to infiltrate its systems – it also positioned it honestly, open and unafraid.
If you’re looking for more insightful business tips, you can check out our Ultimate Business Tips guide to learn how to make a great first impression, increase your productivity, promote your brand on social media, figure out how much to charge clients, and much more!