How to write a compelling brand story: Your complete guide

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication. It makes content engaging and brings audiences together through shared experiences. 

Many people don't realize storytelling can also be a powerful business tool. 

Successful companies connect with their target audiences through compelling stories about their history, future, and customers. 

Your brand story is one such story and one of the most important things you'll communicate to your target audience. It shares your company's purpose, history, mission, and values.

No pressure, right? You only need to craft a fantastic tale about why your company exists in a way that will make your audience remember who you are and care about you (!) 

Luckily, your brand story already exists. You just have to decide how to tell it. Our guide will explore what makes a great brand story, why it's essential to have one, and the steps you can take to write yours. 

What is a brand story?

A brand story describes the events that brought a brand to life and how that series of events drives the company forward. It's the identity of a business as perceived by its customers. 

The most compelling brand stories engage the target audience with visuals and narratives that evoke an emotional response. 

Your product will be a part of the story, but the storyline will ultimately follow: 

  • the people who dreamed of a solution to a problem, 
  • the employees who go the extra mile to achieve the company's mission, 
  • and the customers whose lives are better because of your products or services. 

For example, the founders of Airbnb were struggling to pay rent. They came up with the idea of renting out air mattresses in their living rooms and offering breakfast to conference attendees in the area (sparking their now $47 billion business).

What makes a great brand story?

Your brand story will only be great if it's a genuine account of why your company exists and how it improves consumers' lives. 

A great brand story begins with an authentic telling of how an admirable mission sparked the creation of a company. It expands to share how company innovators overcame trials along the way. 

The circle is complete when it connects to the audience by showing how the product impacts your customers' lives. 

A significant facet of Airbnb's brand narrative is its confrontation with resistance from hoteliers, landlords, and local governments, underscoring the disruptive nature of its business model. 

This disruption contributes to Airbnb's brand story, portraying it as a trailblazer willing to challenge the status quo and create new opportunities for innovation and growth amidst adversity.  

As for customer impact, Airbnb frequently shares stories of hosts who have opened their homes to travelers worldwide. They showcase the diverse backgrounds and unique experiences of hosts and guests, highlighting how these interactions have enriched host’s lives and created memorable, meaningful experiences for guests.

What are the main elements of a brand story?

Your powerful brand story should include:

  • an honest depiction of your company's values,
  • an origin story,
  • a consistent voice and personality,
  • a relatable story that your audience can empathize with
  • an attention-grabbing angle,
  • a way to drive action.

Why is a brand story important?

Your brand story is important because it shows consumers why they should choose you instead of the competition.

According to Harris Poll research, 82% of shoppers want a brand's values to align with their own, and 75% will leave a brand over a conflict in values.

A compelling brand story engages consumers who share your values with the story of who you are and why your business exists.  

Consumers who relate to this story will likely choose you over other companies and become loyal customers.  

Crafting a compelling brand story goes beyond simply narrating the origins of your business. It involves weaving a narrative that captivates and draws readers in, making them feel like they’re an integral part of your brand's journey.

For instance, instead of merely describing how your company started, highlight a specific customer's experience and how they played a pivotal role in shaping your brand's direction. By incorporating their journey, struggles, and triumphs into your story, you engage your audience personally and demonstrate your brand's meaningful impact on individuals.

How to write a brand story in ten steps

Crafting an engaging brand story involves combining various elements to reach your target audience and communicate your brand's identity. 

Each element helps create a narrative that resonates with your audience, from defining your brand's purpose and values to sharing your origin story and unique selling proposition.

By understanding the essential components of a brand story and how they interrelate, you can effectively convey your brand's personality, values, and mission to your audience.

Here’s how to start:

  1. Define your brand identity: start by clearly defining your brand's purpose, values, and personality. What is the mission of your brand? What principles do you stand for? What traits and characteristics embody your brand's personality? This foundation will guide the development of your brand story.
  2. Craft your origin story: share how your brand came to be. Highlight the founder's journey, motivations, and the inspiration behind the brand. Emphasise key milestones, challenges overcome, and pivotal moments that shaped the brand's identity.
  3. Identify your unique selling proposition (USP): determine what differentiates your brand from competitors. What unique features, benefits, or values do you offer your customers? Define your USP clearly and concisely to communicate why customers should choose your brand over alternatives.
  4. Be transparent about your obstacles: being honest builds authenticity and trust. Demonstrating transparency and integrity allows you to showcase resilience and perseverance, inspiring confidence in your brand.
  5. Develop your story arc: craft a cohesive narrative that weaves your brand's purpose, values, origin story, USP, and brand personality into a compelling storyline. Start with an engaging hook to grab the audience's attention, then build tension and excitement before resolving with a satisfying conclusion.
  6. Hook your audience from the start: to captivate your audience and draw them into your brand story, start with an attention-grabbing opening. You can begin with a compelling question, intriguing anecdotes, a bold statement, or a rhetorical question. These options hook your audience and set the stage for a captivating brand story. For example, “Ever wondered what it feels like to travel the world without leaving your home?” (Airbnb). Or, “Meet Alex. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast who travelled solo to climb some of the world's most challenging peaks. During his journey, a sudden storm left him stranded on a precarious ledge with dwindling supplies. As he huddled in his tent, fearing the worst, he remembered the warmth and resilience of his Patagonia jacket...”. 
  7. Connect on an emotional level: infuse your brand story with emotion to create a deeper connection with your audience. Appeal to their values, aspirations, and desires, and evoke empathy, inspiration, or joy. Make your audience feel something when they engage with your brand story.
  8. Stay authentic and consistent: be authentic and genuine in your storytelling, and stay true to your brand's identity and values. Consistently communicate your brand story across all channels and touchpoints to build trust and credibility with your audience. Avoid conflicting messages or inconsistencies that may confuse or alienate your audience.
  9. Test and iterate: share your brand story with trusted advisors or test audiences to gather feedback and refine your narrative. Continuously monitor the response to your brand story and make adjustments as needed to ensure it resonates with your target audience. Iterate based on feedback and insights to strengthen your brand story over time.
  10. Share your brand story: once you've written an epic story, it's time to share it with all stakeholders. Deliver your brand story companywide so the entire team can use it as a resource. Highlight your story on your website, blog, social media, and online platforms used by your target audience and investors. Use it to drive your content marketing strategy and materials.

Brand story examples

Congratulations! You've learned to write a unique brand story that resonates with your potential customers. Now it's time to get inspired by sometime-tested, globally recognized brand stories:

Patagonia

Patagonia creates clothing and gear designed to last. Their products align with their brand story, focusing heavily on sustainability and breaking the status quo in retail clothing. 

Patagonia's origin story is rooted in founder Yvon Chouinard's adventurous spirit and commitment to environmental sustainability, evolving from innovative climbing equipment production in the 1950s to the creation of Patagonia in 1973, a company dedicated to producing high-quality outdoor gear while advocating for environmental conservation and ethical business practices.

Patagonia's Worn Wear recognizes that 85% of clothing ends up in landfills or gets incinerated. They offer a solution to the problem by allowing shoppers to trade in and buy used Patagonia gear. Customers who trade in items they no longer need and those who "choose used" keep clothing from entering landfills. 

Topicals

The founder of Topicals grew up without seeing her skin type in advertisements and having the impression that "perfect” skin is either something you have or don't. Her experience led her to launch a line of science-backed skincare products for every skin type and shade. 

The company's mission is to transform how customers feel about their skin and advocate for mental health. Their brand story and marketing campaigns are fact-driven and uplifting, combining science and statistics with user stories to showcase their mission. 

Pampers

The well-known diaper company is synonymous with baby care, but you may not know that a grandfather created Pampers. In 1956, Victor Mills, a Procter & Gamble researcher, developed a disposable diaper because he didn't like changing his grandson's cloth diapers. 

The brand story comes full circle with the Pampers Stinky Booty 2.0 campaign that changes the status quo around baby care by featuring famous dad, John Legend, changing his daughter's diaper. 

The ad campaign gives a nod to the Pampers origin story and reminds families that diaper quality isn't a "mom's only" concern. 

Old Spice

The Old Spice brand has been around since 1937. Old Spice was created by William Lightfoot Schultz, inspired by the scent of his mother's rosemary-infused homemade soap, and developed the iconic fragrance that would become a staple in men's grooming. Initially, it was a fragrance designed for women (“Early American Old Spice”). They quickly shifted to targeting men with nautical themes and images of masculinity. Yet, with growing competition in the men's body wash category, they needed a new approach. 

A study recognizing that women make 60% of body wash purchases led to the "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. By tweaking their marketing message, the company was able to appeal to a younger generation. 

Apple, 1984

Apple doesn't confine its innovative approach to its products. The company's product launches often spark unusual and iconic marketing campaigns. To introduce the new Macintosh computer in 1984, the company developed a commercial inspired by George Orwell's novel 1984. The 60-second ad that ran during the Super Bowl featured a woman throwing a sledgehammer at a massive screen to stop men from mindlessly following the words of a dictator. It followed Apple's daring brand style by taking the risk of ignoring test data and releasing an innovative, attention-grabbing commercial. 

To learn more about brand stories, we recommend listening to the podcast “How I Built This,” which features various inspiring brand stories highlighting the journey of well-known entrepreneurs and their ventures.

Tips for telling your brand story

You've learned how to create a brand story and explored examples that demonstrate the process in action. The ability to craft and refine your brand story is at your fingertips, but we'll leave you with a few tips to help you get it exactly right:

  • Keep your story simple. Using a story formula highlighting the problem, the proposed solution, and the brand's role in creating a successful outcome gives you momentum and keeps readers engaged. 
  • Get help telling your story. You can tap into expertise through marketing agencies, brand consultants, and freelance writers on platforms like Upwork or experiment with generative tools like ChatGPT.
  • Practice your brand story out loud. Practice speaking aloud to improve your confidence in telling your brand story. By rehearsing your narrative, you'll become more comfortable and articulate in delivering it effectively. Consider using tools like Yoodli.ai, an online coaching platform that provides video recordings with analytics to help you refine your presentation skills and assess your performance. 
  • Stay consistent. As your brand story grows with your company, you'll use innovative techniques to engage new customers and keep loyal customers interested. It's important to remember your roots and what your audience has come to expect from you, even as you push your limits. Straying too far from your values may cause customers to question your trustworthiness.
An engaging brand story shares why you do what you do and inspires customers to support you with their business. Whatever your story is, it should be essential to your communications. Learn how to craft a memorable story that inspires your team and customers with the Storyteller Tactics Deck

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