It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day marketing activities and realize the brand narrative is lost. The solution? Creating a brand story that tells target audiences exactly why you matter.
This article has been edited from its original version.
Several years ago, I attended a presentation on content marketing from Jeff Echols, a brand development consultant who believes in the power of stories. He walks clients through the process of creating a brand story to help them connect with target audiences.
The heart of these stories isn’t what brands do but rather who they are. One of Jeff’s sources of inspiration is leadership specialist Simon Sinek, author of the book Start with Why, who said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
APPLE’S APPROACH TO CREATING A BRAND STORY
In Sinek’s now classic TED Talk “How great leaders inspire action,” he spelled out how Apple understood this.
He asked, what if Apple had merely stated what they do, just like any other company?
“We make great computers. They’re user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
Instead, they communicated something that was far more impactful: their belief in individuality, creativity, boldness.
“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Buying an Apple product made a statement. It was about solidarity with this way of interacting with the world. By the time the iPhone came out in 2007, Apple was already set up for world dominance because we all believed the iPhone was developed from a set of strong core values with which we agreed.
People don’t buy what you do; they buy what you do it. – Simon Sinek
WHY DO YOU BUY WHAT YOU BUY?
Put yourself into the shoes of the consumer for a moment. The last time you bought something, I’ll bet it had far more to do with the story presented about why that product is in the world than you realize.
- Consider that pair of running shoes you wear. How much more did you trust their quality because you believe that brand exists to support a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle?
- Consider the car you drive. What stories have you heard, or told, about auto workers or safety or the environment that give you a sense of pride when you take it out on the road?
- Consider the food you pick up at the grocery store. What are the values you believe are instilled in these brands? Cultural identity? Enjoyment of life? Thrift?
I for one have bought Nikes in the past because on some level I believe they care about runners, and therefore make quality shoes that won’t hurt my feet. I bought a Pontiac Vibe because it was developed jointly with Toyota, which I believe takes pride in long-lasting, fuel-efficient automobiles. And I shop at Aldi because their primary value of thrift and DIY bagging matches my Midwestern sensibilities.
By and large, we choose brands we believe in based on our perception of brand purpose – their “why.”
Your target audience will choose you for the same reason.
CREATING YOUR BRAND STORY
We connect with people who communicate what they believe and why they’re in business.
So, why do you do what you do?
Here’s how I might answer that question:
I am inspired by the ways my clients apply their knowledge, skills, and passions to helping people. I love using the written word to capture those passions, inspire others and ultimately help readers accomplish their goals.
I could have just said, I’m a good marketing content writer. Wanna hire me? But, as Jeff and Simon say, anyone can tell you what they do and most people won’t care because dozens of competitors could say the same thing.
What resonates with people is the why. Your audience wants to know what drives you because that’s how they come to trust you. And trust is what matters most.
YOUR “WHY” TRUMPS ALL ELSE
Your qualifications and capabilities are important. But if you think your experience alone is impressive enough to inspire your audience to do business with you, consider this.
Think about the last time someone told you what they do and for how long. Did that information alone make you want to hire them?
- I’ve been helping people file their taxes for 25 years.
- I put 28 families into a new vehicle last month.
- We have been helping families through the estate planning process for over a hundred years.
Somehow, impressive as all that is, we’re just not sold. The numbers are meaningless. They tell us what you can do or how long you’ve been doing it but nothing about who you are.
What does sell us is when we come to believe that someone cares about what we care about. The above examples of marketing copy are significantly improved when we shift the focus to the why.
- I used to hate doing my own taxes. That’s why I became a CPA. I want to spare you that headache so you can get on with your life.
- I’m a car guy. I love cars. I don’t care what you drive off my lot, only that you love your vehicle as much as I love mine.
- Our hearts break when we see families hurt and confused after a family member dies without leaving a will. We are determined to create a clear estate plan for you so your loved ones don’t have to go through that.
Why does this make a difference? Because stating your value doesn’t make your audience feel valued. Empathizing with their pain points does.
Creating an effective brand story is about making your audience feel an affinity with your brand. A sense that “they get me.”
That’s how you win them over!
NEED HELP CREATING YOUR BRAND STORY?
Everyone is driven by some desire, some purpose. Including you.
It’s no accident that you get up every morning and do the job. There is a reason you represent the organization you do, and that’s what people want to know.
It’s what helps them understand you and trust you. It makes them want to support you.
That’s your brand story (or your client’s).
Looking for help telling it? You know what to do.