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The Imperative of a Brand Story
Category: Marketing
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Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unpslash

Why your customers need to hear yours.

We’re not in business for ourselves. Our products and services haven’t been painstakingly designed to benefit us.

There are people out there with a problem that greatly affects their health, wealth, happiness or peace. They can’t fix this problem on their own; but we can. We have the power to dramatically improve their quality of life. And with that power comes responsibility.

We owe it to our customers to help them. But before we can help them: we need their permission. We need them to understand exactly how transformative our solutions can be.

And that is hard. It’s harder now than ever before in history: people are moving so fast; their attention spans are so short; and they’re bombarded by bright lights and loud noises. They are overwhelmed. 

So, how—amid all that competition—can we get our message across? We could try to out-shout everyone, but that battle is often won by those with the deepest pockets. We could join the flash & sizzle movement, but customers are simultaneously getting more savvy and harder to impress.

So, how do we reach our audience—who needs us to reach them—without a million-dollar budget? By telling a story.

It may seem counter-intuitive; after all: it’s a known rule of marketing that you only have eight-to-ten seconds to capture someone’s attention. So, isn’t a story too long?

No, stories are not too long. 

In fact: stories are the most-efficient way to communicate.

Focusing attention on something—especially a new concept like a game-changing product or service—is hard work; it burns calories and eats into limited stores of willpower. So when thousands of alternatives compete for consumers’ attention, choosing our pitch is a huge investment!

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

With a story: we minimize our audience’s attention investment.

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Smart as we are, we don’t understand things in the abstract. We need concepts formatted based on simple, cause-and-effect, hero’s-journey structure:

  • Who are the characters involved?
  • What evil do they face and how is it affecting them?
  • How will they fight this evil?
  • What good will come when they’re triumphant?

When presented with information outside of this framework, we have to mentally rearrange it before we can see the meaning. But, when offered a complete and sensical story, we can simply follow along—easy.

Modern neuroscience has started to back these ideas: one study on the power of stories revealed that people retain 22x more information from a story than from a list of facts! Another study revealed the production of neurochemicals when presented with a tale. The first is cortisol, which sharpens our attention. The second is oxytocin, which increases our empathy. Together, these get an audience to naturally tune in and connect with the characters and subjects of our story. They don’t have to try so hard to focus or understand. Their brain just does it.

So, while we may be tempted to follow those marketing “best practices” and focus on quick and catchy messages, to do so is to ignore how our audience’s minds really work. Before their behaviour changes and they buy-into what we offer, they have to answer the questions noted above. The easier we make that, the quicker they’ll understand, the more willingly they’ll accept our help, and the sooner they’ll start living a better life.

Keep this in mind when creating new communications. Ask yourself: what story am I telling? And re-examine the core of your brand message: what is the central story behind your entire business? People need to know it, so you need to talk about it!

For more guidance on how to write your story, I’ve made a fill-in-the-blank guide complete with an array of questions and prompts to help generate ideas, which you can download for free on my Cansulta profile. Or, you can book a free intro with me personally! 

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