How to Change Your Brand Image with Storytelling

Shane Barker

Brand storytelling. It’s a term that you hear a lot these days. But if you remove the bells and whistles, it simply means conveying what a brand is all about. A brand story is not about your product, prices, or customers. It’s about your brand’s journey, goals, and its raison d’être (the reason why it exists).

And, though brand storytelling is getting a lot of footage these days, it’s nothing new.

Don’t believe me?

Remember the Volkswagen ad advertising the Beetle?

It came out in the 1960s and caused quite a stir. In an era when car brands were boasting about how their cars were roomier and flashier, Volkswagen took a different marketing route. They highlighted their car’s flaws. Surprisingly, people loved the ad and Beetle became an icon.

1960's Volvo advertisement

That’s one revolutionary approach to brand storytelling — show your vulnerable side.

In this post, I’m going to discuss three unique storytelling approaches that can give your business a facelift.

But first, let’s understand why brands need to tap into the storytelling trend.

How Can Brands Benefit from Authentic Storytelling?

Brand storytelling is more than a marketing trend or fad. Progressive brands and marketers consider it a core marketing activity. In fact, they set aside budget, manpower, and bandwidth to create compelling stories.

But why?

Four reasons:

1. Stories Help You Build Trust with Customers and Stakeholders

Every business has a heart and a soul. Sadly, your customers and stakeholders hardly get the opportunity to see past your products and stock prices.

When a business tells its story authentically, it reveals a part of its soul. This fosters a profound level of trust with stakeholders, which can open up future business opportunities.

2. Stories Help You Align Personal and Organizational Goals

Brand stories need not pivot around the brand. In fact, stories are most believable when they come directly from people, like employees.

When your team sees the part they played in their employer’s journey, they feel a sense of belongingness and pride. Emotionally-invested employees tend to be more productive, satisfied, and loyal. They can help you attain your business goals more efficiently.

That’s why you have ecommerce brands like Red Stag Fulfillment dedicating entire blog sections to employee interviews.

Red Stag employee spotlight

3. Stories Lend You a Competitive Edge

Even with such a long history, storytelling is not something that brands have nailed yet. If you analyze your competitors, you’ll see what I mean. How many of their stories strike a chord with you? Not many, I’ll bet. Likewise, they can’t hope to impact audiences on an emotional level.

This means you have a bright chance to outshine your competitors if you perfect the art of storytelling.

4. Stories Humanize Your Business

Humans are hard-wired for stories. A Berkeley study proves that stories change the way we perceive things. We retain and recall stories far better than plain facts.

In business terms, strong narratives can compel consumers to look at brands with fresh eyes. By taking the “brand” out of brand stories, you can shun the capitalistic tag that alienates you from consumers.

One brand that has leveraged the human connection to stories is Heineken. The beer brand attained cult status when they chose to deliver their annual sustainability report through a Dutch rapper.

Heineken Sustainability Report

Typically, company reports are boring 80-page long whitepapers that nobody bothers to read. But here was rapper Kevin Blaxtar rapping out stats in a fun, interesting, and SHORT YouTube video they aptly called “Let’s Get Frank.” But naturally, the public response was awesome.

How Successful Brands Use Storytelling to Transform Their Businesses

To harness the power of storytelling, your strategy should be flawless. And there’s no better way to get off a flying start than to learn from the experts.

Let’s take a look at how brands, big and small, have used narratives to turn around their businesses.

1. Cloudways — Redesigning for a Modern Touch

Cloudways, a cloud hosting platform that offers WordPress and Magento hosting, decided that they needed to overhaul their website. Over the years, they had concentrated on their core features and capabilities, but their website was quite old-fashioned.

They created a roadmap to bring in a new UI that would change their brand persona and give it a modern twist. They clearly highlighted their prime values and stick to them throughout the website as well. While this doesn’t tell a story, it does change the way the story of Cloudways is told.

Cloudways Core Values We Live By

Also, they launched a Startup Program that specifically focuses on helping budding companies grow. Note how their copy speaks directly to all entrepreneurs and also talks about their story.

Cloudways Startups Program Launch

2. Spotify — Data That Tells a Story

Spotify’s storytelling game is on-point. And they aced it way back in 2017 with their Wrapped campaign.

To wrap up the year, the music-streaming platform collated data they had collected from their listeners during the year. They drew interesting stats from the data, “wrapped up” the cold data with a warm human touch, and presented it in a fun way on billboards.

Spotify Valentine's Day Billboard

Needless to say, they earned a special place in every music lover’s heart.

The takeaway?

Use your proprietary customer data and weave a narrative around it. This way, you can show your customers that you value them.

3. Huggies — Using Experts to Back Up Your Word

Huggies, the diaper brand, was desperate to move beyond double-leak protection. So, they found a medical insight that was as snug as a hug. Yes, it’s all in the hugs.

Huggies dug into 600 medical studies to prove that hugs have a calming effect on babies. So, they partnered with Oglivy on a mission to leave no baby unhugged, an initiative which is now their patent.

The brand created Hugging grants to help premature babies who are away from their parents due to medical reasons.

Huggies Why should I hug?

The result?

The brand got a brand-new image fortified by expert medical authority. They became the go-to diaper destination for parents globally. They were able to change the third-trimester purchase behavior of expecting mothers in Canada where the drive was started, and drive sales up by 30%.

4. Mailchimp — Have Fun with Your Brand

Back in 2001 when Mailchimp was born, the corporate world was dull and drab. Mailchimp took a calculated risk and came up with their quirky mascot, Freddie, the Mailchimp monkey.

An email marketing platform with a primate in its logo was interesting, to say the least. And they kept monkeying around in their brand communications as well. Check out one of the witty business emails they sent to announce their Forever Free plan:

MailChimp Freemium Email Marketing

19 years hence, Mailchimp continues to tickle my funny bone with their distinctive tone and branding.

What can you learn from Mailchimp?

Stay away from the trodden path. Dare to be different in your storytelling. Only then will your stories be memorable.

5. DECIEM — Be Honest and Straightforward

The “abnormal” skincare brand was founded with a mission grounded in honesty and integrity, almost alien to the beauty and fashion industry. With lines like “beauty is between you and you,” DECIEM stands apart from the crowd.

Even on social media, where hype and hyper-real is the trend, the brand stays true to their values. To engage their followers, they post heartfelt stories (like the one below).

Deciem We're Sorry Instagram

DECIEM takes their job very seriously. They write technically-sound posts to inform consumers about how to use their beauty products the right way. They don’t shy away from sharing any potential side effects as well.

The Ordinary skincare customer response

They don’t pass up any opportunity to communicate with their customers honestly. For instance, they took to social media to personally announce when Estee Lauder acquired a share in their company.

When their eccentric founder, Brandon Truaxe, was found dead at age 40, they issued a lengthy public statement to fend away rumors. By being transparent in their communication, DECIEM has earned a loyal fanbase and respect in the industry.

Which Storytelling Technique Will You Apply?

As is evident, stories are an important part of brand communication. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to brand storytelling. Whatever technique you choose, be sure to use it consistently across channels. Don’t forget that the world is more connected and customers more discerning than ever before.

Which storytelling technique aligns your brand? Share your answers in the comments below. Maybe I can provide you with additional tips and examples.

Article originally published to Medium

Written by Shane Barker

Shane's Website