The problem with brand storytelling
on’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of brand storytelling. I have been ever since I studied marketing, way back in the early 2000s, fascinated with brand personality & customer loyalty.
Today, brand storytelling is one of the biggest marketing ‘must-haves’ for businesses big & small. However, while some are reaping the rewards, others are making mistakes that confuse visitors, reduce perceived value, decrease trust or just completely miss the mark. With some brands getting it so wrong, it’s worth asking the question, is there a problem with brand storytelling?
YOUR BRAND STORY: WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT
Brand storytelling helps you share information about your brand: who it is, what it values, why it’s ‘alive’ & how it sees the world. It also gives you the opportunity to tell people exactly what you do without being too salesy. When you tell a story, you invite people into your brand’s ‘personal space’; you aim to build a connection & enhance relatability.
Done well, brand storytelling can help you:
· Enhance relatability;
· Increase trust;
· Generate loyalty;
· Drive growth.
THE PROBLEM WITH BRAND STORYTELLING
The problem with brand storytelling isn’t actually with brand storytelling itself. It’s with the misunderstanding, improper planning & execution of so many business’ stories. You see, you’re not going to get the results you want if you fall into one of the following scenarios.
1. You’re sharing inconsistent stories
If you’re sharing one story on your homepage then another on your Facebook page, you’re asking for trouble. You need one consistently shared story for your brand. It must be easily translatable across all marketing channels; it should also be understood, believed & followed across all other departments. Any inconsistency – even if it occurs in a customer’s interaction with your service department – can result in problems. Remember: inconsistencies can call into question just how genuine your story - & your brand - is.
2. You’re embellishing the truth… a lot
While you want to be presenting your brand as the perfect option for your audience, you don’t want to overpromise & underdeliver. That’s exactly what can happen when you go too far with your story. There’s a lot to gain from selling the benefits & the why, what & how without adding bells & whistles that don’t actually exist. Your brand story should be built on a strong foundation, a foundation that is firmly grounded in reality. When you oversell your brand & what it offers, you leave yourself open to customers perceiving your products or services as being of lesser value than they initially expected. This has a dramatic knock-on effect when it comes to word of mouth & repeat purchase.
3. You’re being too creative
You might think that there’s no such thing as being too creative, but there is. I’m sure that we can all think of a time when we’ve visited a website, read a product description or watched a TV ad & then walked away, not really knowing who it was about, what benefit it was offering you or how. When you’re too creative, you risk confusing customers. For example, imagery that you might believe really defines who your brand is & why, might impress people, but leave them with more questions than answers… or no questions (or curiosity) at all. The end result? A potentially entertaining experience for the user with no results for you. Yes, your story should aim to create connections & build trust, but your message should be simple & easy to understand – no questions needed.
4. You’re not making your audience feel understood
Dove’s Self Esteem Project is a great example of this point. It went from empowering women to love & be proud of their bodies to making them feel patronised. The takeaway here? No matter how well intentioned your brand story is, it must be translated well in each & every message that you share. Know your audience & test your messages. Try to work out if your message could be misconstrued before you share it. Getting it wrong might not kill your brand, but it might – at the very least – put a dent in your sales & reputation.
Image credit: PR company handout, via The Guardian
5. Your story is just a video or chunk of text on your about page
Just as I mentioned in point 1, your brand story must be translated consistently across all channels & business departments, no matter how big or small your brand is. You can’t just post something on your about page & expect your story to inspire, build trust & develop strong connections. You & your team need to shout about it & include it within everything that you do. ♦