Once Upon a Brand: 5 Techniques for Telling Better Brand Stories

Effective storytelling can convince people of almost anything – after all, 45% of Americans believe in ghosts. That’s because the human mind has been taught to learn through stories more than anything else. So, imagine what telling a story about your brand can do.

What’s great about stories besides their persuasive ability is that you can incorporate them into all forms of content: eBooks, white papers, blogs, and even your “About Us” page.

But not everyone is a natural storyteller. So, if you find yourself struggling to put together a cohesive story with your content, try these five techniques:

5 Storytelling Techniques to Help You Tell Your Story Like a Pro

1. Use a Traditional Story Arc

The traditional story arc is tried and true, so why stray from it? Almost every story follows these steps:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling Action
  5. Resolution

Nike’s marketing arm is one of the best in the world at infusing their campaigns with storytelling. Let’s take a look at their “Want It All” video to see these five elements coming into play.

At the beginning, we see a child wandering up to the basketball court with a look of confidence on his face. There’s a basketball court right in front of him and a basketball stadium waiting for him behind the first court.

The next shot is the boy in his teenage years. He’s passed the ball and takes it to the corner, where he tricks his man into giving up position and bursts towards the hoop. Once there, he connects with a beauty of a layup.

Fast forward and we’re transported into a gym. We see the living legend himself, LeBron James, standing before a group of teenagers. He calls upon our protagonist, who steps up and receives a pass from LeBron. He passes the ball back to LeBron, then gets the ball back.

We’re now taken through a hallway and into a weight room. The teenager is now a young adult, sitting on a weight bench dribbling a basketball. He watches his hero, LeBron, on television launching through the air and slamming down a monster dunk.

Cut to our protagonist with his parents at a press conference. They don ‘D’ uniforms, showing us that he’s committed to one of the top basketball programs in the world, Duke.

But things aren’t so easy. Next, we see our hero swinging a pass to a teammate for what we can only assume is the winning shot. His teammate catches the ball and sets up for a shot… but it’s blocked. The buzzer goes off with the other team victorious. Our protagonist walks off the court in disappointment.

Instead of letting this moment discourage him, he returns to the locker room and watches the video of that final play. He’s analysing what decision he should have made in that moment to help his teammates get a better shot to end the game.

After watching the video, our hero is back on the street court. He’s practising a fake out move to get an open shot.

In the next scene, he’s recreating his fake move in a game. And it works! He fakes out the defender, finds space, and jacks up a shot. It goes through the hoop and Duke wins the game.

Now, we see our protagonist get drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s achieved his dream, but he’s not done yet.

The higher he climbs, the stiffer the competition becomes. Former league MVP Kevin Durant now dribbles the ball down the court. He takes a shot over our hero and scores. Our hero is dumbfounded by Durant’s athleticism and skill, but determined to show he belongs on the court.

Our hero gets the inbound pass and dribbles the ball down the court. A defender runs to him and starts hounding him. But in front of him is his mentor, LeBron James. He passes the ball to LeBron. The rush up the court together, passing it back and forth just like they did when our hero was a teenager. This time, our hero gets the ball last and puts an exclamation mark on the play by putting down his own thunderous slam dunk.

Then the ad rewinds to our hero as a little boy. After that, the campaign’s slogan appears:

“WANT IT ALL”.

The conclusion is clear: through your own hard work and determination, you get to decide where you’re supposed to be. And it’s such a powerful message delivered in a brief 2 minutes.

2. Don’t Get Lost in Detail

Imagine you’re watching a movie about a secret agent and he needs to get from Washington D.C. to Malaysia to finally catch the terrorist.

But instead of going straight from point A to point B, you see the agent packing his luggage, catching a taxi to the airport, boarding the plane, and playing Tetris on his phone while in the air. You’d get bored.

You don’t need to give every detail of a story when you’re telling it. Audiences only want the abridged version – all action, no fluff.

So, before you publish your story, give it a thorough review to find all the slow parts. If your mind starts to wander at certain points, your audience’s will too.

3. Elicit Emotion

Going back to the Nike video, how did you feel when you saw our hero run up the court in an NBA game with LeBron? Did you feel amazed and inspired?

People remember how you make them feel. By creating an emotional impact with your content, they’ll attach whatever emotion they feel when told your story with your product.

Basketball shoes aren’t an inherently emotional product. Their design can look beautiful, but most people wouldn’t shed a tear after seeing a pair.

Yet, because Nike tells such emotional and uplifting stories, our brains connect Nike with the feeling of overcoming the odds.

4. Get Personal

Not every story will give you a chance to include yourself, but when the opportunity presents itself, take it!

An example of this is the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) microsite for Privacy Awareness Week. The story presented is about the importance for organisations, agencies, and individuals to take personal responsibility of their sensitive information.

But the OAIC goes beyond telling others what to do – they also place responsibility on themselves.

In the Office’s “Message From the Commissioner,” Timothy Pilgrim, Acting Australian Information Commissioner, moves from the third-person perspective to the collective first-person perspective. He writes:

“Our privacy is valuable and worth protecting. It is a vital part of who we are, and the Privacy Act recognises this by providing rights and protections for our information.”

Including yourself in the discussion gives your audience a feeling that everyone is working for the same goal – and that your story is their story.

5. Encourage Conversation

Your story doesn’t have to end just because you reached the conclusion.

Get others involved in the story by encouraging conversation.

Think about what parts of your story your audience will have the most insight into and ask questions related to those parts after your conclusion.

They’ll start to place themselves in the middle of the story, wondering what decisions they would have made or think about the struggles they’ve had to overcome.

Also, give them a call-to-action. They’re reading your content because they’re looking for a solution to a problem they have, and a CTA leads them right to that solution.

If the idea of telling your brand’s story leaves you feeling a bit like a deer in headlights, keep it simple.

Consider your stories, their elements and why they caught your attention, and tell them like you’re talking to a good friend. And don’t forget to include the elements that keep you human; emotion, struggle, failure, and triumph.

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