In life, we tell ourselves stories all the time. We use stories to understand the world, to identify yourself with brands, and to tell the world your story. You only get one chance to tell a story, that’s why it’s crucial to get it right. Just like for a person, a brand also gets one chance to tell their story. Here is an incomplete guide on how to do that.
A compelling, human-scale story.
The stories that have stood the test of time are stories that all follow a specific pattern. From the Iliad to the Koran, and from Star Wars to The Godfather, all great stories come in three parts.
- First act: The main characters are shown. You become familiar with the protagonist, the world they live in and their relationships. There is a dramatic incident, and when the protagonist deals with it, it leads to an even more dramatic situation.
- Second act: The protagonist tries to resolve the problem and finds himself in even more trouble. He needs to learn a new skill and gain new insights into his being. This in effect changes who he is. This entails the character arch and is usually helped along by a mentor or co-protagonist.
- Third act: The story and its subplots are resolved. The dramatic situation happens and leaves the protagonist with a new sense of who he really is.
This pattern is called the hero’s journey. It’s all around you. We are proud of people who’ve overcome an addiction but don’t applaud our friend who has never lost his job to a bad drinking habit. It’s why people watch soap opera’s or why we love cheering for the underdog in sports events.
Broadcast Your Story to Who Is Listening
Our greatest and latest adventures or our company blogs will not matter unless our stories are being read by someone who is willing to listen. If you have an average product, if your story is just like that of 10.000’s of others, no-one will listen. You get to define your story, make sure your story is one that no-one else is telling.
- Define a small audience of people who are interested
- Maybe they will love your story so much they will tell their friends
- It matters what you say, not who you are
- Write something great, and do it over and over again
- Write WITH and FOR your audience, not AT or TO
- Be specific, define your category, stick to it
- The riskiest thing is to be average
The story you tell your audience is their story. You will not present them with totally new information, you will reflect back on them things they already believe in. When Ben&Jerry joins a protest for human compassion, they are not doing something new, they join the people that are already listening to them.
Another great example is the blog Signal vs Noise. It’s Jason Fried, DHH and employees at Basecamp telling their story. A story about productivity, about working smart. That fits perfectly with the product they are selling, Basecamp, a project management tool that facilitates those goals.
Learn more about broadcasting to a small audience from this great blog by Kevin Kelly.
Tell an Emphatic Story, Again and Again
When you have defined who you are talking with, you need to WOW them with what you have to say. These are the conditions for your message to be great.
- Tell a true story. This doesn’t mean that your story has to be very factual. The opposite is usually true, most commercials use actors. You do have to be consistent and authentic, the core of the story has to be true.
- Talk with ethos and pathos. Not logos. People decide that they like someone after just a sniff. Our purchasing decisions are made as a result of the sum total of our emotional baggage, no facts and figures will beat that.
- Make a promise. Appeal to the emotion of your audience by giving them a promise of fun, safety, hope, or a shortcut. The promise should be something that is worth talking about, something that is remarkable.
- Become a trusted source. Trust is the scarcest resource we have (and definitively online). By consistently delivering on your promise, you will be able to gain the trust of your audience.
- Be subtle. Let people draw their own conclusions. You don’t have to spell everything out for your audience, let them discover things themselves, make them get involved.
- No contradictions. If your brand is fast, have fast delivery. If you’re goofy, add gifs to every blog. Make sure that every aspect of your story is consistent.
Whether you have a blog, an Instagram account or when you interact with your customers. You are always telling a story. You need to tell a true story, one that you believe and that your specific target group (your fans) can identify with. And if you do this consistently, you will become their trusted source.
Telling a Story With Your Website
For an e-commerce company (like Queal), your website is the place to tell your story. No, not only your blog. The whole website is telling your story. Every page of your website has a tone of voice. This must match that of your visitors, or they will misunderstand who you are (or even leave). So, choose a tone of voice that matches your brand, fits the page and exceeds the tone of your successful competitors.
- You have to choose. Don’t appeal to everyone. Only write for your best customers/fans.
- Forget the homepage. Don’t send people to a generic page, make a specific page for each purpose (e.g. product info, specific product benefit, etc).
- Tell a story. Facts matter, but way less than getting people to listen to your story. Focus on getting the story in their heads.
- Stake out a position. At every page, you have to say (without saying it so obviously) “The smart thing is to click here.“
- Create a path. Make something that people can follow. Let every page tell one thing, then let them progress to the next piece of information until they make a buying decision.
- Test and measure. Be open to feedback and see what people are doing on your site. It’s a difficult process, you will be confronted with failing. But at the same time, it’s a lot of fun, you will learn what does work.
Stories With Waves, Get Saves
When releasing your story to your specific audience, with a true story, there is one last key ingredient. That is the theory of waves. You are always telling your story, but you vary the intensity of which you are doing it to showcase growth.
The story you tell should be a story about what your audience wants to hear in combination with what you have to say. Don’t post 10 (irrelevant) things on your Instagram every day, sometimes it’s better to work on something bigger and make your stories build on each other.
- One: You tell a big story, for instance, the launch of a new product
- Two: You follow up with stories from customers who have received your product
- Three: You keep quiet and work on the next release
- Four: You start telling some things about the next release, you start building momentum
- Five: You are as loud as possible, people are expecting the new release (your previous promise) and you are now delivering
This is what Damin Singh has to say: “You are talking to your audience or community on a journey. Imagine going up a mountain. Every corner will be different, some completely and some similar. To get your audience excited build contrast into the narrative, so think of it as a movie. Well, think of a romantic movie. You have an easy beginning, and move into something sad/negative and then the lovers meet. It’s exciting and then they fight and it’s sad and in the end, they get together.
Make your audience part of the conversation and get them excited for the release. And when you do so, you can ask them to help you. Don’t let your audience watch the train, let them jump on it. Because when you work in cycles you won’t overload your audience, and they will see the growth of your company from those distinct events.”
It’s All About Them
More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extensions of our personality, totems of ourselves, reminders of who we are or would like to be. We love ourselves. And great marketeers don’t make stuff, they make meaning.
So, what story do you want people to tell themselves?
Great blog by Florent Geerts on Once Upon a Brand – Be remarkable, provide value at every step, and perception is everything.