Brand storytelling: How to connect with your customers
You can probably still name your favorite stories from when you were a kid — whether romantic fairy tales or thrilling mysteries — but storytelling isn’t just for children. Due to its long-lasting impact, storytelling has become the go-to method for brands in the marketing world.
Brand storytelling can reap big rewards for your business. Research shows people find stories more memorable than facts and figures, and one study suggests storytelling in content marketing can boost conversion rates by 30%. But how does brand storytelling work? The guide below covers the basics.
What is brand storytelling?
Brand storytelling is the art of conveying a brand's message and values through compelling narratives. Instead of relying solely on dry facts and features, successful brands leverage storytelling to breathe life into their existence, showcasing the human side of their business.
The aim is to build empathy by drawing parallels between consumers’ values and the brand’s identity. By utilizing the power of storytelling, companies can create emotional bonds with their target audience, fostering trust, loyalty, and a sense of shared purpose.
The importance of brand storytelling
Incorporating storytelling into your brand strategy is a great way to build trust and differentiate the brand in the market. By incorporating storytelling into your branding strategy, you can:
- Connect with customers, new and old, on an emotional level.
- Differentiate yourself from the competition through unique and compelling stories.
- Foster brand loyalty and improve customer retention.
- Build trust by sharing authentic and transparent stories that help establish credibility.
- Increase brand memorability and engagement by sharing compelling narratives rather than forgettable facts and figures.
- Humanize the brand by putting a face to it — sharing stories about the people behind the brand, its challenges, and its journey helps to create a more relatable image.
- Build brand awareness through viral and shareable stories.
Brand storytelling goes beyond basic marketing and advertising techniques to create a narrative that resonates with people on a more personal level. Brand storytelling humanizes a brand, creating the potential to foster meaningful connections and experiences with your intended audience.
How to build your brand story in three steps
There are many stories that brands may share with consumers — from origin stories to customer narratives. Which one should you choose? Before sharing your brand’s story with the world, you’ve got to write it. We’ve broken this process down into three parts.
1. Define your brand’s story
Defining your brand’s story is the cornerstone of compelling brand storytelling, providing a consistent and authentic narrative that sets the stage for building an enduring brand presence. Follow these steps to define your brand’s story:
Determine your brand’s values and mission
Start by defining your brand’s mission and values. Your mission details what you aim to do and who you do it for, while your values are the principles for which your business stands.
To write a mission statement, answer these questions:
- WHAT does our business do, and HOW?
- WHO do we serve?
- What VALUE do we provide?
Then, put the pieces together to create your mission statement: We do [WHAT] by [HOW] for [WHO] to [VALUE].
For example, say you’ve created an environmentally friendly clothing brand [WHAT] that upcycles used clothes [HOW]. You cater to eco-conscious consumers [WHO] who want to protect the planet [VALUE]. In this case, your mission statement might look like this: “We create sustainable clothing by upcycling secondhand fashion for eco-conscious consumers who want to protect the planet.”
Next, determine the values that support your mission:
- What’s important to your business?
- What rules would your business live by if it were a person?
- What values do you admire?
- What values does your target audience admire?
Identifying your brand’s values and mission is the first part of crafting an authentic, trust-building, and differentiated brand story that resonates with your audience on a deeper level. Once you understand your brand’s mission and values, you want to start thinking about what your ideal customer looks and acts like.
Identify your target audience
Your target audience is the people you want your brand story to resonate with; who are you trying to establish an emotional connection with when you use brand storytelling?
To identify your target audience, create a buyer persona, which is essentially a fictitious ideal customer. Describe your main character using demographics like age, profession, income, marital status, hobbies, and values.
Another way to identify your target audience is to look at your existing consumers. A customer survey can help you hone in on broad characteristics your customer base shares.
Identifying your target audience is crucial for brand storytelling because it enables you to tailor your narrative to resonate with specific demographics. Ensuring that your message speaks directly to your target audience’s needs, interests, and values enhances the effectiveness of your storytelling, forging a deeper connection and relevance.
Develop a clear and consistent brand message
Now, it’s time to define your brand message. Start brainstorming by thinking about the following prompts:
- What is your brand’s purpose? Clarify why your brand exists, the problem it aims to solve, and the value it provides.
- What is your brand’s history? Consider your company’s history, highlighting key milestones and defining moments.
- What differentiates your brand? Define what sets your brand apart from competitors.
- Are there any interesting customer or employee stories? Humanize your brand by incorporating stories about the people behind it.
- What is the impact of your brand? Think about the positive impact your brand has on customers, communities, or the environment.
Now it’s time to craft a concise narrative that weaves together your company’s values, purpose, and unique selling points in a way that emotionally resonates with your audience.
For example, suppose you were building a sustainable clothing brand. In that case, your brand message might be: “Wear the Change for a Better Tomorrow.” This brand message encourages people to make a positive impact through their fashion choices while conveying the brand’s commitment to a more eco-conscious future. It is concise, to the point, and aims to resonate with a target audience that values style and sustainability.
Ensure your brand message can consistently and clearly reflect your brand’s core values in terms of content and how you convey that content through words and images.
Continuing with the above example, if you’re creating messages for a sustainable clothing brand, you might use serious language and avoid humor (as overflowing landfills are no joke). You could then support that serious tone by utilizing earthy tones and including pictures of natural scenery, reminding people what they’re protecting when they shop sustainably.
Put it all together
Integrate your values, mission, and brand message into a cohesive narrative to tell a story that engages emotionally with your audience and reflects your brand’s identity. Highlight how your brand’s values and mission translate into tangible benefits for your target audience.
An excellent example of brand storytelling comes from the brand Patagonia. Patagonia’s story revolves around its commitment to sustainable practices and environmental activism. Founded by the avid climber and outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia began simply with a passion for nature. The brand reflects this passion, as evidenced by their core values: quality, integrity, environmentalism, justice, and not bound by convention. Patagonia’s narrative connects with environmentally conscious consumers, creating a brand that stands for both adventure and environmental stewardship.
Start crafting and collecting narratives that humanize your brand. Consider your brand’s history, founding messages, and employee and customer stories. Once you have solidified the story you want to convey to your target market and collected an archive of narratives, it’s time to share it.
2. Communicate your story
A compelling story distinguishes your brand, making it memorable and relatable. But what good is a great brand story if no one ever hears it? Once you’ve defined your brand’s story, it’s time to share it with consumers. Here are some ways to communicate your narrative.
Use storytelling in your marketing materials
There are many other ways you can incorporate storytelling into your marketing materials. Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:
- Feature a compelling brand story on your website.
- Tell a story about your product or service, highlighting various features and real-world applications.
- Share your brand’s story through email newsletter campaigns.
- Participate in webinars or podcasts to push your story.
- Create case studies that attest to the values expressed by your brand story.
- Use paid marketing methods like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) to communicate your story.
- Spotlight causes that speak to your brand story, such as charitable events or holidays (e.g., Earth Day makes a great hook for a sustainable brand).
- Create video content – such as documentaries, product demonstrations, or customer testimonials – to tell a story.
- Develop interactive content like polls, surveys, or quizzes that include a storytelling component.
How you convey your brand story depends on the format. For example, sharing your values in an infographic will differ from sharing your values in an Instagram post. This guide to storytelling in digital marketing covers the basic points to consider, including words, visuals, sound, and more.
Use social media to share your brand’s story
Social media lets you reach a large customer base with your brand story. You can create various types of content or repurpose content, including written posts, pictures, videos, infographics, and images.
Everything you post should support brand consistency. Toward this end, sketch out a social media marketing strategy. Put together a social media calendar that details what type of content you’ll post, when you post it, and what messages it’ll include.
You’ll also have to determine which social media platforms you’ll use. This depends in part on your target audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach businesspeople, you might focus on LinkedIn. Alternatively, a platform like TikTok might be more appropriate if you’re trying to reach college kids.
Here are some ideas of how you can use social media to share your brand’s story:
- Share images, videos, and carousel posts highlighting your brand’s journey, values, and behind-the-scenes moments.
- Use Instagram and Facebook Stories to provide real-time updates, sneak peeks, and short-lived content to give followers a sense of exclusivity.
- Host live video sessions to interact with your audience in real time; answer questions, share insights, or showcase new developments.
- Engage in threads on X (Twitter) and Reddit to share longer narratives.
- Leverage LinkedIn to share in-depth professional narratives about industry insights, your brand’s journey, or thought leadership.
- Share user-generated content by encouraging your audience to share their stories and experiences with your brand.
- Highlight employee and founder stories to showcase the people behind your brand.
- Design and share infographics to condense key elements of your brand story into shareable and digestible visual content.
Choose which of the above methods resonates with your target audience and post them on relevant social media platforms. Consistency and authenticity are key to sharing your brand’s story on social media.
Share customer stories and testimonials
Modern consumers place a premium on authenticity. People don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to. Instead, they value a genuine emotional connection, which storytelling can provide — if done right.
One way to promote authenticity in brand storytelling is to let someone else tell the story for you. Instead of letting consumers hear how great your brand is from you, let your customers tell them. Inviting customers to share stories and testimonials is a great way to make this happen.
Social media can help you gather these stories and disseminate them. For example, you might invite customers to share their experiences using a certain hashtag. You can then like and comment on that content or repost it, creating a conversation with your real-life customers instead of talking at them.
3. Engage your customers through storytelling
Simply putting your brand story into the universe is the first step. Next, you want to engage with your customers through your narrative, encouraging them to connect more closely with your brand. Here’s how to make it happen.
Create a sense of community through storytelling
Everybody wants to feel they’re part of something. A great brand story helps people feel included by sharing stories and encouraging others to tell their own. Creating a community is all about emphasizing shared values.
Warby Parker has a great brand story that exemplifies the power of community. The brand was originally established as a reasonable alternative to high-quality eyeglasses. Their unique selling proposition (USP) is that they design eyeglasses in-house and engage with consumers directly. Warby Parker’s values repeatedly emphasize community and togetherness. Their primary principle is to “treat customers the way we’d like to be treated,” as in putting themselves on an equal footing with their consumers. The message: you’re one of us.
Promoting authenticity and inclusivity is a great way to create a sense of community through storytelling. Share stories that represent the diversity within your community. Emphasize shared values between your brand and the communities it's attached to. Be sure to actively engage with your customer community by responding to comments, acknowledging contributions, and creating a dialogue around common experiences. Remember that the goal is to build a community by making people feel like active participants in the brand’s story, creating a sense of belonging and shared experiences.
Foster emotional connections with your customers
Story-driven marketing efforts are all about inciting an emotional response that encourages feelings of connection. Emotional connections are a powerful tool because they leave a lasting impact on people and make them feel more connected to the brand. That doesn’t mean you need to tell sob stories — the key to emotional connectivity is shared values.
Just look at some of the biggest brands out there and you’ll see examples of brand storytelling and how it’s used to convey core values that resonate with consumers.
One example of successful value promotion is Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, now considered a motivational mantra. It incites an emotional reaction, making you want to get up and pursue your dreams (or at least get moving).
Showcase your customer’s challenges and how your brand has helped them overcome these pain points. Tap into universal emotions your audience can relate to, such as nostalgia, joy, inspiration, or empathy. And more than anything, don’t forget to showcase the human side of your brand.
Encourage customer participation in your brand’s story
Take successful brand storytelling to the next level by inviting others to participate in the process. By gaining and sharing insights into people’s lives, you establish a rapport with the person telling the story — and between that person and other consumers affiliated with your brand. This creates community.
Airbnb shows this content strategy in action. The company’s roundup of success stories showcases people who have become Airbnb hosts. This inspires others to join the Airbnb community.
Here are some ways you can encourage customer participation:
- User-generated content (UGC): Encourage customers to create and post content about your brand. Share these stories on your social media to highlight real customer experiences.
- Interactive social media campaigns: Create polls, quizzes, or challenges to engage customers in real time.
- Contests: Host contests and giveaways that require customers to share their experiences related to your brand. Feature the winners on your social media accounts.
- Crowdsource: Ask customers to contribute ideas for new products, features, or marketing campaigns. Give credit to customers whose ideas are implemented, reinforcing your customers’ role in shaping your brand.
- Livestream: Host live Q&A sessions, allowing customers to share their thoughts. Address concerns and gather feedback to create a sense of real-time interaction.
- Customer spotlights: Showcase customer spotlights across your social media accounts and website to share success stories, experiences, and testimonials.
Connect with your audience over a good story
Crafting a brand story is vital to any successful content marketing strategy. Brand storytelling forges an emotional connection between your customers and your brand. By using narratives to create a bond, storytelling helps your business stand out, increases conversion rates, and fosters customer loyalty.
To build your brand story effectively, define your brand's values, mission, and target audience. Communicate your story through various marketing channels, such as email campaigns and social media. Engage your customers by creating a sense of community and encouraging their participation.
The right tools make it easy to tell your brand’s story. Adobe Express offers marketing templates to help you communicate your brand’s narrative through logos, banners, business cards, and advertisements. Give it a try, and start telling your story today.