There’s nothing more memorable than a good story. From the Odyssey to Superman to Harry Potter, everyone relates to the hero who is dealt challenges and uses his wits, talent and resources to prevail in the end. Storytelling has been used to inform, entertain and connect us to something or someone since the beginning of our existence.
Only storytelling and narrative structure are powerful enough to create loyal, raving fans who share your story with their networks. Let’s face it: There is most likely another company out there doing what you do or very close to it. They address the same problem for customers, have similar resources and, heck, they may have even beaten you to market.
Tell a good story and you'll gain a fair advantage.
If you’re operating in a commoditized industry or niche, only one brand will prevail in the mind of your target customer. Brands built upon solid storytelling occupy that prime real estate far more often those just out to sell a product. You can utilize the elements of storytelling – a premise, protagonist or hero, an antagonist, and an arch – to build customer loyalty and grow your business.
1. Use premise to communicate your business purpose.
Now that you’ve admitted there’s a competitor selling what you sell, your challenge is convincing the customer there is a distinction that persuades them to choose you over that other company. It’s all about creating an emotional connection to what you’re doing, where you’re going and why. Why did you start your company? How is what you do better than everyone else? The object of telling your story is to build a case for the premise, which for you is your purpose. When you’re establishing your narrative set the stage for how consumers understand your business.
Consider the example of Toms. They don’t just sell shoes, fair trade coffee and sunglasses – they sell social good and taking a stand for something. Their customers know exactly where they stand because every element of their branding reminds customers of their mission. Toms takes every opportunity to seed their story. Just take a look at one of their catalogues – stories of social good are woven throughout product pages featuring their latest fashions.
2. The customer is the hero of the story.
An effective positioning statement tells what you do and who you do it for. Your branding must communicate how well you know, understand and empathize with your hero and their struggle. Demonstrate that you are alongside them in their fight to overcome the problem you can solve.
Mailchimp does this well. They’ve mapped out how their users feel throughout their interaction with the app. For instance, Mailchimp developed messaging that gives the user a virtual pat on the back when an email campaign is ready to be sent. They understand the user is likely feeling happy and relieved, so their messaging validates those feelings. “Fine piece of work! You deserve a raise.” I’d say that does the trick.
3. Describe how you help the hero overcome their difficult challenge or antagonist.
Your position must tell to the hero how you help them slay the dragon, save the girl or find the treasure. This is the turning point How do you solve their problem better than the competition?
Airbnb does this well. Their website images and copy appeal to the users’ need for comfort with words like “welcome home” over videos of people dining and laughing together, hugging and relaxing. It appeals to their aspiration for adventure by highlighting unique places to stay all over the world. Finally, it communicates a sense of belonging with a video about Airbnb hosts. Weave copy, micro-copy and visuals to let your customers experience how you help them achieve a desired outcome.
4. Satisfy your customers with a resolution.
The resolution is perhaps the most satisfying part of a good story. It’s the event that chanes everyone or everything. This is where the powerful villain becomes weak, or the office peon becomes the leader of the company. The problem has been solved and this is the outcome.
Toms creates this satisfaction for its customers by showing the positive change their mission is creating. They depict this part of their story through images and stories of smiling children, and running tallies of how many people whose vision they’ve helped restore, all of which they credit to purchases made by the hero. That creates repeat purchases.
Consumers have no shortage of options and the only way to become the leader in their mind is to build narrative into your brand. Make sure your purpose is clear, your position is compelling, your hero (your customer) is the star of the show, and you demonstrate the definitive change your solution provides.