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Unstuck for words: how to find your brand’s story

Published on:

Alun Davies

Creative Lead

'What is your story' written on window in neon lights

When speaking to branding professionals and designers, you’ll find you’re usually told that best practice involves ‘telling your story’. This is for good reason: storytelling is arguably the most vital key to brand building and long-term connections to your audience.
Whilst this advice is all well and good, it won’t get you very far if you don’t actually know what your brand’s story is.

So, how do you find your story? It all starts with your audience.

Understand your audience

Storytelling is about connecting with your audience on a very human level: Nike don’t talk about improving performance by 15.427%, they talk about the thrill of winning and achieving goals, positioning themselves as your gateway to this experience.
To connect with an audience in this way, you first need to understand the motives of who you’re talking to. You can have an amazing product, but if people don’t understand how amazing it is to them personally, it matters very little. 
Think of it in human terms. How you’d recommend something to your boss is almost certainly very different to how you’d recommend the same thing to your close friends. You recognise that each of these people have different reasons to want the same product, and you adjust your ‘pitch’. You essentially do this on a much grander scale when trying to target different customers.
To understand the motives of your audience, you should be asking yourself the following key questions:

  • Which audience is engaging with you the most?
  • What sort of problem are they looking to solve? 
  • Are they looking to feel relieved or excited? 
  • Are they likely to make a quick decision? 

Once you understand the motives of who you’re talking to, you’ll have a better grasp of the next step.

Understand your own value 

Storytelling is just as much about what you can offer as it is about what your audience wants. In this sense, we’re referring to how what you do helps people on a more human level rather than a list of unique selling points.
This sounds pretty basic – and it is – but thinking about your own offering in lay-person terms instead of business terms often helps you to relate to your audience in a more honest way.
Break down what your brand does as though you are trying to explain it to an elderly relative – a bit like how we all explained our jobs to our families at Christmas. Less describing your brand as ‘comprehensive hydration solutions’ and more ‘we find ways of getting water to people who need it’, which builds a more human connection. 
Once we’ve translated the brand and the audience into the same language, it makes the next step a lot easier too…

Look for the compelling thread

So, you’ve looked at the needs and wants of the person facing and you’ve broken down what you can offer on a human level. Now comes the hardest part – tying these two things together.
Centre everything around your customer. Your audience cares much more about what’s in it for them and always will – you’ll be favoured much more highly if you maintain your focus on them. For example, an audience looking for a car rental service should be targeted less with messages like, ‘a comprehensive range of vehicles to choose from’ and more with messages like, ‘travel on your own terms’. Yes, the first one is implying variety and choice, but it lacks engagement and personability as it’s more about the brand’s scale of operation than about what value the brand can offer them.
The connection between you and your audience might be quite apparent, but how you frame it really is the most crucial factor of all. 

Never forget: you’re a human talking to other humans

You may have noticed a running theme here about remembering the human side of commerce. It’s easy to get swept up in data, best practice, and predictive models. They can all be incredibly insightful and are essential to understanding your audience.
But it’s really easy to just stop there and apply their findings in a cold, analytical way. If you’re transactional with your base, they’ll be transactional with you. You need to translate their findings into real human terms. 
Not sure what all the research and findings really mean for your company? If in doubt, always bring it back to imagining a simple one-to-one conversation with a customer.

• What would you have to say to this one person?
• How would you talk to them?
• How would you compose yourself? 
Often the approach in business is the approach you’d take in a more personable setting. If you do that, and you understand how it relates to who you’re talking to, you’ve got yourself a story worth telling.
Need a hand with finding your story? Our Creative and Strategy teams have worked with everyone from start-ups to established international brands to help them refine the story they’re telling – and who they’re telling it to. Get in touch here.

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