Brand Storytelling: What, Why & How to Start Telling Your Story

  • by John Maduforo
  • May 09, 2020
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No matter how many times it has been told to us, we all still love a great story and it never gets old.

With many businesses closed and as cities around the world continue to remain under lockdown, many brands have also drifted towards digital and social media platforms to engage and reach new potential customers.

While many brands are trying desperately to sell with every post, this is a great time for business owners to connect with their audience and prospects on a deeper level with creative Brand Storytelling.

What is a Story?

If you Google it, you would most likely find some of my favourite definitions.

A story is…

…..An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

….An account of past events in someone’s life or in the development of something.

….A particular person’s representation of the facts of a matter.

The amazing thing about stories is that they don’t always have to be true, contain facts or actual events.

Storytelling defeats numbers, It’s about perception, resonance and connection.

Some of the world’s longest-standing and most successful brands understood and leveraged storytelling longer than many others did. Today these brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Airbnb and even Apple have earned a place in our hearts by consistently telling stories that connect us to them

One of my favourite brands that tell great stories has got to be Nike. In 1999, the shoe brand aired a one-minute TV commercial to commemorate the life and career of Micheal Jordan after his retirement. The clip which showed the life of the legend backwards from his last championship game to his High-school days didn’t start with or mention anything about Nike until the last 3 seconds when the logo and slogan “Just Do It” appeared.

Nike understood the strategy behind storytelling and knew better than to push its brand down consumers’ throats. They understood that an authentic story was the key to making a lasting impression, build the brand and allow the company to sell more products in the long-term.

Think about Storytelling as an invitation to attend your party. it promises your potential guests an experience they want to have. So, while it’s your party, it’s not about you, but about the “guests”.

Why Brand Storytelling, if done right, always works?

We are all hardwired for stories, regardless of our race, culture or where we come from, it’s in our DNA. Unlike facts and numbers, stories are memorable and shareable, they connect us to the past and help us strategize for the future.

It is very possible for brand storytelling to go wrong or come back fruitless. This happens when a brand thinks that storytelling is just another synonym or creative alternative to interrupt advertising.

However, when done right, the benefits are “almost timeless”

“Storytelling, when done right, will pull a consumer into the world of a brand to see a different perspective, showing them the bigger picture. The story is an invitation for someone to participate in something bigger than themselves, something they believe in.” Joe Teo

If your storytelling strategy doesn’t do you any good or you simply haven’t got one, you may spend the last days of your business trying hard to prove your relevance to your audience.

How to start telling your story?

The first and most important rule you must know…

Never start talking about what you make, but what you make happen and why you do what you do.

By talking about your why and the impact of what you do, you connect deeply with your customers and prospects who share the same value as you, this gives you a chance to invite them into your world without actually taking them out of theirs.

These three steps will guide you to discover and tell brand stories that resonate, connects and sells 👇🏾

1 — Look within:

Aside from having a “great product” what else do you do better than anyone else? No matter how little, this can become your “Why”

An example could be a Nigerian footwear brand that makes great shoes with 100% locally sourced materials. A brand like this could tell amazing stories of why they choose locally sourced materials and how they support local manufacturers in the value chain.

In a time where your competition can replicate your product in the same or better quality. How else do you convince your customers to choose you over someone else? By convincing them they are part of something bigger than themselves, something that they believe in.

Great brands first talk to the heart, then the head.

A real-life example I love is how Foodpro tells their story as a made-in-Nigeria cashew snack brand that believes that the world would be a better place with more empowered women.

They do this by employing over 400 women in their workforce, who contribute to grow the company and earn a sustainable income to impact their families and communities.

Great brands don’t start by telling you what they do, they start with why

2 — Focus on your audience:

You are either Mac or Windows… you cannot be everything to everybody. Like any marketing strategy, understanding your audience helps to ultimately define

  • The stories you tell
  • How you tell them &
  • What platforms/formats you use

A story is just another content piece and to give your audience the best experience, you must be able to deliver that content in a format they love to consume, via the platforms they hang out on and in a tone they are familiar with. Understanding the extra little details like cultural background, history and interests can help you tell the best stories to the right audience.

3 — Own your Story:

Once you understand and decide what you stand for, you must consistently build your content around these values.

It can be as simple as educating and entertaining your audience without losing focus on what you stand for and what your audience cares about.

Foodpro goes the extra mile to adopt the month of March to celebrate women as they believe that one day (Women’s Day) is not enough to celebrate women. They do this through their SHERO (She Hero) campaign that recognises and celebrates women using their genius to impact their communities.

Now that you have the attention of your audience, How do you convert?

  1. Know your audience and find their pain points

2. Empathize with them while amplifying their pain through the stories you tell

3. Help them heal using the product/service/content that you provide

Whether it’s direct or not, always have a call to action. If they feel connected, they’d place the order, but you have to ask.

Foodpro ends their story with “Every time you buy our handpicked and carefully processed cashew nuts, coated in traditional West African spices, you keep the factory open helping women like Lola earn a sustainable income and impact their immediate community”

Ask for the order, don’t be shy!

Do you currently have a strategic brand story? I hope it’s yes, but if you don’t, I’ll be super excited to help you get started. I recently taught a Brand Storytelling Masterclass and if you missed it, here’s the replay and slides from the class.


John Maduforo

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