Selling Through Storytelling: How to Craft a Compelling Brand Story

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Think about a story you’re keen on—a documentary, a podcast episode, a novel. What about that story makes it stick with you? Chances are it moved you to really feel one thing.

A model story incorporates lots of the identical components that draw you into your favourite e-book or movie. And it’s a story that serves a related objective. It has characters (you, your clients), a battle (private or buyer ache level), rising motion (your journey to clear up that downside), and a climax (the launch!). Most importantly, it leaves the reader or viewer with a feeling. 

If you consider model storytelling by way of simply storytelling, you free your self from the constraints of what you suppose a model story must be and permit your self to write the story you need. There aren’t any guidelines right here—however there are many pointers that skilled storytellers use to catch and hold consideration. Join us in coloring outdoors the traces, received’t you?

Meet the storytellers

A model’s story is commonly carefully tied to a founder’s authentic imaginative and prescient for his or her enterprise or one they uncover alongside the way in which. As a outcome, they’re typically the one individuals able to sharing their model’s origin. So, I spoke with the practitioners—founders who’ve efficiently used storytelling to have interaction and construct audiences and develop their companies. Here they share their private journeys and experiences, alongside their best-kept secrets and techniques for crafting a compelling model story.

Charlotte Cho

Author, licensed esthetician, and co-founder of Soko Glam and Then I Met You

Charlotte Cho

When Charlotte took the leap and launched Soko Glam in 2012, she had no enterprise or magnificence expertise. She appeared an unlikely founder—at first blush. But it was Charlotte’s unconventional method that got here to outline her now extensively revered model.

Soko Glam is, in some ways, the manifestation of Charlotte’s private skincare journey. She took her viewers alongside for the journey as her enterprise received off the bottom, candidly sharing her ups and downs and constructing a following by real storytelling. In 2018, she launched her personal skincare line, Then I Met You, a model constructed round an ethos shut to her coronary heart.

Lauren Chan

Model, former style editor, and founder and CEO of Henning

Portrait of Lauren Chan
BFA

Lauren moved from Canada to New York to work as a plus-sized mannequin earlier than transitioning to journalism—the place she later turned a famend professional on plus style.

Dismayed by the shortage of clothes choices in her dimension, Lauren launched her personal plus model, Henning, in 2019. For six months, she thoughtfully constructed a group across the story of the model, earlier than formally releasing any product. Her personal experiences are tightly woven into the model’s “why.” 

Ashley Jennett

Mom, registered nurse, photographer, and proprietor of The Bee & The Fox

Portrait of Ashley Jennett standing in a field with her children
Ashley Jennett

For Ashley, a nurse by commerce, her on-line t-shirt enterprise occurred fairly accidentally. It was a model born out of a artistic partnership together with her greatest good friend as they visually documented their lives and journey. The Bee & The Fox launched quietly with children’ tees however caught a swelling wave of consideration when it launched its Mama Bird shirt for ladies. The enterprise is now Ashley’s full-time job—on high of being a full-time single mother. Her story of motherhood and fervour for talking up are evident at each touchpoint—even throughout the fronts of the shirts themselves.

I additionally consulted Karlee Bedford, Head of Brand Marketing for our Brand and Communications staff at Shopify, to get some professional insights. Karlee brings to her position at Shopify greater than a decade of expertise constructing and rising manufacturers within the promoting trade.

What is a model story?

Before we discuss model storytelling, we must always discuss model—a time period that usually will get confused with “branding.” “Brand is so much bigger than a logo or a guideline document,” says Karlee. “Brand elicits a feeling.” She refers to Seth Godin’s definition of name that describes it as “a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, put together, impact a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Let’s take two seemingly related examples: Nike and New Balance. While their merchandise might not differ very a lot functionally, “they behave differently and have very different perspectives,” says Karlee. “Consumers in the market for sneakers have a different feeling about what each brand offers them emotionally.”

Brand is a lot larger than a brand or a guideline doc. Brand elicits a feeling.

Karlee Bedford

Brand storytelling makes use of narrative to form and talk the essence of your model to your clients. It is a mixture of information (the who, what, when) and emotions (the why) that inform the world what you’re about and why they need to care. An excellent story infuses a model’s values: what do you stand for? 

A model story can turn out to be the North Star for a rising firm; a beacon that guides what a firm does as well as to what it says. It can act as the muse of a set of name pointers that hold your mission, message, and voice constant, at the same time as you scale.

Your model story, like every good story, must be charming, human, and sincere. It ought to make individuals really feel one thing. That feeling then turns into the catalyst for a desired motion—be part of, donate, observe, enroll, purchase.

Why take a storytelling method?

The 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life tells the life story of George Bailey, a man who offers up his dream to do the suitable factor, solely to discover himself broke and depressing. But then! When all of it appears fairly hopeless for poor George, we meet Clarence, an angel despatched to assist our woe-stricken protagonist. A Christmas miracle! Clarence reveals George a world with out George that’s, frankly, a lot worse than one with him. An awakening. Not a dry eye in Bedford Falls. Fin

I’ve seen this movie at the very least two dozen occasions. It’s a household custom, and with out it, Christmas simply wouldn’t be the identical. The story, for me, is the magical reindeer mud on all the vacation expertise. Nope, it’s not the eggnog and rum inducing these heat and fuzzy emotions—it’s the ability of storytelling. Neuroscience agrees. 

One Berkeley examine discovered that the mind produces a neurochemical referred to as oxytocin—generally referred to as “the love hormone”—when individuals watch or hear a shifting story. Oxytocin creates emotions of empathy and compassion, and better ranges of the hormone are proven to produce generosity and belief. 

Storytelling is a chance to emotionally join with shoppers.

Karlee Bedford

For a model, that’s excellent news. “Storytelling is an opportunity to emotionally connect with consumers,” says Karlee. “It offers the consumer more than just a product or service—it offers them an experience.” If you possibly can transfer your audiences to really feel one thing it’s simpler to construct belief and an preliminary connection, laying the muse for turning them into a buyer.

Lauren’s experiences had been integral to her model story as a result of it’s rooted in her most weak moments. She launched mere months earlier than the onset of COVID-19 and the escalation of the Black Lives Matter motion. “Right now we need to be deeply human,” she says. And as a result of Henning was constructed upon that premise, it was pure for the model to use its voice. “It makes sense to focus on community and conversation.”

Storytelling “can affirm our own beliefs and perceptions, but more often, it challenges them,” says author and historian Cody C. Delistraty. This is a cornerstone of The Bee & The Fox, a model that goals to encourage dialog. “The heart of the brand is always going to be in the content. It’s in what we stand for. It’s the organizations we donate to,” Ashley says.

Authenticity and belief

“Relationships between humans take time to build, and the same is true for brands and their customers,” says Karlee. “It requires spending time together, sharing experiences, having conversations, and building trust over time.” 

Portrait of Lauren Chan
Lauren’s personal story is on the middle of her model’s story. BFA

Lauren believes the individuals your model serves ought to have a seat on the desk, making selections. “Part of the reason that plus-sized brands have largely failed in the past is that they’re not founded or run by plus-sized people,” she says. “And it’s evident.” Lauren is her personal buyer, so she’s ready to share a frequent expertise with them. The authenticity shines in her model story and visuals. 

Charlotte’s genuine self additionally performs a central position in each Soko Glam and Then I Met You—and their tales. For her, gaining belief meant being candid about her personal lack of credentials. “Most people buy skincare lines because they come from a dermatologist,” she says. “Hey, I didn’t even wash my face a couple of years ago.” Charlotte used running a blog as a method to share classes from her private skincare journey—and that vulnerability resonated with a rising Korean magnificence fandom.

You can’t promote authenticity and you actually can’t train it.

Ashley Jennett

Even as Charlotte has gained hard-won expertise—authoring a e-book on skincare and incomes her esthetician licence—she maintains an enthralling stage of transparency together with her viewers by the ups and downs. “I speak about this openly, even on my social,” she says, “about how stressed I was for the launch of Then I Met You.”

One of the frequent pitfalls in constructing a model, says Karlee, is “inventing brand benefits, rather than mining and uncovering their genuine purpose and values.” Insincerity is tough to cover. Bold messages and agency stances received’t learn as genuine irrespective of what number of buzzwords you employ. “You can’t sell authenticity and you really can’t teach it,” says Ashley.

You and your model

You, the founder, deliver your model into being, however let’s be clear: you aren’t the star. You are the narrator, the supporting character, the story machine that lets the primary character shine. Your buyer? She takes the lead.

Your story turns into the construction upon which your clients write their very own.

But, your position is important. Your story turns into the construction upon which your clients write their very own. If they see themselves in your struggles and triumphs, you’ve solid them a position within the middle of your model’s story.

The choice to put your identify and face on the middle of your model story is a private one. For many causes, chances are you’ll select to be extra eliminated. While Ashley’s About Us web page on The Bee & The Fox’s web site tells a lovely and private story, her personal face and identify are obscured. Instead, the faces captured within the model’s pictures are consultant of the model’s various clients.

Image of a model wearing a hat and a t-shirt looking back over her shoulder against a background of treesImage of a two models wearing coats and sunglasses against a sky background

Image of a model sitting on a car wearing a t-shirt that reads
The Bee & The Fox

In Lauren’s case, she tells me that Henning did want a face. “Our business is one that is intensely emotionally driven. Plus-sized fashion—for people who have been marginalized by this industry—is even more emotional,” she says. “It required a human being, it required warmth, it required understanding and community.”

Answering your “why”

An excellent story all the time has a “why.” It is the primary character’s raison d’etre, the driving power behind the journey to the what or the the place. In a model story, that “why” could possibly be a ache level—a hole available in the market that you just goal to fill—or success of a ardour. The reply to “why did I create this?” may turn out to be the leaping off level on your story.

When Lauren was working as an editor, she met with a number of the greatest names in style—whereas sporting garments that didn’t categorical her fashion or make her really feel assured. “I was limited to cheap, crappy clothes,” she says. “I was literally having wardrobe malfunctions at work and skipping meetings because my clothes were embarrassing.”

Lauren’s frustrations, she understood, had been private, but additionally shared by many ladies who put on plus sizes. Her “why” was making certain that different girls didn’t have to expertise the identical. “When plus-sized women only have one type of fashion and they aren’t able to express themselves, they’re not able to feel authentic,” she says.“The effects of that are just mentally detrimental.”

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Use this helpful train as a information to allow you to craft a compelling model story and construct a loyal viewers by the ability of storytelling.

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Story components

The ideas of telling a charming story are roughly the identical throughout mediums. It’s the standard of what’s expressed, not the format, that determines whether or not a story resonates.

We can make use of and be taught from the identical storytelling strategies that movie administrators or novelists use to hook their audiences. I do know, literal many years might have handed because you had been final anticipated to painstakingly decide aside The Old Man and the Sea. But understanding the underlying components of a well-told story is beneficial as a guidelines of types.

📖 What are the weather of a good story? Generally, a narrative consists of:

Exposition: characters, setting, and particulars that assist the reader visualize the story
Conflict: a disaster or pressure level which will change the course of the character’s path
Rising motion: the lead-up to the climax
Climax: the defeat, rebirth, or aha second; the inception of one thing new
Falling motion: additionally referred to as dénoument or decision

✏️ As an instance, let’s use these story components to create the idea for Henning’s story:

Characters: Lauren, plus-sized skilled girls (her clients)
Setting: New York, workplaces and areas the place skilled girls function
Conflict: Lauren couldn’t discover clothes that represented her internal self outwardly
Rising motion: she started to have wardrobe malfunctions and miss conferences, and the shortage of acceptable clothes choices affected her psychologically
Climax and backbone: she turned fed up with the choices in plus style and determined to launch her personal model. Henning grew an viewers primarily based on its authenticity and dedication to designing garments for plus girls, by plus girls

The Hero’s Journey is a widespread story format that mirrors the trail of many entrepreneur sorts and could also be a really perfect framework for you. It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey took a round journey and located himself again the place he began, modified by his experiences. Show the vacation spot, present the place all of it started, after which bridge the hole.

Another train to strive is mapping your story out on Disney’s story backbone—a framework upon which lots of the firm’s movies are constructed: 

Once upon a time… 

And day-after-day… 

Until in the future…

And due to that… 

And due to that… 

And due to that… 

Until lastly…

And since that day…

The ethical of the story is…

 

The greatest inspiration will probably come from the tales which have moved you up to now. What are a few of your favourite films, books, podcasts, or different model tales? What have they got in frequent? What storytelling gadgets do they use successfully to encourage feeling?

The buyer because the hero

Screen shot of a Then I Met You post on Instagram
Customer faces and tales are sometimes highlighted in Then I Met You advertising. Then I Met You

Remember to focus in your story’s central character: your buyer. As you craft your story, maintain them in your thoughts and let their wants and ache factors information you. “If you can’t communicate who you are as a brand and the type of person who would identify with your core values, then you won’t be able to sell it to them,” says advertising skilled Joey Ng.

Incorporating our clients’ interpretation of our model has been such a massive cornerstone of Then I Met You and has allowed us to thrive.

Charlotte Cho

As you develop, incorporating your buyer’s story into your model will turn out to be extra pure, as long as you create a dialogue along with your viewers—as they start to share their experiences, you possibly can collect these tales and use them to construct upon your personal. Lauren had this in thoughts for Henning earlier than she even had a product to promote. She knew buyer voices would assist form the model’s foundations, and she or he now contains a few of her greatest clients in photoshoots.

Charlotte opted to act because the curator of the tales her clients had been already telling. She found that her followers had been creating their very own artwork—unprompted—round her merchandise and model. “They sometimes take better photos than we do!” she says. Then I Met You just lately launched an artwork present and competitors to spotlight a few of this work on the model’s web site. “Incorporating our customers’ interpretation of our brand has been such a big cornerstone of Then I Met You and has allowed us to thrive,” she says.

Visual storytelling

Great storytelling is decided by type, not format. The proper medium is the one which greatest helps your model narrative: may you inform your story by video, audio, pictures, or design?

Lauren says that visible storytelling is essential to Henning. Her clients are profitable girls “who want to represent themselves in a chic and sharp way.” To entice that viewers, Henning may be very deliberate about its voice and visuals. “I really wanted to create a brand where these women could immediately see that they belonged here.”

Blonde model wearing a beige trenchcoat Hands adjust the belt of a brown trench coat

Blonde model poses for a photoshoot wearing a black coat
BFA

The model speaks to a group that has traditionally been ignored by the style world—clients want to see themselves represented in Henning’s story. “Fashion images have long dictated what women at large in this culture think about themselves,” says Lauren. “When we only see one type of woman in fashion—thin, white, Eastern European, young, and tall—everyone else suffers negative psychological effects.”

When and the place to use story

The most blatant place to inform your model story is on an About Us web page. It’s a devoted area in your web site designed particularly for this objective. You can use a mixture of written narrative, video, and visuals, all on a fully clean canvas.

But, nice advertising is about assembly your clients wherever they’re, even earlier than you get them to purchase. Storytelling is a highly effective software to construct model affinity and belief at a few of these earliest touchpoints, reminiscent of social media posts or advertisements. And don’t neglect to remind present clients why they assist you—inform your story on packaging and add a private contact to your customer support communications.

🎙️ Where to inform your story (and a few examples of name storytelling to encourage you):

Screen grab of Soko Glam's About Page or the brand's online storeCharlotte’s personal voice continues to be central to Soko Glam’s model story, at the same time as the corporate has grown to embrace extra voices. Soko Glam

Storytelling as you scale

As the founder, you draft the primary model of your story, carefully controlling the consistency of your message. But as your model scales, chances are you’ll begin to delegate a number of the storytelling to companions, freelancers, businesses, or workers. How do you make sure that you retain your voice and story regular and true to your authentic imaginative and prescient?

This turned a problem for Ashley as she started to work with a advertising staff. She began to see communications popping up in her feed from her personal model that felt like they had been coming from another person. She realized that it was an space of the enterprise that she couldn’t absolutely let go. “I have to have that control,” she says. “Having our voice on anything and everything that we put out there is absolutely essential to me.” Now, Ashley has a nearer relationship together with her advertising staff’s work.

Ashley employed a former neighbor to deal with her customer support, as a result of it was essential to her that this important touchpoint was dealt with by somebody she knew intimately.

It was simply very deeply essential to me to have one thing robust to reference. That North Star may be very clear to us.

Lauren Chan

Lauren’s method was to anticipate scaling. She labored on the model for months earlier than launch. That work resulted in belongings like a model fashion information that helps align anybody she brings onto the staff. “It was just very deeply important to me to have something strong to reference,” she says. “That North Star is very clear to us.” 

For Charlotte, scaling and increasing the variety of voices that symbolize her model has been a constructive expertise. The model continues to be comparatively small, she says. “It’s not like we’re Sephora or Ulta.” Therefore, Charlotte continues to be intimately concerned with the model’s messaging. But different faces and voices have began to emerge in a few of her movies and weblog posts. “My curation videos used to be just me,” she says. “But now I have people from the team come and host with me.” 

How inform your model story

Display of Then I Met You products on a row of shelves against a blue wall
Then I Met You

First, that is your story. Delegating all the process of writing your model story could possibly be a mistake. Sure, the professionals will help polish your story, however you have to be closely concerned on this course of. “We can’t outsource our voice,” says activist and entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. “It’s our heart, it’s our soul, it’s our story.”

What does your model consider? And why does your model exist? From there you possibly can outline your viewers’s core need and the emotional providing that fulfills that viewers’s need.

Karlee Bedford

I attended a workshop in 2019 introduced by storytelling professional Louis Richardson. “It’s not about getting them to buy,” he advised us. “It’s about getting them to believe.” With that in thoughts, let’s get writing. 

1. Start with the fundamentals 🔤

“Define your conviction and purpose,” says Karlee. “What does your brand believe? And why does your brand exist? From there you can define your audience’s core desire and the emotional offering that fulfills that audience’s desire.” Only then, she says, are you able to begin to dive into the finer particulars, like voice, tone, and design.

2. Ask questions 🤔

If you’re not a pure storyteller, begin with brainstorming workout routines to get the artistic juices flowing. Answer the next questions (level type is ok at this stage):

Why does your model/firm exist? Why did you begin this enterprise?
What’s your private historical past? Include what’s related to your entrepreneurial journey or the inception of your model.
Who are your important characters? You? Your goal buyer? Mentors? Partners?
What’s the setting, if related? Is place essential to your model? Why? (This is essential for manufacturers that concentrate on a area people or had been impressed by journey, for instance.)
Where’s the strain? What motion adopted? What downside are you attempting to clear up?
What’s your mission? What do you goal to accomplish by this model?
Who’s your viewers or preferrred buyer? Be particular. What do they at the moment consider? What would you like them to consider after participating along with your model and story?
How would you want others to describe your model to a good friend?
What do you stand for? What are your private values? How will these be mirrored in your model?

For a easy template, entry our free worksheet:

Free Worksheet: Brand Storytelling

Use this helpful train as a information to allow you to craft a compelling model story and construct a loyal viewers by the ability of storytelling.

Get the worksheet

Thanks for subscribing. You’ll begin receiving free ideas and sources quickly. In the meantime, begin constructing your retailer with a free 14-day trial of Shopify.

Get began

three. Listen to your group 🎧

Your story must be genuine and related, says Lauren. And although your model story must be private, it shouldn’t essentially be created in a vacuum. “It shouldn’t just be driven by you,” she says. “Get out there and talk to your community to understand the collective experience of the people that you hope to speak to.”

Storytelling helped our group perceive what we care about. How we’re really dwelling our ethos of giving again.

Charlotte Cho

four. Write a story, not a listing of information 📚

“Your About page is an interview,” says marketer Melyssa Griffin. How would you describe your model in dialog to an employer or good friend? Use a primary story construction outlined on this article to join the solutions to your questions above in a method that’s conversational, participating, and well-paced. And keep in mind to learn it aloud—is that this how you’ll communicate? “Infuse the things that you stand for,” says Ashley. If you’re obsessed with your story, it is going to be mirrored in your writing.

Charlotte weaves very private storytelling into Then I Met You’s product improvement and campaigns. Her honeydew lip masks’s components had been impressed by her grandmother, who would serve the fruit to her when she was a little one. And when she, like many entrepreneurs, stepped up to assist assist these affected most by COVID-19, she targeted on grocery employees, impressed by her dad, who works at a grocery retailer. “Storytelling helped our community understand what we care about,” she says. “How we’re actually living our ethos of giving back.”

5. And the ethical of the story is…? ❤️

Many good tales finish with a ethical or lesson. Think of any of Disney’s movies. For model tales, let’s refer to this as a name to motion. Your story ought to all the time have a takeaway for the reader that’s actionable. 

Remember that the story’s objective isn’t all the time to compel somebody to purchase—at the very least not but. But what different motion would you like the reader to take? Should they observe you? Complete a survey? Read extra into the causes you assist? How will you retain the viewers engaged and nurture them additional into your story? Maybe the takeaway is just a feeling you need them to have.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,” Maya Angelou as soon as stated, “but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Seeking suggestions—and when to act on it

Woman in a hat and t-shirt that says
“Nobody’s Perfekt.” The Bee & The Fox

Working with an editor is a nice first step to make sure that your voice is introduced in a polished method. If you don’t have the funds to rent a professional, any second set of eyes will do. Better but, share your draft with a number of buddies who provides you with sincere suggestions, together with individuals who resemble your preferrred buyer.

Once your model story is out on the earth, that doesn’t imply it’s set in stone. Seek suggestions out of your clients consistently. There are a number of methods to collect this suggestions:

Run surveys or polls delivered on social, in your web site, or by way of e mail advertising.
Pay consideration to feedback, suggestions, and opinions shared throughout your varied channels.
Ask questions of your viewers instantly in social content material (much less formal than a ballot or survey).
Offer free consults by way of video or chat—you possibly can be taught as a lot from the expertise as your buyer.

While it’s essential to soak up suggestions, know when to act on it and when to let it lie. Not each buyer is your greatest buyer, nor are they a model advocate. You’ll want to know when to stick to your values.

Ashley’s model encourages dialogue across the matters which might be essential to The Bee & The Fox. Sometimes issues get heated. “I always keep the brand open to free speech,” she says. Occasionally a remark will rub her core group the mistaken method. “People will say, ‘Can you please just block this person?’ or, ‘Just take this person’s comment down,’” she says. “And I will never do that. I’m OK being divisive.”

Feature illustration by Cecilia Castelli