In today’s economic marketplace, a business without a compelling brand is at a catastrophic disadvantage. Rich with options from 24/7 internet access, individuals and companies alike can make snap judgments about any given business, knowing that they’ll be able to find other businesses doing similar things if necessary.
Frustratingly, this need for branding must still contend with lingering notions of businesslike behavior, left embedded in the public awareness after years of managerial employees in the public eye being required to come across as stoic (if not standoffish).
But moving past it doesn’t need to be hard. It’s just a matter of expressing yourself transparently and honestly, and using that expression to tell brand stories that will win people over and show them exactly why you deserve their interest, support, and custom.
And it might be easier than you think to come up with brand stories, because there are certain ones that always work if done well. Here are 5 you should definitely try:
Brand story: How you came to love your industry
Everyone grows up with dreams and aspirations of some kind, and they remain with us as vulnerabilities for as long as we live. Even if you’re inclined to view someone in a negative way, hearing about their childhood will force you to reconsider that perspective — you’ll be left looking past who they are now and called upon to empathize with an innocent child.
And whatever industry your brand is in, there’s a story behind how you got attached to it. It may be funny (perhaps you picked it at random by throwing a dart at a board of options), inspirational (maybe you saw a movie that made you love it), or even sad (if, for instance, it was an ambition of a family member that you decided to honor).
As long as the general result of the story is a genuine love for your industry, then it’s a great story to tell. (Of course, if you secretly hate your industry, then don’t tell this one — but also consider giving up the whole “brand” idea entirely!)
Brand story: How you started your business
It’s one thing to decide that you belong in a particular industry, but it’s another entirely to actually create a business. As commonplace as it is, most people will never know what it’s like to create a business — and since every case is different, there must be something interesting to say about how you got off the ground.
Did you rent office space right away, or work from your parents’ loft? Did you answer the phone and pretend to be your own non-existent assistant? And even before that — how did you choose the name of the business? Was the logo supposed to be funny, or clever? Did you miscalculate how much money you’d need and end up failing to launch the first time?
As well as being a fun story, this is likely to humanize your brand and make people more likely to root for you. It’ll show that your business isn’t an assortment of mercenaries, but a group of people who chose to build something because they wanted to.
Brand story: How you moved past your failures
Every business has bumps in the road, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying to you (or entirely delusional). Even the best-laid plan meets resistance. You lose a client — maybe it was your fault, maybe it wasn’t, but it’s a blow regardless. Maybe your original working partner absconds with your savings and never returns.
As embarrassing as it may be to bring up those old (and possibly painful) memories, it’s exceptionally powerful for showing people that you can be trusted. Some companies work so hard to conceal their difficulties that they feel fundamentally fraudulent, and it becomes all but impossible to actually believe anything they say.
And on top of showing trustworthiness, you get to demonstrate your resilience. Roadblocks may have stopped another business, but not yours: you got up, dusted yourself off, and redoubled your efforts until you reached your goal. That’s both impressive and admirable.
Brand story: How you achieved your successes
However long your business has been in operation, you must have things you’re particularly proud of: your greatest successes. Perhaps you reached a level of sales you’d been aiming for, or moved into a gorgeous office building, or grew your team to a particular size — in fact, that last thing is a really great thing to share.
This is because it’s easy to think the worst of brand managers, assuming that they only care about driving sales and making more profit. In discussing your successes, you have a chance to talk about the things that really matter to you, such as the happiness of your team and your ability to provide secure employment for those around you.
Who can root vehemently against someone who mainly wants to keep the lights on and their employees housed and fed? And when someone knows that your idea of success is more complicated than they thought, they’ll feel much more inclined to help you achieve further success.
Brand story: Where you hope to get one day
This is a really interesting story to tell, and a chance to get completely creative, because you can’t see the future but you can tell people about your vision of how things will go — how you want them to go. You may have had your successes, but you don’t want to stop there. What’s the ultimate objective?
As with every other story, the core is entirely up to you, and the most important thing is that you’re honest. If you want to make enough money to settle down on a farm somewhere and spend your days knitting, let people know — they’ll find it endearing. If you want to bolster success in your community as a business leader, say so!
The more people know about the future you aspire to create, the more support you’ll get. And anyone looking for brands that are aligned with your values will know where you stand — you won’t win over everyone, but even if just a few people believe in your vision, you’ll come away with brand advocates generating the kind of word-of-mouth buzz you can never buy.
These story frameworks can be incredibly potent if used correctly, but the hard part isn’t setting them out — it’s filling them in with the unique details that define your brand. Think carefully about the elements of your past, present and future that will help you connect with people, and make a firm commitment to honesty and transparency. Soon enough, you’ll notice your popular perception changing.