Story: No Brand Should Be Without One

Last week I was exploring the coffee shops in my new neighborhood, making the critical decision of which one would be my go-to. Surprisingly, two ancient pastimes came to mind during my decision-making process: the Choose Your Own Adventure paperback series and the MS-DOS game Zork. What do coffee shops and interactive fiction adventures have to do with each other? Choosing a story. Each coffee shop sold what I expected: good food and effective caffeine, but my choice of which one to love (and tell the masses about) came down to the story of the shop and if I wanted to be a part of it.

It’s easy to brush off the needs for engaging brand stories as a priority that only applies to consumer brands and the retail world, but the need for a brand story is truer than ever right now for B2B and tech brands.

Do your customers believe what you believe?

For many B2B and tech brands, your product is essentially intangible, so the feeling your brand creates through its interactive story (read: marketing, digital presence, experience) is what you are selling first. Don’t brush this off so quickly. Feeling is not just something shallow and fluffy. It’s often something deeply personal and weighty like confidence, wonder, security, luxury, consistency, freedom, reliability, you name it… Whatever it is, it equates to value, desirability, and worth in the world where your customers live.

Do you know what your customers want to feel? Do you know why they want to feel that way?

When we collaborate in brand workshops with our clients, we strip back all the business talk, arm everyone with an equal-sized shovel, and dig to the core of the brand. It can get uncomfortable and it can get tiring, because we relentlessly ask questions like, “How would you describe the brand’s personality?”, “What makes you so different?”, and “Why are you in this business anyway?”. We don’t start with questions directly related to the product. The questions we’re starting with shine a light on and unearth a resounding truth for existing. And this truth guides us going forward to ensure that we’re building the genuine story of the brand and then sharing it through all the touchpoints with people who believe what you believe.

Challenge question: What does your customer ultimately want to feel?

Where have you been and where are you going?

We’ve talked about the elements of a good story before, but the two pieces that you probably already have access to in your own brand are history and mission. Simply put, where have you been and where are you going? Both of these elements provide meaning and an opportunity for your customers to relate (and often prove powerful enough on their own to promote a buying decision, more on that below).

Do your customers know your origin story? Do they know your struggles and your lofty dreams?

These are not questions to be answered on a one-off, buried web page. These are storylines that need to be illustrated, woven into, and lived out through every part of your brand experience (this means you’re going to have to start talking about more than just your product).

When it comes to history and mission, we often admire Patagonia for their candidness and sincerity. Many companies talk about their sustainability goals, but Patagonia takes it one step further—they include the history of their weaknesses and their yet-to-be-conquered obstacles that prevent them from their mission: to save our home planet. They take these beliefs and live them out through their stores, their content, and their acts of social responsibility.

Challenge question: Why is your brand worth talking about and remembering?

Does your top-notch product evoke joy?

For so many people, the extensive and exhausting hard work that goes into the successful creation of a B2B or tech product ends up creating tunnel vision when it comes to messaging and marketing. Let us be clear: yes, it is incredible that you made it this far. Your hard work is valuable, admirable, and most certainly worth celebrating. But don’t forget that you’re selling your product to people outside of the research and development room. You’re selling to humans who execute 95 percent of all cognition in the subconscious mind.

Does your messaging, digital presence, and brand experience evoke joyful engagement in your customers?

When it comes to marketing today, the barriers to entry are lower than ever and looking and sounding good are table stakes. People expect a beautiful and engaging digital experience from both consumer brands and B2B brands, and they will disregard your brand if it doesn’t instill an emotional response (even if it’s the best in its class). Don’t let your hard work go unnoticed by undervaluing the importance of the story that needs to be told and the creativity that must bring it to life.

Challenge question: Is your product packaged within a beautifully executed digital experience?

Do you have a team obsessed with stories?

We live in the digital age where millions of choices are accessible from our phones and everything can be personalized to who we are. Brands make it easy to envision ourselves being woven into their narratives, and we tag our pictures and words with hashtags to promote what we love. We text our friends about the little things that make our lives better.

So what is your brand’s story? Is it grounded in a foundational truth that’s compelling to humans inside and outside the company walls? Does your brand make people’s lives better?

It’s not easy, but committing to discovering and crafting your story is paramount to engaging with and sparking joy in your customers. Fortunately, our brand is obsessed with finding your brand’s narrative, so let’s team up and make something incredible.

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