After the last year that we all had, and all that came with it including a proliferation of new buzzwords into global consciousness; some have stuck on more than others. One of which is ‘storytelling’ as a communication tactic for brands and businesses. What then is the best way to tell a story? It’s to start at the very beginning. As a brand or business, the beginning would be your purpose, your ‘why’: your brand story.
What exactly is a brand story?
My favourite definition is by Hubspot, “A brand story recounts the series of events that sparked your company’s inception and expresses how that narrative still drives your mission today. Just like your favourite books and movies’ characters, if you can craft a compelling brand story, your audience will remember who you are, develop empathy for you, and, ultimately, care about you.”
Let me show you what I mean by using a brand story and events that inspired me to write this piece.
My Caizen story.
In 2009, I was a newly-wed expatriate wife and I was not working. I had loads of time and really great internet! On one of my online binges, I stumbled on Ndidi Nwuneli at a LEAP Africa event speaking to the fact that Africans do not have a lot of successful legacy or multi-generational businesses. She said some reasons for this were due to the lack of the right orientation and attitude of our people even from an early age as well as the lack of support that is required by businesses to survive and thrive.
It struck me! I could be a part of the solution!
I did not have the capacity at the time to do anything about the proper early orientation that she spoke about, but I could definitely do something about helping businesses and business owners to build great entities. Within a few months, I had a draft business plan and registered a business development company – Caizen, which is drawn from the Japanese philosophy ‘Kaizen’. ‘Kaizen’ refers to business activities that continuously improve all functions and involves all employees, from top to bottom.
The goal was to build an amazing company by a passionate team of business growth & profitability enablers who would work with entrepreneurs and businesses (through strategy, marketing and communications) to do the hard but satisfying work of building strong sustainable African businesses, whilst keeping them excited about the road ahead on the infinite journey required to create global mega-brands.
Twelve years later and a few weeks ago, our social media manager was trying to create content for our pages and in true storytelling manner along the lines of ‘New Year, New Me’, wanted us to share the story of how we got into business. As I was forced to remember the story to share it, I realized that I had not thought about it in a really long time and most importantly I had not shared it with the team. Can you imagine?! The passionate team of business growth & profitability enablers, who were supposed to be the vision holders, had no clue as to the underlying brand story which speaks succinctly to our purpose or ‘The WHY’ like Simon Sinek would say.
Could this be why we had only recently resolved the internal conflict about the best way to move forward in this new normal? Could this be why we had not fully explored the collaborations and partnerships which would have driven exponential growth beyond our current success? Could this be why we had lost some good team members in the past? Telling the brand story to the team was not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me but provided a lot of clarity, and unleashing a good measure of excitement, resilience and conviction to take important decisions that will take us from where we are to where we want to go in 2021 and beyond.
Now let’s come back to you.
Have you ever wondered why the global movie industry is so viable? Hollywood, Bollywood, our Nollywood and every other ‘wood’ continues to invest billions of dollars into telling stories that if we are honest, sometimes do absolutely nothing for our intellectual muscle but typically deliver on emotional value…Hello! Game of Thrones..or is it Bridgerton now?
The human brain is wired to respond to a well-crafted narrative. Neurological science also proves that storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, tattoo information into their memories, and develop close, personal bonds. Your audience will diligently crave and seek out great stories. It will never change.
So how can you tell a compelling but authentic brand story?
Your brand story structure must:
Create a canvas with the relevant information that attracts your audience to want to hear more.
Highlight the problems or benefits that your existence solves, ameliorates or provide.
Present a conclusive mandate that offers not just closure or a resolution, but the essentials for the journey to the Promised Land (whatever that might be in your unique situation).
So again I ask. What’s Your Story?