How to Tell Your Tale So It Sells
You’ve probably heard many times that storytelling is essential in engaging readers so they’ll buy your brand. It’s the hottest marketing concept since maybe . . . ever. But what IS this brand storytelling that everyone’s on about?
Once upon a time there was a man whose life was in disarray, so he got this awesome new planning system and lived productively ever after?
The Amazing Tale of the Stressed-Out Mom and the Miracle Meditation App That Saved Her?
The Epic Journey of the Man Who Went from Being Overcharged for Auto Insurance to Saving a Mind-Boggling Amount?
A brand story is no different from any other tale. It has characters and a plot, heroes and villains, and dramatic elements like suspense and tension. And always – always – a happy ending.
Brands have been using stories to sell since the inventor of the wheel told his friends how much easier it made his life. If there’s anything new, it’s that we’ve finally figured out the customer, not the brand, is the hero of the tale. We’ve also realized that the story is not about how brilliant the creator was in developing the brand. It’s about a problem solved for the customer, a journey of self-improvement: Our hero becomes more productive, more peaceful, more prosperous.
Donald Miller frames this in his best-selling book Building a Story Brand: “A character has a problem, meets a guide who gives them a plan, and calls them to action that helps them to avoid failure and end in success.” I think we’ve always known this; Miller just figured it out and put it into words so we can put into practice.
Tell your story
Brand storytelling is a little more subtle than the classic “Once upon a time” structure of fairy tales. But you still should emulate the form: A problem is revealed, solution sought, conflicts encountered, success achieved. Set it up using the traditional elements:
- The hero: Your customer, who needs to fix a problem.
- The problem: Disorganization, stress, high costs.
- The conflict: The specific negative effects of the problem.
- The tension: Repeated failure of other solutions tried; will this one finally work?
- The solution: Your brand, at last!
- The happy ending: The hero’s life now, with your solution.
- Are you setting up a problem the reader is likely to have?
- Are you clearly showing them how you – and only you – can solve it?
- Are you offering a clear path to the solution? Or, like the witch in “Rapunzel,” are you erecting a thorny wall that the hero must hack through to reach the solution?
The moral of this story
Whatever story you tell, always remember to keep the reader – your next customer – at the center of it.