Your brand has a story to tell. It’s just a matter of uncovering it.

For a brand story to be successful, you need to include personal anecdotes, values, and a mission statement. Its goal will be to showcase to customers what your brand is all about. Customers should walk away from your story knowing what to expect if they do business with you.

Think about the founding of Warby Parker: one of the founders lost his glasses on vacation, then spent the whole next semester squinting because new glasses were too expensive for a broke college student. Instead of spending the rest of his semester squinting, they decided to figure out why glasses couldn’t be cheaper. That’s when they realized they could disrupt the entire industry just by bypassing middlemen who attached ridiculous price tags to frames.

Customers read this story and immediately know they’re buying a product from founders who also suffered at the hands of expensive eyeglass manufacturers. It’s so effective because their story is emotional and relatable.

But finding your brand story and what makes it unique is a challenge only you can take on. Thankfully there are best practices you can follow to create an awesome brand story.

Ask yourself the following questions to start uncovering your brand story.

Where did your company start?

It’s so simple that you don’t spend much time thinking about it. Many companies condense their founding story down to a sentence because they believe customers are more interested in their product or service. But the opposite is true: customers care more about the company’s reputation. You should explain your business before showing off its offering.

It’s important to be realistic and understand that not every founding story is sexy. We can’t all start a multibillion-dollar company from our garages. Many founding stories are likely very simple: someone is motivated to create an innovative solution to solve a specific problem in the market. Even though your story might be simple, the way you tell it can make it exciting and memorable.

Think back to when you first came up with the idea for your company. Consider where you were and what your mindset was like at the time. It can help to identify the emotions that were driving you at the time — add those to your story.

You’ll also want to put your company story on your website. Sharing your business’s  history establishes trust and credibility.

Or you tell your founding story with less conventional methods. For instance, Warby Parker printed their company history on eyeglass cleaning cloths.

What is the purpose behind what we do?

It’s a straightforward question, but many companies have a tough time answering it. And let’s be clear: making money is not a purpose.

Let’s work off of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to answer this question. Sinek premiered this concept in a 2009 TED talk when he discussed the secret to some of the world’s most prosperous and popular brands. He explained how Apple, the Wright Brothers, and even Martin Luther King Jr. used a simple model to create their success: they started with defining their purpose before doing anything else.

Sinek says the most effective brands use their “why” as their foundation. Then they discuss how they’re going to deliver their product or service, before finally showing what that product or service is. Many companies operate in the reverse order, marketing a fancy product right away — they’re just shooting themselves in the foot.

This “why” isn’t just nice to have, it’s essential. It influences what your company does, the decisions it makes, and how it performs. Your why is the core motivator for keeping your business going.

Give your customers a way to express how they embody your brand’s purpose, or why they support your vision. It’s easier for potential customers to relate to people they feel equal to, rather than a faceless brand. Airbnb published a column called “Stories From The Airbnb Community” to accomplish this. It lets hosts tell personal stories about their lives and communities. Each story includes pictures or video from the host. All of it directly ties back to how Airbnb hosting has changed their lives. It makes a powerful statement that reinforces the human element behind the company.

What is your mission statement? What are your values?

You need to determine these before you can tackle your brand story. A mission statement will cover the essentials for your business: your purpose, values, and problem to solve. But how do you identify these things?

Here are some key elements of a good mission statement:

  • Make it meaningful. You want to integrate emotion into your mission statement to bring meaning to it.
  • Make it possible. Don’t choose a fluffy problem because it sounds good. Choose something your company can actually achieve.
  • Make it specific. It’s tough to gather support for vague mission statements. Make yours pointed, specific, and relevant to your industry.

Once you have a mission statement, put it everywhere on your website, on whiteboards in meeting rooms, in employee handbooks, and maybe even bumper stickers. Add it to your email signature! Remind people constantly that you operate from a place of purpose.

You also need to identify your brand’s values. These should be things you believe in, not a vague shopping list of niceties. Remember that company values are:

  • Personal
  • Pointed
  • Culture-oriented
  • Supportive of your mission statement

Remember these traits as you designate your values. Take these values and dedicate a page for them on your website. Talk about them with coworkers. Include them in your brand story. This consistency will help your audience understand what your company is all about. Make sure that everyone knows what drives your business.

The most successful brands have strong mission statements. Consider the following list:

  • Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
  • Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online.”
  • Chipotle: “To make better food accessible to everyone.”
  • Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • Southwest Airlines: “Dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”
  • Airbnb: “To help create a world where you can belong anywhere and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.”
  • Uber: “We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.”

What motivates your company?

Motivation comes in different forms: incentives, a competition between teams or departments, or job promotions. Money doesn’t need to be an incentive for employees to work harder. A survey conducted by Westminster College found that employees prefer praise over money as a motivator.

You could also motivate employees by setting good goals. One particular type of goal-setting is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras coined this concept in their book Built to Last. It describes a goal that so outlandish that it requires everyone’s help to accomplish.  It will determine every action your company makes.

What is my content marketing strategy?

If you’re not using content marketing to gain your audience’s trust, you’re missing out. It’s one of the least obtrusive ways to get in front of the right people. This type of marketing uses different forms of content to educate and inform the audience. It conveys high-quality information to establish trust and credibility between the reader and your company.

Review your current content marketing strategy. What does your blog look like? What types does your team write? What types of outlets does it get posted on? In what fields are you a thought leader? Answer these questions to understand the type of content your audience resonates with. You’ll want to use these same elements in your brand story to keep your brand consistent.

Moving forward, your brand story will be a huge part of your content marketing strategy. Any piece of content can be a vehicle for telling your brand story. Share this content any chance you get. Today’s customers are looking for an experience, not solely a product or service. In a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 73 percent of respondents said that a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties.

What do we want to tell our target audience?

One of the most important things any company must do early on is to identify their target audience. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’re wasting your time.

A popular way to figure out your target audience is to construct buyer personas. Buyer personas are ideas fictional representations of your ideal customer. They outline demographics, traits, and the challenges potential customers face. These personas will help you tell your brand story effectively because you’ll know who you’re speaking to. Identify real customers who resonate with your product the most, then use marketing and sales data to turn these people into buyer personas. The best part is that you can have more than one!

Whatever you choose to tell your target audience, keep it genuine. Authenticity resonates with customers. If you overpromise or deceive them, they’ll be skeptical.

How can we give our target audience an inside look?

The best brand story is a transparent story. You want to show your target audience as much as you’re comfortable with showing. Transparency lends well to trust, and you want your audience to trust you. 94 percent of consumers will stay loyal to a transparent brand, according to a study by Label Insights.

There are a few ways you can use content to give your audience an inside look at your company. Let employees from all departments write content for the blog. Publish a series of video interviews with the founders or upper management. Make a timeline of company achievements (here’s an example from Verizon). Use customer testimonials to show how your company helped people.

When you give your target audience an inside look, you let them see behind the curtain. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you put customers first.

By answering all the questions above, you’re on your way to creating your brand story. Don’t take this process lightly. It will take a lot of brainstorming to come up with a brand story worth sharing — it doesn’t happen overnight. Remember that this story will show your target audience who your company is and why you’re doing business.

You’ve got everything you need to tell an amazing brand story. You just need to put them in the order that makes the most sense.

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