How to Create an Irresistible Brand Story with these 7 Elements
Famous American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, once bet a group of friends that he could make them cry from a story with only six words. If he won the bet, each of his friends would have to pay him ten dollars. Hemingway’s six-word story was, “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” As you might’ve guessed, he won the bet.
We marvel at Hemingway’s mastery of language, and how he could use so few words to say so much. But the reality is, you don’t have to be a bestselling novelist, to be a storyteller. In fact, we’re all storytellers who are sharing stories and being transformed by them every day.
Storytelling is Good for Business
It’s easy to see why storytelling is an essential skill for the Hemingways out there, but have you considered storytelling an integral part of your blog or website? The way we market our work isn’t merely telling the world what we do, it’s about drawing your reader into the story you’re telling. Author and marketer, Seth Godin said,
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.
At first, this seems like a piece of 21st-century marketing advice, but stories have been shaping civilization long before history was even written down. Stories have the unique ability to cut through the noise, grab our attention, and make us lean in a little closer. Even social media companies have taken note and have given us the ability to create visual stories on their platforms. Since stories are so effective, how can we take advantage of this technique and apply it to the way we market our work?
The Elements of a Good Story
Best-selling author Donald Miller answers that question in his book, Building a StoryBrand. He lays out seven crucial elements every business (or in our case website or blog) needs when clarifying its brand’s message.
Your brand message refers to the way, tone of voice, and language you use to deliver your brand’s value proposition. In short: it’s the way you talk about what you do, and why you are uniquely qualified to do it.
Once these elements are understood and woven into your website’s story, the results can be, in story terms…epic.
Here are the 7 brand story elements every website needs:
- A character (your reader)
- Who has a problem (that needs to be solved)
- And meets a guide (that’s YOU!)
- Who gives them a plan (your solution)
- And calls them to action (buy, subscribe, join)
- That ends in success
- And helps them avoid failure (what would happen if they didn’t join you in some way).
If we haven’t clarified our message our readers won’t know what to do or listen to what we have to say. Pretty websites don’t sell things, words sell things. When you apply this framework, you reduce the labor your visitors have to endure to figure out your value, buy your thing, or subscribe to your blog.
A Tale as Old as Time
Knowing this framework not only helps you position yourself better online, but once you know it, you’ll recognize it everywhere. Miller warns it will forever ruin the way you watch movies because you’ll be able to identify the missing elements of the story and predict how it will end.
Consider the Star Wars saga. Luke Skywalker (character), is at war with the Galactic Empire (problem). In his quest to overcome the Empire he receives training from Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda (guides), who trains him to be a Jedi Knight (plan). If he’s unsuccessful the dark side will prevail (failure), but with his training and sheer willpower, he destroys the Death Star (success).
Donald Miller codified it, and George Lucas followed it, but this framework had already been long established. Could it be that this framework really finds its roots in the greatest story ever told?
- A character (mankind)
- Has a problem (sin)
- Who meets a guide (Jesus)
- Who gives them a plan (salvation)
- And calls them to action (believe, receive, obey, walk, share)
- That ends in success (eternal life)
- And helps them avoid failure (eternal judgment and hell).
It may not be new, but clearly, this framework has worked for thousands of years. Understanding these essential elements to a story, helps us write better, and set the main characters, guides, plans, and actions in their rightful place in the story.
But getting the characters straight in our brand stories can be challenging. A common mistake is to make yourself (or your brand) the main character. In an effort to explain what “you” do, you rob the reader of the ability to be the hero and find the solutions that you just happen to provide. It’s a mistake even big companies make.
Permission to “Think Different”
In 1983, Apple launched its first personal computer with a graphic interface, which was revolutionary technology at the time. To coincide with its release, Steve Jobs published a nine-page ad in the New York Times that laid out all of its amazing technical features (which no one understood or cared about). The emPHASis was on the wrong sylLABle, and as a result, the computer bombed.
Jobs was later fired by the board and went to work at Pixar where he rubbed shoulders with the masters of storytelling. Several years later, he returned to Apple, where he applied the principles of storytelling he’d learned at Pixar to Apple’s marketing. He realized it was not the company, nor the product, that was the main character in their brand’s story, it was the user. His nine-page ad was pared down to just two words, “Think different.”
“Thinking different” was not only the way to look at personal computing (a relatively new idea at the time), but it encapsulated the ethos of the brand. This change – changed everything, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Life & Work Journeys
Getting the story straight is an important aspect of writing and marketing. It’s reassuring that even in our ever-changing world, some things never change, including our desire and love for stories. In the truest sense, our life journeys parallel our work journeys. We’re all looking for solutions to our problems, and the right guides to lead us to success and away from failure.
When we position our brands so that we honor the character’s journey, and offer ourselves as a guide to solve their problems, the characters (not us) get to be the heroes. This is the goal!
The good news is that you don’t have to have Hemingway-level writing skills to write an irresistible brand story. All you need is a tried-and-true framework and the right script to put your brand’s story in the best possible light. Is the stage (your website) set, and your characters in their proper place? If so, it’s showtime!
Because your story matters,
P.S. First impressions count! That’s why I made this free download to help you make the most out of your website headers. (Be sure to check out the special offer inside for those who’d like an outsider’s perspective on your website’s first impression. I’ll be gentle, I promise.)