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Storytelling for Brands: The Ultimate Storytelling Guide

Jon Tan
Jon Tan
March 3, 2015
2 min read
Storytelling for Brands: The Ultimate Storytelling Guide

Storytelling is an amazing tool in marketing. As attention spans dwindle and the number of content skyrockets, it's become more important than ever to know how to tell a good story.

That's why we've compiled and distilled the information from the best articles on storytelling to create The ULTIMATE Storytelling Guide for brands!

The Ultimate Storytelling Guide [Infographic]

A Story About Storytelling

Once upon a time, the first story ever was told.

Someone killed a yak and was very proud of it.

The invention of books, the radio, and cinema changed the course of storytelling.

Stories were no longer contained by word of mouth and could reach the masses.

To marketers, the first great milestone of storytelling arrived when the visual impact of cinema was combined with the massive reach of radio.


Stories were told across entire nations with little breaks in between. Advertisers filled these spots with commercials.

The problem was… unless you owned a broadcasting company or owned a company that could afford it, commercials were not an option.

Though great technology existed, most could only tell their stories… to those around them.

The great equalizer arrived in the form of the internet.

It was a medium where anyone could tell stories to millions of people around the world.

The problem with such an accessible medium is that attention spans are dwindling and the amount of content is endlessly rising.

More so than ever before, we have to find the best stories and tell them right.

How do we do that?

What is Storytelling?

This isn’t a checklist for what storytelling must be. There is an infinite number of stories and just as many ways to tell them.

However, most great stories would follow these guidelines:

Storytelling Is:

  • Useful Info in a Narrative
  • What Motivates Your Team
  • What Your Brand Stands For
  • About Your Customers
  • Emotional & Engaging
  • A Beginning, A Crisis & A Resolution
  • An Interaction Between Your Customers And Your Brand

Storytelling Isn’t:

  • Any 10.000 Word Article
  • Your Sales Goals
  • An Advertisement
  • About Your Brand
  • Boring
  • Something ’’Cool’’ That Happened
  • A sales Pitch

Why Storytelling Works

(Explained with Science!)

People love stories. They appeal to the emotional, decision making bits of our minds in ways facts and figures can’t.

They aren’t quite magic though – here’s the science:

  • Customers primarily use emotions (feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes and facts) when making purchasing decisions. The heart got da’ the $ yo.
  • Emotional response to an ad has a far greater influence on a consumer’s intent to buy a product than an ad’s content. The ratio of emotional response to content was 3 to 1 for TV advertisements and 2 to 1 for print.
  • Brand loyalty is most influenced by positive emotions towards a brand rather than trust and other judgments based on brand attributes.
  • Our brains are always searching for stories, that’s why we spend a third of our waking hours daydreaming. The only time we stop is when we have a good story to occupy our minds.
  • It’s easier for people to remember stories than cold, hard facts. This is because the human brain does not distinguish between hearing/reading a story and actually experiencing it. In both cases, similar neurological regions are activated.

Finding Your Story

Brand storytelling is less about crafting a story than it is about finding one. No matter how boring a brand may seem, there’s a story in their product line or value system waiting to be told. You’ve just gotta find it.

First, Define Your Brand

To tell a story as a brand, you’ll need to define these three things.

What Do You Offer?

What is the market need you are addressing?

Who’s Your Brand For?

Your customers are who you’re crafting your story for.

You’ll need an in-depth profile of your customers.

A good start would be asking these questions:

  • Why did your customer buy from you?
  • What drove them to start searching for a solution?
  • How did they find your brand?
  • What questions did they have?
  • What emotions drove your customers to make their purchase?

Why Is Your Brand Different?

This is not a list of features! Instead, list insights into your team, what you value, and what you believe in.

Next, Understand Your Customers

If you want your story to make an impact you’ll have to base your story on your audience and what motivates them.

You’ll need to know your target market inside out and align your brand with their deeper interests.

This means knowing what your target market wants out of life - their goals, dreams, and aspirations.

Now, Find Your Hook

  • What makes you different
  • What customers want
  • What you do

Your hook is an overarching theme that governs your entire story. It’s a representation of what your brand is and stands for.

Look into the overlap between what your brand offers, what makes it different, and what your target market wants.

That’s where you’ll find your hook.

Fish For Your Story

Once you’ve figured out your hook, all you need to do to find your story is to ask your customers to speak for themselves of the subject.

The best stories often come from customers. User-generated storytelling is credible (it actually happened!), easily relatable and means you wouldn’t need to write much at all.

You could use their stories as they are, or spin the plots and insights you gather into fictional stories based on reality.

Telling Your Story

Once you’ve found your story, it’s time to tell it. The goal here is to tell your story in the most memorable and impactful manner possible.

Be Authentic

Above all else, consumers trust authenticity. Stay true to your brand message in your storytelling.

If possible, use real details like names, settings, and outcomes to make your story more authentic.

Cast The Right Characters

Every story has its heroes and villains. In brand storytelling, villains should be problems or need your consumers to face and your hero should be your brand’s solution to these problems.

Pick a hero your audience can relate to and personifies your brand values.

This is the secret to immersing your audience in your story. Identifying with your characters is how consumers identify with your brand.

Use Sensory Triggers

Our brains recall information better when we associate it with a sensory experience.

While we can’t create cinnamon-scented infographics (yet), the good news is simply reading words like ’’lavender’’, ’’soap’’ or ’’bacon’’ is sufficient to elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains but also those devoted to processing smells.

Similarly, metaphors like ’’The singer had a velvet voice’’ or ’’The knowledge in this infographic is flowing into your mind like a silky river of milk’’ activate the sensory cortex.

Stimulate the senses with beautiful visuals or descriptive copy to improve story recall.

Cater To The Format

Consider the format of your channel to tell your story in it’s more sharable form. Adapt your story to fit your constraints, be in 140 characters, or an episodic series of videos.

Structure & Pace Your Story

All good stories have a beginning, a conflict, and a resolution. Brand stories are no different.

Another thing to do is to pace your story. Deliver it part by part to maintain intrigue and keep your audience coming back for more.

Examples Of Storytelling That Work

Before you head off to tell your own story, here are examples of the great uses of storytelling, each with a breakdown and key takeaways.

1. Ray Ban’s Rebellious ’’Never Hide’’

What Ray Ban Does:


What Ray Ban Customers Want:

Ray Ban’s customers are motivated by creative expression, a streak of non-conformity, and vanity – wearers want to look cool.

What Makes Ray Ban Different:

Ray-Ban sunglasses have a history of being worn by adventurers, celebrities, and famous creatives. They’re as much of a statement as they are sun protection.

The Hook:

’’Never Hide’’. Ray-Ban wearers are mavericks who are unafraid of the convention.

For a product as utilitarian as sunglasses, Ray-Ban found an incredible hook that they create great stories with. Their secret is building a story not about the product, but around it.

Ray-Ban uses storytelling in four ways:

  • They approached prominent creatives to share their stories on
  • They invite Ray-Ban wearers to contribute their stories on the Ray-Ban site.
  • They run their own international events and create visual content to tell the story of these events.
  • They craft fictional characters and scenarios to tell their story in an advertising campaign.

By associating these characters and stories with their brand, Ray Ban’s brand takes on their personality and qualities.

2. Patagonia’s Inspirational ’’Worn Wear’’

What Patagonia Does:

Outdoor Gear.

What Patagonia Customers Want:

Patagonia’s customers are fuelled by wanderlust, an appreciation of nature, and the thrill of adventure.

What Makes Patagonia Different:

Patagonia’s gear is exceptionally durable.

The Hook:

’’Worn Wear’’. Patagonia’s gear is so long-lasting that you’ll be able to hand down your gear to your kids.

Like sunglasses, outdoor gear isn’t particularly exciting. So Patagonia humanized their gear through stories.

In its ’’Worn Wear’’ campaign, Patagonia invites customers to share the adventures their Patagonia gear has shared with them.

The two-part campaign begins with a 27 minute YouTube documentary that details the stories of seven adventurers, including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, which leads to a dedicated landing page where readers can scroll through user-submitted images and their accompanying stories.

The story works because it strikes a nerve with its audience. It’s a trip down memory lane, inspiring us to think about our adventures and the stories we’ll pass down to the next generation with our Patagonia gear.

3. Microsoft’s Incredibly Relatable 88 Acres

What Microsoft Does:

Computers and Software.

What Microsoft Customers Want:

Microsoft products span a diverse demographic.

88 Acres was targeted at a segment of Microsoft customers in the; engineering, technology, and corporate industries. They’re deeply interested in the application of technologies and are inspired by innovative solutions.

What Makes Microsoft Different:

Microsoft is an enormous organization that embraces and has the resources to pursue innovation.

The Hook:

’’Darrell Smith’’. He’s Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy.

Microsoft’s ’’88 Acres’’ is a story about Darrell Smith, Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy, and his small, covert team of engineers casting aside suggestions that the company spends US$60 million to turn its 500-acre headquarters into a smart campus to achieve energy savings and other efficiency gains.

Instead, Smith ambitiously decides to accomplish the task through an innovative technically complex solution. He faces the daunting task of unifying a myriad of different building management control systems across the 500-acre space.

Through grit, determination, and ingenuity, Smith and his team overcome the challenge and realize that they’ve not only transformed Microsoft’s campus into an energy-friendly facility but also created a commercially viable product that can be licensed to other enterprises.

Unlike previous examples, 88 Acres is a standalone story. It works simply because it contains all the necessary elements for a great narrative:

  • A relatable character to root for
  • A narrative structure of a beginning, conflict, and resolution
  • Pacing that maintains intrigue and suspense

A Story About Storytelling (Epilogue)

When learning to tell stories we mustn't forget what a story is. It’s the biggest impact and the most emotion… in the least amount of space.

If you wish to be a great storyteller for your brand it goes without saying that you must use words that sell!

Why not then check out our massive list of 244 Insanely Powerful Words That Sell in Emotional Marketing to ensure the success of your brand's storytelling?!

Jon Tan
Jon Tan

My coffee expenses and my office rental are one and the same.Terrified of mathematics and carbohydrates.

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