Telling your brand story is about more than a conversation piece. It comes down to trust.
What makes a story? What doesn’t? Here’s a simple, 4-step structure to get you going.
Your story stems from a Moment of Inspiration, possibly one of these three kinds:
- Learning Transfer
- Surprise Twist, or
Sometimes all three.
Knowing your archetype might help you find that Moment faster.
So first, why do stories inspire trust, and second, what is not a story?
Check out these slides for a sweet, visual summary:
Note: your brand story is different to your personal story.
Your brand story focuses on the events that brought your brand to life, the purpose it serves, and the future it envisions for a specific audience.
What is a story? What’s not a story?
The simplest definition of a story is
a character in a context with the motivation to act.
A person challenged to make a change, or to make change happen.
It doesn’t matter the genre, the conversation, or medium. A story has a specific structure, and the average human intuits it instantly.
- A story is not a news brief.
- It’s not a recounting of an event.
- It’s not a list of activities.
All of those lack something: inner motivation.
It’s the reason why we don’t care about movie characters we don’t understand. If I don’t know why you care about an issue, I won’t understand why you’re so keen to act on it.
Belief is a goal that orients us.
Belief is a magnetic power that pulls us into alignment. It can be taught, shared, and created. But at its core, it’s usually a simple ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement.
Your brand story is uniquely geared to help people see you from the inside. And understand your motivation from the moment of inspiration.
So here are the pieces you need to start thinking about:
- Character: step outside of yourself for a moment, and try to read the label on the outside of your bottle. Describe yourself as a role. (Firefighter, mom, activist, bio-engineering student.)
- Context: what happened to you that caused a need for change? What wis the Moment of Inspiration that made you realise something needed to be different?
- Motivation: what is your ‘why’? What do you believe about how things should be? How should things not be?
- Act: what did you do about it? What is the dream, the plan, and the steps you’re taking?
How would this work?
Step 1: Character: Sum up your ‘character’ in one sentence, the way they do in the movies:
- John was an honest, hardworking dad who’d been working in a Pittsburgh steel mill since he was 16.
- A C-Suite CEO and consultant, Mary was used to prada, pantsuits, and porcelain from 6am every day.
- Ever since he typed the last page on his first novel, Dominic discovered a distinct passion for storytelling and people.
Step 2: Context: Here is where you’ll spend more time, sketching out the details, making sense of what was happening in your life at the time.
I’m going to stick with one story here, or this article will go on forever.
- After his father’s death from substance abuse, John was faced with the legacy of his family, a long line of shadowy, struggling men, distant from their families, desperate to provide. Forced into long lives of brutal labor, drugs and drink calmed their unruly spirits, kept them in line. But with the economy changing, his wife also working from home, and constantly missing his son’s games and recitals, he was missing out on life. Until one day. In the middle of all this soul-searching, a hit and run almost totalled the family car. His family was inside, driving to the vet. He had been drunk.
Step 3: Motivation: what is the core belief that drives action?
- John realized he could break with ‘tradition’. Define his own life. Families shouldn’t have to function this way. Dads should feel free to be present. He hated himself. And he hated that he felt so trapped.
Step 4: Act: What is the plan, the actions, the steps taken?
- John found work with a small business in town. And on the side, joined the local AAA chapter, and started a simple non-profit to help fathers get out of dead-end jobs and into new opportunities.
The Moment of Inspiration
This is the most important point in your story. It involves really looking through your events from the outside, and also the inside.
- What were you feeling at the time?
- What were you thinking?
- Back then, you didn’t know what you know now.
- You couldn’t see into the future.
Try to recreate that state.
That’s where your motivation was born.
3 Kinds of Stories
So far I’m identifying three main kinds of stories:
- The Learning Transfer: you graduated with a degree, then worked a totally unrelated job for 5 years. Then you realized that the subject matter didn’t necessarily matter. It was the skills, the thinking patterns, the method of action that you could transfer to a new field. Usually unique and valuable insights come from learning transfer.
- The Surprising Twist: This is an internal shift, a moment of realization that things could be different, usually at a time you didn’t expect. You may have grown into it over a while. Or it might have been sudden. These can be funny, and are usually stories that ‘stick’ well.
- The Catalyst: An event outside your control forced you to change a role or an attitude. Perhaps you scrapped everything and started fresh somewhere else. Perhaps you resented it at the time, but in hindsight realise it brought valuable change.
- All Three: Your story might combine all three. An event outside your control catalysed an internal realization. In a surprising twist, you discovered that aspects of your skill sets could be applied to a new field, and in a unique way.
Archetypes & their Stories
Identifying your archetype can help you uncover your origin story.
Archetypes are general themes of humanity, broad types of people that we all fall into, usually in combinations. We are generally a primary type. The Myers Briggs and Enneagram provide the same insights.
Each archetype has a particular mindset. And is animated by specific things.
Knowing your archetype is could give you a handle on your life story, and your Moment of Inspiration.
If you’re interested in knowing more about your archetype, head on over to Kaye Putnam’s website and take her free Brandality quiz.
Read more about archetypes in my article here: What’s Your Brand Archetype? 3 Reasons it Boosts Your Marketing Edge Without Costing Anything
Here are some possible moments of inspiration:
- Royalty: Was given authority to do something, and excelled at it, and in the experience
- Caregiver: Found a unique resonance in bringing help and value to a person
- Hero: had an opportunity to do good, and thrived in it
- Maverick: Found a cause, or rebelled against the status quo
- Sage/Magician: learned something new, found a new book, discovered a new knowledge gap.
- Creator: Worked on a specific project that resulted in powerful feedback, negative or positive
- Entertainer: Discovered a unique moment of fun, and understood how to replicate it
- Explorer: Faced a dead-end choice, or discovered an opportunity to
- Lover: Met a person, or an experience, that defined who they wanted to become
- Innocent/Girl(Guy) Next Door: Finding your home, your purpose, or your community.
So there you have it. Your origin story. What’s next?
Try writing yours. Put it on your website. Share it with friends and family for feedback.
You’ll start to enjoy telling it the more your audience realizes that it’s a serious part of you and your journey.
Share yours in the comments! Or send me a message, and we can meet to talk about it. It would be great to collaborate on yours.
And hey, subscribe so that we can have a weekly convo. It would be awesome to check in with you once a week and get your feedback on things.
So what’s the big question on your mind right now?