A Beginner’s Guide for Startup Storytelling

The brands that win are the brands that tell a great story - Mitch Joel

Once Upon a Brand

Once upon a time in a competitive land called IT, there was a savvy startup that was led by people who understood the art of storytelling. Stories have gripped the imagination since times of yore and the storytellers knew it. Startup storytelling involves engaging narratives set in a comfortable setting with relatable characters and have the potential to promote a brand in the guise of conveying some of life’s most important messages.
Startup storytelling have become an indelible part of brand marketing during the brand's initial stages. Brands used to be static entities before someone had the ingenious idea of making them relatable. Startups have to come up with even more ingenious stories in order to battle the big boys in brands.
Of course, when every business owner is telling a story, you need to be a step ahead and tell an even better one. Your brand’s story should be compelling enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd and relatable enough to attract your target consumers. For example if your startup specializes in hand knitted sweaters, the characters in your story can hardly be white collar workers.

How Startup Storytelling is done

A brand’s story is based on a pivotal idea. Think of it this way; startup storytellers are like movie producers. And that has a direct impact on how they tell stories. To them, a brand isn’t just a faceless entity. Their aim is to take the consumer on a journey.
Some brands encompass the journey with a series of plots that they feature in the form of advertising campaigns each year. This has a dual purpose. It —
1. Promotes the brand and keeps its message alive
2. Makes consumers stay loyal to the brand
This way, every aspect of the brand’s identity provides a sense of context to the consumers who experience it.

How to Draft a Great Story for your Brand

Remember, your brand’s story will be useless unless it —
1. Defines a problem and resolves it
2. Moves towards a specific purpose
3. Is held together by a single unifying idea

The Ingredients of a Good Story

A brand cannot exist by itself. All of a startup’s marketing efforts need to be customer-centric. Therefore, its story should be no different. It should -

Have a Purpose

This goes without saying. Remember, your customers do not care about your products or services unless you show them how your startup can make their lives better. Take the women’s underwear brand SPANX that is owned by sales trainer Sara Blakely. Sara’s story of being unable to find suitable tights that could hide a bulge or two, made her invent her own brand of the popular piece of clothing. Her “story” resonated with women who had the same problem and made her brand, aptly named “Look at me Leggings” a success.

Define your Hero

According to renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell, people are attracted to stories that define ordinary people doing extraordinary feats. It touches their imaginative spirit and facilitates a wish that we all have had — to become the heroes in our own story.
In other words, your audience needs to be the hero in your brand’s story. Gone are the days when the consumer was considered as a damsel in distress who can only be saved by a brand.
Who is your brand’s hero? Is it a mascot? Define what your brand can do for its target audience or what it is that makes them better at certain things. Nike’s “Let’s DO it” or Apple’s “Think Different” are a case in point. These brands do not point out how great they are. Instead, they tell how great their consumers can be if they bought the brand’s products.

Live your Story

Your startup’s story should live up to its message. And if it extols the consumer as a hero, it has a lot to live up to. This becomes a challenge for the startup. The consumers of today have a plethora of electronic media that allow them to dissect marketing campaigns to look at the truth beyond. In other words, your audience isn’t stupid. Your approach may be right but it also comes with a number of risks. Imagine the PR nightmare that Dove will have to contend with if it promotes a highly sexualized ad of the beauty myth. The ensuing social media storm will be enough to tarnish its reputation especially in the eyes of its female audience. No one is going to believe their mantra, “You are more beautiful than you think.” Be careful regarding what your story is about, don’t step on any toes and you won’t have anything to worry about.

Don’t Forget your Ultimate Goal

Of course, your story will be useless unless it promotes what you originally create it for — selling your products or services.
Let’s explain this with another example. Take the immensely popular toy brand Lego. Sure, the brand is hardly a startup but that is beside the point. Screenings of the Lego Movie were enough to make 11 year old movie goers go “Mom, I need a new Lego set” the moment the credits start rolling.

Promote your Brand’s Story

Brands like Dove and Nike show, not tell their audiences what they can do to better themselves. Your goals should coincide with the same concept. This will make it easier for you to relate to your audience on a personal level and promote your brand’s story to the public. For example, Dove’s slogan is a direct attack on the unrealistic body image that most entities in the fashion industry love to promote.
Once a female consumer shares that message, she becomes part of the same act of defiance. Being a startup does not give you the same pool of resources that are available. However, you can always take advantage of electronic media. Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have leveled the playing field when it comes to brand marketing and provide startups a plethora of opportunities to compete with the big boys in business.
Every brand has a story. What is yours?

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