How Brands Tell Stories To Create Customer Loyalty And Recognition
Storytelling may be as ancient as humanity, but it remains an excellent way of creating emotional engagement.
Stories fulfill a primitive human desire to be uplifted and transported. They also bring us together, and provide meaning. We all have stories to tell, after all.
For brands, telling a story can create or transform the perception of the brand in customers’ minds. Stories also humanise the brand, and inspire an immediate emotional connection. Almost all successful brands use storytelling, with the most compelling brand stories not just evoking emotions, but generating a talking point that can take on a life of its own.
Good brand stories communicate why the brand is different, pack an emotional punch, and resonate with the target audience. Like all good stories, they should contain both a conflict or challenge with a resolution, and a structure (e.g. an introduction, middle, and conclusion).
Brand stories are most often told either with copy or videos, or a combination of both. In this article, I’ll outline five powerful story types that startups can use to communicate with and inspire customers to feel connected.
1 - Inspirational stories to inspire customers
Some brand stories are intended solely to inspire customers, rather than being about the brand factually. These stories are often fictional, though they are sometimes customer stories, too. A great example of an inspirational brand story is Google’s 2009 Parisian Love Story video, in which we see a relationship played out in Google searches, starting with a search for study abroad opportunities, then cafes in Paris, then where to buy someone chocolates, then long distance relationships, and ultimately churches and how to assemble a crib.
The story is compelling because it deals with emotional aspects of life while also illustrating the power and usefulness of the product in life.
2 - Origin or founder stories to humanise the brand
Many businesses are driven by the personality of the founder, and telling the founder story is a great way to humanise and characterise a brand, which in turn allows customers to feel emotionally connected with it, as it’s easier to relate to a person than to an abstract.
Billion dollar cosmetics company Burt’s Bees still leans on its founder story, despite founder Burt Shavitz having died in 2015. Burt lived a simple and natural lifestyle, qualities which perfectly encapsulate the image of the brand and which resonate with its customers’ desires.
3 - Emotional stories which evoke emotional triggers
Consumer psychologists have demonstrated that purchasing is typically an emotional decision, and that brands that foster an emotional connection with their customers grow faster.
By first identifying what emotional triggers motivate a brand’s customers to make a purchase, the brand can then evoke these triggers with emotional storytelling.
Common emotional triggers include feelings of belonging, aspiration, liberation, security, gratification, and exclusivity, depending on the nature of the product or service.
An emotional story doesn’t have to be about the brand, as long as it can inspire the right emotion. Sainsbury’s, a UK supermarket chain, knowing that a feeling of seasonal generosity was a driver of sales at Christmas, created an emotional Christmas video in 2014 to inspire this emotion telling an embellished version of the true story of when British and German soldiers left the trenches and exchanged gifts in the Great War a century earlier.
The video was masterfully and expensively produced, however emotional storytelling can be productively utilised by all companies, including startups; the key is identifying what emotions inspire their customers to purchase from them.
4 - Customer stories about how the brand impacts lives
It can be powerful to showcase how your brand has improved previous customers’ lives, as it allows potential customers to hear the benefits of your company from them rather than from you directly.
Square has dedicated an area on their website to showcasing how, thanks to their online payment and commerce products, customers have been able to fulfill their dreams.
5 - Aspirational lifestyle stories
Many brands benefit from aspirational storytelling, as evidenced by the rise of influencer marketing, as brands seek to be associated with aspirational personalities on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, for example.
Aspirational lifestyle stories can be customer stories, or they can be fictional. Tesla took the first route when creating a playlist of customer stories on its YouTube channel highlighting some Tesla owners’ aspirational lives around the world.