As a small business owner, it’s more important than ever to effectively communicate your brand story to the world. Especially when selling online, it is essential to make your existing and potential customers ‘feel’ something – a connection to you and your brand. Digital Marketing Consultant Georgina Lee-Jones shares her advice on how to successfully tell the story of your brand…
Once upon a time…
…there was a business owner, working day and night in her studio, lovingly creating her products. She knew people appreciated and valued her creations. But she struggled to talk about her work. She couldn’t find the right words to explain the details she took so much care over or the time she spent researching and developing ideas, and all the steps she’d taken to be kinder to the planet. She didn’t know how to share in a way that would attract and hold the attention of the right people. She grew frustrated and disheartened and started to think about giving up.
It’s a familiar tale to many small business owners. But the story could have a happier ending.
We all love and tell stories. It’s how we understand and make sense of the world around us. It’s what makes us human. Stories are everywhere; in your favourite book, reading to a child, in the conversations you share with a dear friend, and in that song that breaks your heart every time you hear it.
When stories are well told, they’re powerful. It’s what religions, nations and global brands are founded on. Apple turned selling computers into a captivating story, one of daring to think differently, and created one of the world’s biggest businesses. Nike sells millions of running shoes based on the classic story of a hero overcoming obstacles; ’Just Do It’.
The best brand stories work because they make us feel something, even if just for a brief moment.
Research shows our decisions are driven by our emotions first, we make up our minds about whether to buy based on how we feel, it’s only later we weigh up the practical details.
So how can you create your own original brand story, one that really captures the attention and imagination of your customers or clients, a story that effectively communicates the work you’re so passionate about, and the business you love?
The good news is you don’t need a big marketing team or brand agency budget. I worked for 15 years at the BBC as a journalist and a Producer/Director making documentaries, and one thing that’s always stayed with me is that everyone has a compelling story to tell. You just have to take some time to find it.
Knowing where to start can be overwhelming or intimidating, especially when you’re writing your own story, but you don’t have to develop the dramatic plot for a novel, or an award-winning screenplay. You don’t even have to be a writer. Instead, start simply.
Rather than focusing on facts and information, think first about a particular emotion. How do you want the reader, your ideal customer to feel? Imagine them reading it, do you want them to be inspired or moved by your story, perhaps happy and entertained, or maybe calm and relaxed?
Another helpful way to approach creating your story, is to consider the senses, how might someone use or interact with your products, perhaps they’re beautiful to look at or tactile and comforting to hold, or maybe they smell delicious reminding people of a specific place or time? What atmosphere do you want to create and what words would you use to describe it? This will help set your brand tone and voice.
The third thing I like to do is to find one word that best describes the heart of the story, this will give you an overall style, building on the emotions and atmosphere you’ve decided you want to evoke. One of the favourite brand stories I’ve created is for children’s clothing company Organic Zoo. We knew we didn’t want to tell the more obvious story of motherhood so instead, we settled on childhood. A story about childhood works brilliantly, as it’s universal and taps into powerful emotions of nostalgia, love and joy.
“Summers were spent in a wooden hut by the lake. The forest was our playground, we learnt to swim in the open water and to fish with rods made of sticks. Those warm hazy days seemed endless, with sun-kissed cheeks, grubby knees, and bare feet, no day went by without a picnic.”
When I was developing the story for the lifestyle brand Our Lovely Goods, it was clear it needed to capture the feeling of home. The comfort, intimacy and simple pleasure of being in our own space.
“Home should be a place where you can be completely at ease. Somewhere to shut the door on stresses and pressure from the outside world, where it’s ok to wear pyjamas all day, eat cereal at the kitchen counter and call it dinner and dance to your favourite music, loudly, on repeat.”
It works to bring all their products – candles, baskets and skincare together – and also to bring them to life. The story isn’t about the business or function of the products but instead, it’s personal and from the heart, focusing on the little details and simple moments that couldn’t happen anywhere else but in a place where you have that familiar, comforting feeling of home.
Children’s company Freckle is another example, their toys are all inspired by a wish to encourage kids to spend more time outside, away from screens. We wanted to celebrate freedom and imagination, so settled on an adventure story. This invited a sense of playfulness, curiosity and joy which perfectly represents the spirit of Freckle. We continued the idea of adventure into the product descriptions so each toy comes alive with its own character.
“Let’s jump the stream, run through the fields and head to our den in the woods. A hardworking companion, Barrow is a trolley toy, perfect for loading up and exploring.”
Once you know the focus of your story it will give you clarity for everything you create. It will inform the words you choose, and the images you use and make it easier to continue the narrative consistently across all your marketing content, on every platform, whether it’s email newsletters, social media posts, website copy or press packs. Every communication suddenly becomes so much easier and more effective. People will remember the story you tell them and crucially they’ll tell it to others. A great story is what will help your business become a brand.
So, start a new chapter, let yourself be creative and dare to play a little. After all, you’re the narrator.
Georgina Lee-Jones is a Brand Storyteller and Content Creator at Simple Matters Media.
You can follow her story @simplemattersmedia