Success in unexpected places
I knew these two guys that started a car service in Buffalo, New York – they drove you and your car home after a long night of partying. The whole idea started after several rounds of drinks in a local bar. When it was time to go home, they decided to leave their cars in the parking lot, positioning notes on their windows explaining that they would return tomorrow to move them. After an ungodly cab fare home and another one the following morning, they returned to find the cars gone, placed in the care of a notorious towing company. Another cab ride and several additional fees later they vowed to never let this happen to anyone again, spawning the idea for a business that has since made them quite a bit of money.
How did your story begin?
So how did you and your employees begin? From the couple that started making cupcakes in their kitchen and now own a major catering service to the small time mechanic that jumpstarted the manufacturing of revolutionary car parts – tales of entrepreneurial success are everywhere, reminding us that everyone has a story. The key is finding yours, and presenting it in a way that speaks resoundingly to your customers.
Writing for your website
If you’re just starting out, a website is an essential tool for weaving that thread. Even before you have a business card in place, a URL must be established for anyone to (a) find you and (b) take you seriously. Without a website, in today’s world, your business does not exist.
Now, the tone of your company may be lighthearted, perhaps even humorous, but this in no way excuses a sloppy web design – you can be fun and professional at the same time. I also want to caution readers, that this article is about brand storytelling and not about the intricacies of search engine optimization. The meat of this particular piece is about how to tell your story and not how to ensure its presentation on page one.
The cinematic qualities of brand storytelling
Moving on…I encourage you to think about the presentation of your company story like a great film. What are the main elements of any cinematic experience?
- The plot
- The characters
- The dialogue
- The scenes
There are underlying elements to each of these as well, many of which are the determinants between a straight-to-Redbox flop and an Oscar-winning feature. The presentation of your story is dependent upon your characters and your characters are dependent upon your audience’s ability to connect with them. Perhaps, you have decided to create a fictional mascot that somehow intertwines with your company, like the late Joe Camel or the more recent Man of Mayhem featured in State Farm® commercials. Or, you have chosen your actual employees to be the basis for your plot. Either way, the material needs to be relatable – customers must empathize with their plight.
Many businesses, with companies like Apple and Airbnb being among them, have decided to present their story through the eyes of their customers, showcasing the heartfelt and stimulating interactions between their products and those that use them. For this, the dialogue must be naturally engaging; an honest, yet, artfully executed representation of how you have improved their lives. This, as mentioned before, does not discount humor as an effective way of presenting this.
Selecting your tone
Whichever tone you choose to present your company narrative, selecting a theme or set of themes is greatly important. What is your company about, what does it represent, and what is your content saying about it? When directors create films, all of the moving pieces are designed to convey central themes, whether it’s love, jealousy, ambition, courage, and so forth. Your company must do this too, from the words you use in your blogs and social media, to the images you present in your catalogs, to the colors you use in your brochures and business cards, and the background music you select for your videos – everything has a distinct purpose.
Choosing colorful themes
Every choice you make conveys a specific message and with this message there comes a specific set of emotions. Take, for instance, your dialogue. Two words can have very similar definitions but come with either a negative or positive connotation. Two images, although seemingly alike, can evoke very different emotional responses, based on the angle, lighting, and corresponding elements such as text and context. Colors can be representative of specific tones (no pun intended) too, where black and gold can be hues of sophistication, green can be fresh, yellow can be stimulating, blue can be calming, red can be energetic or dangerous, and each, depending on the ways in which they are used, can cause you to feel a certain way. Take the color red, for instance – in one light red can make you think of love if presented in a different way it can cause you to become agitated or fearful.
Your company arc
Movies, books, a simple card in the mail from your business, or a brochure that you present at a tradeshow all have something very powerful in common. They can cause people to feel a certain way, actually altering chemicals in the brain and triggering a specific neurological response. This knowledge gives you an edge, it gives you the command to captivate your customers and sway their decisions through direct mail, in-person interactions, and various forms of digital media. Therefore, establishing a distinct voice and story for your brand is a vital component to marketing a successful business. This story must be given a fascinating arc, with a beginning, middle, and an eventual ending that out-rocks your competition. Build the anticipation of your audience with the promise of a feel-good conclusion where each obstacle that your characters’ face are overcome. What helps them to overcome these obstacles? Your products and services.