eTip #52

The Truth About Telling Brand Stories

For emerging companies, developing brand stories is no fairy tale. In fact, in order for a brand to resonate with its audience, it has to tell a compelling story. In this eTip, we interviewed Thomson Dawson, a brand architect on how mid market companies can start a new chapter when developing their brand stories.

BMC: What is your experience with architecting brand stories for companies and organizations and how did you get started?

Dawson: For three decades, I’ve been helping brands develop their story through my strategic consulting on brand positioning, corporate/brand design and communication programs for Fortune 500 brands like Amway, Audi, Brunswick, Coleman, Energizer, Herman Miller, Hewlett-Packard.

Of course, storytelling is nothing new. But for marketers constantly selling in campaign mode, the idea of sharing and contributing to their audience through authentic stories that were not marketing driven was a novel approach.

BMC: What is a brand storytelling strategy and what is not?

Dawson: I'll answer your question by saying brand storytelling strategy is not copywriting. It’s not about words in a marketing campaign but a transcendent narrative that reinforces the shared values between brands and customers.

Brand storytelling is a strategic framework that defines the inner story of sacred truths of the brand and why it exists beyond money making, and the outer story on how this narrative is valued in the minds of the customer.

Why is a brandstory telling strategy critical for emerging companies?

Dawson: People love stories – particularly stories of transformation. Customers aspire to experiences of life fulfilled. Brand storytelling helps guide them in their own hero’s journey. In the age of clutter and noise – brands that break through and distinguish themselves from alternatives always share a compelling story that people resonate with. Think of brands like Tesla, Patagonia, and of course, Apple. For start-up and emerging brands, crafting the story narrative of why their brand exists sets the foundation for customer trust, love and loyalty over the life of the enterpriise.

BMC: What are the three most common mistakes you have seen companies make when it comes to brand storytelling?

Dawson: I’m sure there are more than three, but here are three that come to mind:

1) Brands sometimes tell stories they haven’t earned the right to tell.

2) Executive leadership does not invest enough time and resources to build an authentic brand story that is alive and well throughout their organizations. They are too focused on ubiquitous marketing and selling.

3) Brand owners lack a sense of empathy and connection because they are internally driven and lack focus on who they are serving.

BMC: Any last words of wisdom regarding brand storytelling strategy?

Dawson: There are three drivers of a brand storytelling strategy – purpose, method and opportunity. These drivers work in parallel with stories your customers tell to the tribe and stories you tell to the tribe.

We live in a marketplace characterized by participation, interaction and dialogue. For enlightened brand marketers, brand storytelling is a powerful means to build these enduring connections. Brands must have a storytelling strategy anchored in a human purpose rather than a commercial one.

Thomson Dawson provides insight, guidance and creativity to business leaders in start-up and mid-market companies who are seeking effective strategies to elevate their presence in the marketplace, attract higher value customers and move them beyond the reach of competitors. He lives and works in a small orange grove in Ojai, California.


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