Your story is your brand. Every company has a story to tell…the trick is to frame your story in a way your customers will find appealing. With the right elements, your brand story can inspire trust, boost sales, and inspire loyalty.

One of the best ways for a new business to get ahead in a crowded marketplace is by telling its story. The most compelling brand stories create a resilient emotional connection with customers that’s hard to break.

We all crave connection. That’s what’s behind the popularity of social media…the unfettered ability to find friends who share your interests and speak your language. Some brands manage to tap into that human connection and earn the love, loyalty, and respect of their customers.

It’s worth your time to understand the basic psychology of marketing when you’re building your brand.

It’s not about you

Your first instinct is to post your business resume. Here’s all about our founder, stuff we’ve done, and what we want to sell. BO-RING.

You aren’t applying for a job, and your story shouldn’t be a dry recitation of your accomplishments. Instead of bragging about your own background, find out how your audience can use your products or services to better their lives and make them part of your story.

Yes, yes, YES!

How do you make it about them? Consider every successful ad campaign you’ve ever seen. One of my favorite examples is Herbal Essence’s long-running gag. A beautiful woman disappears into a public restroom, and people in the other room hear loud expressions of ecstasy. She comes out with gorgeous hair and a big smile, and other patrons smile knowingly and say “I’ll have some of that.”

The ad resonates because it demonstrates how the product makes you feel – exciting, sexy, beautiful…an orgasmic experience. Who wouldn’t want that from a shampoo?

Nike uses a similar approach. Their commercials don’t even hint at the product. If you didn’t know better, you might think they are selling deodorant or promoting a sporting event. “Just Do It” focuses on the customer – encouraging them to give it their all.

No matter how implausible, you’re drawn into the story. You feel like you can be that rock-hard athlete. Nike wants you to believe athleticism is an attainable dream, and their market share says the approach works.

Finding your YES

Not every product has a value proposition capable of inspiring such a visceral response. Your product might be bicycle tires or those fluffy things you use to clean dust off electronics.

Speaking of fluffy dusters, how about Swiffer? What a great campaign, finding people with challenges we can all relate to – an older couple, an amputee, a busy couple with a lot of kids – and showing how they can use Swiffer products to make cleaning easy.

You get the idea. Think about how your products or services impact the lives of your customers, and about the customers who could benefit most. Tailor your brand story to speak to your most likely customer, and present your product as part and parcel of their lives…or the lives they would like to have.

Keep it simple

Great brand stories solve a problem or provide a value. Your story starts with a question and provides a solution:

What does your customer want or need? First, define a problem.
How can your product or service solve his problem? Show your product in action.
Finally, get customers excited about your solution. Demonstrate how they can be successful using your product.

Problem, Solution, Success

Incorporate your company values

If your company is proud of green initiatives and heavily invested in worker satisfaction, that makes for a great story. The public loves a company that cares, and great employee relations is a fast way to win at social media.

Be warned, though, corporate culture is not something you can fake. Good will has to be authentic.

Draw on your history

Evoke those childhood warm fuzzies and you’re golden. Cheerios crafts a story that hits you right in the feels every time. They go for generational family sentiment, and use adorable kids to expand to a whole new market – health-conscious adults. First they hijack your childhood memories, then they hit you with your desire to see your kids or grandkids grow up. What a one-two punch!

Insert personality

The language you choose is important. The way you shape your words helps to define your company. Are you stuffy and formal? Casual and friendly?

Companies that take time to understand their customers know how to frame their value propositions in language that helps define the company itself. Where do you get this information? It’s in your customer relationship management data, in social media, and in the conversations that take place between your representatives and your customers.

Consider Method green cleaning products. Their about us page contains the words “gentler than a thousand puppy licks. able to detox tall homes in a single afternoon.” If you’re not picturing tree-hugging environmentalists, you’re out of touch. And that’s exactly the point.

Firehouse Subs knows its customers well, too. “Growing up in a family that is both entrepreneurial and built on decades of fire and police service, it seems we were destined to start Firehouse Subs®.”

Tree-hugging, salad-eating PETA sympathizers are not shopping for huge, delicious sandwiches stuffed with meat. The Firehouse Subs story centers around conservative values: entrepreneurial spirit, police and firemen, family, and manlymanfood™.

Your brand story is a rich tapestry woven from history, employees, customer lifestyles, company culture, and the ideas that drive your brand. The best brand stories draw customers in and inspire them to be a part of it.

Most businesses spend far less on retention than acquisition. When you’re telling your brand story, remember this: Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Making customers part of your story has long term benefits.

The payoff is a compelling reason to buy from you. Again and again.