When (and When Not) to Engage in Brand Storytelling
When to engage in brand storytelling is as important as the story we choose to tell. Is the timing right for your company?
Here are 5 indicators it may not be:
1. Low brand awareness.
You can spend huge amounts on producing a video, but if the viewers don't know who you are and what you stand for, the connection will be lost. Consumers are less likely to engage with a brand they don't know. Chipotle spent 14 years building its brand and retail strategy before it ventured into high-end storytelling.
Don't put the cart before the horse. Instead of investing in elaborate brand storytelling, consider allocating those dollars to traditional awareness-building activities, such as radio, pay-per-click ads, and search-engine optimization.
Newer companies should be investing in public relations, even more than advertising. The credibility that comes from having an up and coming company, or new product, highlighted by the press or influential bloggers is invaluable.
2. No core values or shared beliefs.
Stories are based on values: what motivates us to get up in the morning? What higher calling is our brand hero pursuing? Many start-ups and small businesses do not make this discussion a priority. Others may think about values, but fail to write them down on paper or share them; as a result, they're not internalized or adopted by the larger team.
Plan a staff retreat. Involve employees in identifying core values so they feel invested in your brand story. Outside facilitators can help with this.
3. You're a start-up.
What is your brand story? You don't have one – it's a work in progress. Maybe you have a mission and vision statement; that's a beginning. What about your target customers – what are their stories?
At this stage, your time and budget are better allocated to getting to know your customers (see “consumer research”). Develop a strategic plan that addresses not only your mission and vision, but also your company's core values.
4. Low employee engagement and morale.
Stories are spread internally first, then to external stakeholders. If your staff does not buy into your company's brand story, it will lack credibility and fail to resonate with external audiences.
Companies need to engage in internal storytelling before they're ready for external storytelling.
5. No customer research.
In most cases, the hero of your story will be your customer. Hate to say it, but your brand is a small (but very important) player in your customer's larger story; he's the wise sage in the movie who understands the hero's needs and steers him toward his goal.
You can't be a good brand storyteller if you don't know your customers inside and out.
Market and consumer research can uncover your customers' deepest motivations and unmet needs. Nor does it have to be expensive -- secondary research is helpful, and sometimes the best research is conducted simply by picking up the phone and calling your customers.
Are you ready for brand storytelling?
Before you make the big investments, build your story foundation: Invest in brand-building activities to raise awareness; know your core values and shared beliefs; and most important of all, know your customers' needs and aspirations.
Once this foundation is built, it's time to tell your story.