Are you killing conversions? – Reclaim your brand through story-telling

Jacquie Baker Written by Jacquie Baker

If you could tell your target market a little bit about your product or service in a paragraph, what would you tell them?

Storytelling isn’t just for the bookshelf, and for your business it definitely should be at the forefront of your strategic planning. As brands compete for attention, retention and growth, stories that delve into creating a unique, meaningful and trusted connection can be the difference between surviving and thriving. 

Your brand story says a lot more than you think. Shared stories are the basis upon which we build communities and mutual understanding about the things that matter to us. Stories transcend our bodies, evoke emotions and shape our behaviour. Stories are not only artistic, they are backed by science. When we read or listen to a story we light up our sensory cortex, responsible for feelings, taste and smell and activates a process in the brain called neural coupling, which generates empathy and creates an avenue to relate a consumer's own thoughts and experiences.

A purchase is a reflection of your identity and values. Finding purpose for your business is invaluable, and provides a community for consumers to connect with your brand and values, and get to know your business beyond just generating a profit.

So how can you create a compelling and meaningful narrative and ignite an individuals senses and get the neural coupling firing? 

The answer, Public Narrative. The practice was developed by Marshall Ganz—a Harvard professor—and has been used as a template for the likes of Barack Obama. Ganz stated “stories allow us to express our values not as abstract principles, but as a lived experience, they have the power to move others.” Therefore in order to create purpose-based content it is recommended to:

1. ‘Self’ 

The first step in creating the narrative for your brand to resonate with your consumers is by placing an emphasis on the ‘self’. A story of self is a personal story that Ganz says shows “why you were called to what you have been called to.” Delve deep into how certain events shaped your personal values that can be later linked to your company’s profile and foundations. Your ‘self’ must come from a place of complete authenticity, as your audience will identify the truth when you stray from the narrative. 

Example: Patagonia

Patagonia was built on the foundations of a 14 year old environmentally conscious boy with a passion for rock climbing. His efforts to prevent further damage caused by climbing to the environment became a driving force behind the ethos of the business. An impulse purchase of a thrift rugby jumper based on Yvon’s desire for practicality and to prevent the rope cutting through his neck sparked the evolution of Patagonia clothing and became a way to support the equipment business. Today Patagonia is one of the world's leading environmentally friendly clothing brands. The company reaches far beyond clothing and is committed to teaching and training the next generation of environmental activists.

 2. You

A story of us is a collective story that Ganz says illustrates the “shared purposes, goals, vision” of a community or organization. The purpose of the second step is to connect your ‘self’ values with those shared by your wider audience. You want to create the feeling of commonality and according to Ganzinvite other people to be part of your community”. Therefore, you must weave your personal stories in the experiences, values and passions of others. In order to create an effective ‘us’ you must know your target audience. Who are they, what do they need, where do they spend their time? Combine these questions with your present and competitors audience and you will ensure your message comes across. 

Example: AirBnB

A true representation of ‘us’ is the brand AirBnB. Customers are their brand and without them they wouldn’t exist, therefore instead of telling the company’s story, they ask their customers to tell their stories. This is so integral to their Airbnb brand that they have a whole section front and centre, dedicated to “Stories from the Airbnb Community.”

3. ‘Now’

This is the action step. The ‘now’ is urgent and rooted in the values acclaimed during your story of ‘self’ and ‘us’, and is the differentiation to those values that require an action. This is the point in which you wish your consumers to join you on your purpose and become a part of your brand and it’s values. 

Example: Thankyou. Waters ‘consumer led’ movement to ‘write the future with us’.

Founder Daniel Flynn stated that 'Almost a billion people live in extreme poverty, while six billion people don't. We reckon the six billion of us could work together to put an end to global poverty, for good.' and with that statement, after 5 years of determination and struggle brought together a community of thousands who began petitioning for major supermarkets to stock Thankyou. Today, you can find Thankyou. in over 5,500 outlets in Australia, including all major supermarkets. The Thankyou consumer movement has raised millions of dollars to get safe water, toilets and child and maternal health programs to hundreds and thousands of people in need.

You might not be a novelist but you do know yourself and embracing storytelling reveals the inner workings of you that can help your business flourish and build commonality. Build your story, be authentic and real, share your ‘why’, inspire with stories about your staff or customers. Humanise your brand in a way that creates common ground that consumers can relate to, generate brand affinity and create community. SILVERLANE has helped over 700 businesses peel back the layers and get to the hearts and minds of their brand to create compelling, engaging and persuasive narratives that sell.