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Most brands seem to have this great history attached, some great obstacle or problem that was overcome, or a daring innovation that truly changed the face of history as we know it.
Not every brand has that, though.
Some brands started out by having an idea and then simply acting on it. Others just had the company handed to them. Others still are built upon a single person’s desire to put something in the world.
How does a brand produce something as important as a story if there’s really nothing about the brand that stands out?
In today’s episode, I’ll give you some ideas on how to craft a brand story and produce something inviting and intriguing, even if your brand story is “boring”.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Your brand story might be boring to you, but your story could be refreshingly different for someone else.
- Just because you know yourself or your brand doesn’t mean that other people do.
- Never downplay your own story.
- It’s easier to remember a story than it is to remember facts—that’s why a story is critical to having a memorable brand.
- Story is not only what has happened, but it is also what is happening and what will happen.
- You need to know why your brand exists.
- Your brand story is the embodiment of your why.
- BehindtheBrand.com”>02:16 Cory: I underestimated the amount of people that would resonate with this question, this topic, which is, “What if my brand story isn’t compelling enough?” I got an email from someone named Jonathan, and it was in response to the welcome email I send out when people sign up for my newsletter at BehindtheBrand.com. Jonathan responded to the question I ask in the welcome email, which is, “What is your biggest struggle as it relates to your brand right now?” Jonathan said, “Struggles? Not having a compelling story about my brand. What if my story is not interesting enough for people to care about? How can I describe my brand in a way that my audience can relate to? Is a story necessary for a successful brand? I believe it is, because people remember good stories.”
- 03:15 This was a really telling email for me, because I know that there are a lot of people and brands that resonate with this. Before the live stream, on all of the shows on the seanwes network, we come into the chat and we ask a question. We write something out and say, “Here’s the topic we have today. It’s starting in an hour. Do you have any questions related to today’s topic?” There were so many questions. I would say millions, but that’s not true. There were dozens, though. People are really struggling with this.
It’s really common for a brand to think that their story isn’t compelling.
- 03:59 Maybe you started your brand, and your reason was, “I just decided to do something because I wanted to. The brand was just sort of given to me. There were no major obstacles to overcome. It wasn’t this underdog story, this epic tale about conquering all odds. It was just that I started a thing. It was a pretty straightforward business. There’s no real story behind the beginning. It just kind of happened.” The story, whatever it is, seems like it isn’t compelling enough to make people interested. That’s resonating with people. It seems so normal because you know it. You know the story, and there’s nothing to it. It seems boring. It seems dull.
- 04:59 What do you do? What do you do when you feel like your brand story isn’t compelling enough, when you feel like you might walk up to somebody and tell them about your brand only to have them go, “Oh. That’s nice.” That’s the last thing you want to hear when you tell someone about your brand. You don’t want that.
Someone Will Be Interested in Your Story
- 05:30 Cory: Keep in mind that just because you know yourself or your brand doesn’t mean that other people do. I might think that the stuff I did yesterday was routine and dull, but someone actually might find that interesting. I’m not saying that’s your brand’s story, but that’s an example. That doesn’t have to be your brand’s story. Back in April of this year, 2016, I started a daily vlog. I produced it daily for 78 days. After that, I realized that I was crazy, and I started doing weekly vlogs. For whatever reason, I decided that I wanted to carry a camera around with me all throughout my day, and at the end of the day, I would edit it together into some kind of possibly cohesive video and publish it online.
- 06:28 I would really struggle with what to say or do during the day, because I thought it was really boring. Every day seemed like it was the same thing. I would wake up. I might make some coffee. I might not. I would go for a run to try and convince people that I ran, and then I wouldn’t do it ever again. I’d go meet with my friend Jeff. We would get coffee someplace. I would come back. I’d work. I’d just sit there. Then it would be the end of the day, and I thought, “This is horribly boring.” But, for some reason, people started watching.
- 07:01 They kept watching. They kept subscribing. I started getting comments and emails saying that I should keep the mundane stuff in there, because they found it fascinating. That’s not a joke. I actually got a comment from someone saying, “Please don’t leave out the mundane stuff. Please keep it in there, because it’s fascinating.” It’s interesting to me that other people find me interesting. It may be interesting to you, and it may be hard to believe that your story and what you’re doing is interesting to someone else.
Your brand story might be boring to you, but it could be refreshingly different for someone else.
Never downplay your own story.
Story Makes You Memorable
- 07:50 Cory: Now one of the questions I got a lot when I started bringing this up with people was, “Does my brand even need a story? Maybe I’m just producing work. Maybe I’m just doing something, like client work. Can’t that just speak for itself? Is there a way I can just keep doing the thing I’m doing—everything is consistent, I’m moving forward and getting clients and customers—does it even need to have a story?” My counter-question to that is, “Do you want to be memorable?”
- 08:34 I recently was listening to the audio book version of Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s very recommended. My buddy Aaron Dowd, who is the podcast editor for this show, recommended it to me. It’s a great book. It’s a little heady, so you have to see what you get out of it. It’s a little more intellectual, a little above my pay grade, but it’s a great book. One of the stories he told in this book was him talking about professional card memorizers—people who could look at a shuffled 52 card deck, memorize the order, and be able to repeat it back. This is for the world championships of memory. That’s one of the things they have to memorize.
- 09:31 It’s speed memory, looking at it, and being able to retain it. As he was describing this, I started to think, “That would be very difficult for me, to look through 52 cards and memorize the order the cards are in.” He told this story about one of the world record holders who was really good at memorizing randomly shuffled 52 card decks. His strategy was this: he would have five places in his house, like the entryway, the front room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom, let’s say. Within those five places, he would pick ten objects that are normally there and two more in the last room.
- 10:23 That’s 52 objects, starting from one to go to the other. You walk in your door, and there’s your shoes, the stair handle, the coat rack, and your coat. It goes on and on. You memorize these 52 things, these items in a row. Then you would assign each card to someone that was memorable. Let’s say the king of diamonds was Prince John from Robin Hood, because diamonds, riches, whatever. You assign each of the cards to a person, and as you go through the shuffled cards, you would say, “The king of diamonds is the first card in the stack. Now I’m going to craft a story in my head of King John walking through my front door and interacting with that first item.”
- 11:20 It sounds kind of confusing, but as you go, the items are the same every time but it’s a different character interacting with those items as you go. You craft a story as you’re looking through the cards of 52 people interacting with 52 different things in your house. You create a story that you can remember. One of the things that this world champion strategist talked about was this:
It’s easier to remember a story than it is to remember facts.
- 11:54 That is why a story is critical to having a memorable brand. What is a brand? A brand is perception. It’s how people think about you, how they feel about you. How do you want them to remember you? Do you want them to remember you in a way that is “Meh”? Or do you want them to remember you in a way that makes them excited, makes them happy, or makes them remember good things? A good story is memorable. A good story sparks the imagination. A good story has varying elements you might find in an actual story: a character, a problem, overcoming something… Those are just elements, just some examples. You don’t have to have all those things wrapped up into your story.
- 12:42 What I’m trying to get at is that the whole point of having more than facts associated with your brand is to make it memorable, and you want to be memorable. That’s how you get people coming back to you. That’s how you get people telling stories about your story. This is where some people might get caught up. You might think, “My brand doesn’t really have history. There isn’t really any history to my brand.” That’s okay. You can produce a story based on what you are creating. I’m not saying to lie about your brand. Don’t do that. But you can create something that people can latch onto—a story of your values, a story of your mission, a story of your why, a story of your origin, or maybe the product story for the thing you’re creating.
What Does a Brand Story Look Like?
- ConvertKit”>13:36 Cory: We say this all the time on the show, but your story doesn’t have to be a literal story. This isn’t Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of pizza muffins. It doesn’t have to be this thing where here’s the character, here’s the thing they have to overcome, they went to Mount Doom to throw the Ring in… It doesn’t have to be that. Here’s a great example. This week, ConvertKit updated their website. Nathan Barry and his team have done a fantastic job of telling a story through their homepage copy that they recently updated.
- 14:14 I want to read to you an excerpt from one of their main text blocks at the top: “There’s no such thing as one size fits all. All the major email marketing companies are generic, from cupcake shops to design agencies to plumbing companies, they are trying to serve every type of business. Instead of a perfect-for-you solution, you wind up with a mass of features that aren’t a good fit for anyone, especially not bloggers. We set out to build something simple, something elegant, something built for bloggers, a tool that makes it easy and obvious to grow your business through email marketing. Think of ConvertKit as best practices by default.”
- 15:05 Now, here’s the thing. If I had just stated it plainly, I would say, “ConvertKit is an email marketing service.” That is boring, but they haven’t done that. They use phrases like, “one size fits all,” and they deliver words that spark imagination, like “cupcake shops” and “plumbing companies.” That’s amazing. Notice how they take common words and shape them in a memorable way that is interesting and resonates. Also, notice that they aren’t talking about their history here. There might be something on their About page or somewhere else that talks about how Nathan started the company. You can follow his blog, which you should, because it’s really good.
- 15:47 We’re talking about ConvertKit here. We’re talking about a solution to a problem. In this example, the story is told through words, but you can do it through a lot of mediums. If you go to that site, you’ll see images, faces, and testimonials. You’ll see the story that’s crafted as you go down the page. It’s really fantastic. Study that page. I know I’m giving them a huge shoutout here, but I really believe in what they’re doing. It’s a really great company.
You can produce your story in many mediums and in many different ways.
- 16:20 If it’s working toward accomplishing your goals and serves the mission of your brand, hardly anything is off the table. Also, remember that your story is being developed right now—story is not only what has happened, but it is also what is happening and what will happen. As long as your mission remains consistent and your brand is moving forward, your story can take different forms as you go because the mission itself is the same. Some of my favorite movies and my favorite stories start in one place, but before they got to the end, they’ve gone to six different locations, cities, worlds, or whatever.
- 17:08 The mission is the same, but the story unfolds as they go. I like to say to people that story isn’t just facts. It’s not a history lesson. I had a class in college that I dropped after two lessons because the professor literally read off a sheet he had copied from a book every single class, and it was mind-numbing. In most cases, humans remember story more than they remember facts. Again, it’s not about having a history lesson. History is part of your story, but it’s not everything. You can use loads of things for story: imagery, imaginative and creative words, actual stories, any of that stuff.
How to Discover Your Brand Story
- 18:03 Cory: I want you to think through what your brand is. If you’re having a really hard time figuring out what your brand story is, there are a few ways you can get a better understanding of it. One of the best ways I know to come to the basis of what your brand story is, to start to get a foundation, is a recommendation by my friend and boss Sean McCabe. Sean has this great idea. He had this experience a couple of years ago where someone asked him, “What is it that you do? What is seanwes?” He said, “Oh boy, buckle up.” Over the next half hour or 45 minutes, he explained the history of seanwes, what we’re about, what we’re doing, what we’re headed to, and all of that stuff.
- 19:00 At the end of the conversation, he said to the man, “Okay, can you tell me everything I just told you in one sentence?” The guy said, “It sounds like you’ve had a lot of success with products, client work, and courses, and you want to help other people do the same.” It was so succinct that it blew Sean away and it has become a part of his message. Find a stranger or somebody and tell them everything you know about your brand. You can give them history, facts, your website, this and that. Tell them the facts about it. Tell them what you’re working towards. Why are you doing it?
You need to know why your brand exists.
- 20:15 If there is anything that you should wrestle with through the night and not fall asleep for days over, it’s asking yourself if the world would be any different if your brand did not exist. If the answer is no, you need to wrestle with that. If it’s yes, why? Why would the world be different if your brand wasn’t in it? Why does the world need your brand? Why does the world need you? Wrestle with that question, because out of that question pours your story. It overflows. It becomes overwhelming, and you’ll think, “There is something that I absolutely have to do.”
- 21:03 The world is begging you to do this thing—to create this music, design this website, make this art, develop this software, and create this business that’s going to affect 15 people. Guess what? Those 15 people are going to have their lives changed forever. Going back to it, find five people you know to talk with about your brand and then ask them to repeat it back to you. That’s the important part. Sit down for 15 minutes, an hour, five hours, or whatever it takes, and then ask them to repeat it back to you.
- 21:50 That will help. It will actually help you figure out what your brand story is all about. Figure out your why. You have to know why you’re doing this. Also, you need to figure out where you’re going. What are you doing? Where are you going? What’s the mission? Where are you headed to? What are the goals? What are you creating? All of these things lock together into brand story. It’s not always overt. It’s not always a thing where someone can sit down and look at your website or pick up a pamphlet and see this crazy story about this, that, and the other thing. It can be subtle.
- 22:39 Sometimes it is subtle. With your brand story, you’re trying to be memorable in a way that brings people back, that creates stories for other people to repeat to others and that helps to embody your why.
Your brand story is the embodiment of your why—why you’re doing what you’re doing.
- BehindtheBrand.com”>23:11 I hope this has been helpful. I really want to get to the root of this. If you need help dialing in your brand foundation, please go to BehindtheBrand.com right now if you haven’t signed up for the list and you’ll 9 Key Questions for Building a Successful Brand Foundation. Download that. I’ve been getting so many emails and comments, such feedback lately, of people saying, “I didn’t know what I needed until I went through this guide.” Please, go and download it.