Verbal Identity

Best-in-Class Brands Lead With Story

3 min read

Collaged typewriter with reads, "the best brands lead with story."

f you ask someone to describe me, they might give you details about my visual presence, but more important would be the details they share about my disposition and personality. It’s no different for a brand. The way a brand communicates and the persona it gives off is incredibly powerful and lasting. That is achieved most effectively through words in the form of a story.

People crave stories. It's human nature.

To truly move people, you need a story. Stories transport us from our current moment and put us comfortably into the hands of the storyteller who will take us somewhere else. We welcome this because we crave stories; it’s in our nature. As emotional creatures, we crave the deeper connection and togetherness that a story provides. Our search for alignment is often resolved through the context of a story; many successful brands know this and use that understanding to dominate their category. In those well-crafted words, they become relatable and desirable, and they gain our allegiance—or lose it.

A brand without a clear story and resulting position leaves its customers filling in the gaps.

A story provides a clear point of view.

Somewhere at the root of a well-crafted story lives a position, a point of view. That position will define how a brand is unique to the world, and ultimately to its customers. Brands cannot effectively do this through visuals alone. That approach will never be as impactful as a well-rounded brand, rooted in intentional words. A picture can be worth a thousand words, but you aren’t looking for a thousand words. You’re looking for the right words. You’re looking for your story. A brand without a clear story and resulting position leaves its customers filling in the gaps. That is not a winning strategy.

Stories reveal the true personality of an organization.

In the same way that stories allow you to clearly define a brand’s point of view, they also allow a brand to express its specific voice and tone. This is critical because through voice and tone, a story evolves from black and white to color. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Voice and tone serve as an undercurrent, embedded in a story, further revealing a brand’s unique passions, humor, and character. For a story to truly elevate, it must feel authentic. Voice and tone help deliver authenticity.

Customers want to know you understand them.

Finally, a brand’s storytelling increases (or decreases) its ability to tap directly into its customers’ needs. Customers deserve to hear more than marketing buzzwords and catchy slogans; they deserve well-crafted words worth reading. Leveraging the power of emotional alignment, shared purpose, and clear positioning, stories show our customers we see them, understand them, and are ready to help them. When done correctly, this can be the most powerful tool in a brand’s tool belt.

Even with just these few points, it’s clear why the world’s best brands spend a ton of time and money getting their story right. Stories are not a nice-to-have. They inspire us, pull us in, and when done really well, they motivate us to act.

Originally published on Fast Company on October 12, 2021.

Photo by Luca Onniboni on Unsplash

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