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How You Can Use Your Story To Sell Your Brand

Markets and customer bases are growing, but this hasn’t dehumanised business. If anything, it’s made the importance of telling your story and standing out from the crowd that much more important. Here’s how you can use a story to sell your brand.

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  • Old school: Punting a product or service.
  • New School: Telling your business and brand story to humanise who you are, the solution you offer, and how you can impact your customers’ lives and businesses.

Do you remember the ‘glu-glug-glug’ TV commercial that stole South Africa’s heart two decades ago? Brand story telling has become an essential element of today’s marketing strategy, but Sasol had the right idea, even then.

What was so special about that ad? Maybe it was the cute boy and his dog; maybe it was just such a magical story. Or perhaps it was the glug-glug-glug that became national code.

I’m talking about the Sasol ad featuring a little red car that glug-glug-glugged the petroleum before it spectacularly raced straight through the wall.

I have no doubt that many of us wouldn’t be able to recall other advertisements on TV during this period, because they contained facts, such as what fuel is made of, or what it does to an engine. Sasol’s ad told a story, and won hearts and minds in the process.

If you don’t remember the advert or are looking for a flashback – watch it here:

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

The science behind story telling

Few people can resist the lure of ‘once upon a time’. Story researchers, like Cron, Gottschall and Pink, believe that the human brain is uniquely wired to understand stories, and we will literally become undone without stories.

Stories help us understand others and make sense of the world. While facts engage only the language and numerical sides of our brains, stories grab hold of both brain hemispheres.

Experts call this ‘neural coupling’. It happens organically as a result of good communication — when the communicator and listener literally get on the same ‘wavelength’.

In the best stories, the teller and the listener — the communicator and receiver’s brain activities start to synchronise.

When a person gets hooked by an emotional story, there is understanding, comprehension, empathy, anticipation and receptivity between the communicator and audiences or receivers.

This is effective and successful communication — and the result is trust. Oxytocin, also called the ‘moral molecule’, is released when we ‘get’ a story. That is why stories give us inspiration and solutions.

A brand that has a good narrative is already a winning brand. Coca Cola, Disney, Louis Vuitton and a host of other brands have long implemented the story approach to advertising and marketing.

In this manner, the benefits of the brand are being sold to the consumers, but it compares directly to the experience of real people.

Stories cut through clutter

water-campaign

In today’s 24/7 mediated world, consumers struggle to cut through all the facts, numbers and statistics coming at them every minute. The only way intangible merits of a brand can be sold then, would have to be through story.

We, the users and consumers, need to experience the emotional difference a brand can make for people. And we need visual content to ease our understanding of life.

Many economic marketing professionals argue that facts lead to branding success. The theory is that if I tell you that 663 million people in Africa have no access to clean, safe water, and six million children die annually as a result, it will move you to engage. But, hundreds of other studies state that we live in a time of empathy fatigue, and want to avoid bad news. Because we do not see or know any of those thirsty or dying millions, it means nothing — and we are safe.

Failed nightclub promoter Scott Harrison was horror-struck when he started working in Liberia and found out that 663 million people have no drinking water. He was jolted into action and started Charity: Water.

To appreciate the best examples of brand storytelling, watch The Spring — Ten Years of Charity: Water on Youtube. Within ten years, Charity: Water has saved millions of lives, primarily through donations from brand followers.

Related: The Quick and Dirty on Marketing, Advertising and Branding

The 2015 film, Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a true story about the brand inventor of Miracle Mops. Joy’s life was a misery of cleaning up after her entire family, which resulted in a personal attempt to make life easier. Against many odds, she started selling her Miracle Mop on cable television, and earned a personal net worth of $50 million. She not only believed in her product, but told her own desperate story with which most women could identify.

Estimations are that we receive around 200 000 bits of information daily. The one-directional communication model from brand to consumers became outdated with the rise of social media.

Today, consumers have tremendous power in their hands through connections with brands via websites, social media and sites like HelloPeter. Once brands realised that this power of the consumer could be re-used in their branding and marketing, advertising and marketing specialists had to adapt.

How clients can tell your story

GoPro is one of the finest examples of brand storytelling, and has proved that a brand can become a force when you care for your consumers. Unemployed Nick Woodman wanted to capture his new surf enterprise, and designed a small, water-resistant camera that captured film in HD.

This was what thousands of adventurers and film companies needed to shoot their experiences. While the brand is now worth $1,4 billion, the remarkable fact is that the advertising budget runs to $50 000 per year. This is because GoPro uses a host of free, accessible and untapped content generated by its brand users.

The GoPro brand simply says: “We’re not just a camera anymore. We’re an enjoyment platform for people around the world to view.” The brand invites all GoPro owners to post their ‘self-adventures’.

GoPro takes ownership of these videos, and polishes and posts them on its own channel. The channel with more than
3,2 million subscribers, now has more than 6 000 videos uploaded on one single day of GoProing adventures. The brand sponsors about 388 professional athletes, who film their adventures with GoPros. These films generate more than 50 million views on Youtube. GoPro’s thousands of filmographers post different stories, but they are all adventurers who share their experiences through their GoPro cameras.

Ah, so what can be easier than telling a story, you think? One brand academic, Neumeier, argues that any brand should answer three ‘little questions’: “Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter (when there are others like your brand)?” Can you answer the third one?

Let’s imagine someone is in the market for a new car. A brand could supply any number of valuable statistics here: Consumption, speed, comfort and price. Or it could show a group of potential buyers that it understands their problems and lives. This is what Fiat: The Motherhood (500L) does, as a mom with three kids raps her way through a complicated day, followed by a frazzled dad who takes a Fiat 500L drive to get the babies to sleep.

Related: The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding

The art of story telling

All stories have a beginning, middle and end. You also need a person or personality. Usually, there is a problem that needs solving. If you understand why people need your brand, you are close to the solution. Take a memorable person with a problem, bring in the brand, save the day with the story.

Does your brand story exist? If not, you should rethink your branding to give your followers a tangible reason to identify with your product, service or personality. It’s easy to say that about Coke, the Rolling Stones, or Mastercard. But how did ‘baby’ brands like Uber, Airbnb, Spotify and YouTube get to be the brands so quickly?

Airbnb not only caused and used stories, but also disrupted branding and marketing. Nine years ago, two designers, Chesky and Gebbia, were so broke that they rented out their loft. They immediately got bookings from other cities for a similar service. Now, their value of $30 billion outstrips that of hotel chains. Through a direct link between owner and renters, the personal touch has become the hallmark of the brand.

Weave the story around your brand’s personality. Write it, film it, post it. Always stick to the same story and relate to your target consumers and audiences. Figure out how your brand will help shift your consumers from a place of need to one of satisfaction. Since once upon a time, story has never ever disappointed us. So write your brand’s story.

Dr Elsabe Pepler has her Ph.D. in Communication and Media Studies and is a communication and writing and creativity coach. www.elsabepepler.co.za

Branding

5 Tips Every Entrepreneur Must Follow In Order To Build A Personal Brand That Sells

Personal branding, a service once reserved for politicians and superstars, is nowadays the key to entrepreneurial success. Personal branding is the venture of the future. It is the best investment you can make in yourself.

Karina Ochis

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Personal branding is a disciplined process meant to differentiate and elevate the brand owner from the competition. A clever personal brand entails a series of elements such as but not limited to strategy, logo, website, professional photos, social media platforms, social circles – depending on the goals of the entrepreneur.

Owning a personal brand not only ensures the entrepreneur sells more, it also increases legitimacy, transforms the entrepreneur into a respected thought leader, attracts investors and partners and ensures overall upward mobility.

Even though branding is a current buzzword, proper personal branding remains a mystery for most entrepreneurs. To navigate this intricate process, read the following real-life tips for brand building and reputation management.

1. You are not born a brand, you become a brand

From Oprah to Obama and Ellen to Elvis, every grand personal brand was once a mere mortal – just like you. They had a dream and they hustled just like you. Personal branding when done right is interlinked with personal development. Through an intricate process and an array of strategic actions, entrepreneurs just like you became world-wide leaders.

  • Branding is an ongoing process.
  • When in doubt, ask for professional help; an entire team is involved in managing a brand.
  • Do not compare your first week to someone’s 40th year.

Related: Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?

2. Do not be a copycat

Good brands get replicated. Great brands cannot be replicated. If you want to own an average brand, go ahead and copy one. However, you will only be able to copy another brand up to 80% and usually the remaining 20% makes the difference. If you aim to be special, you should incorporate your authentic self into the brand – showcase your mission, vision and story. If you cannot do your business at a superior or different level from your competition, you should probably be doing something else!

3. Stable is better than spectacular

  • In the world of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, the brand of the average entrepreneur may seem quite dull. Remember though that your mission is to receive legitimacy to sell your services not appear in the tabloids.
  • You do not want to be a one hit wonder. You want to be in business for many years. Focus on building a stable base for your brand that will evolve and develop throughout time.

4. You network really is your net worth

  • Who you surround yourself with is who you become. You know it, but are you implementing it?
  • Every business is run by an inner circle of individuals; befriend them! The creme de la creme have specific mannerisms and a characteristic way of doing business. Learn to speak, act and behave that way.
  • Before you break the rules, you should know the rules. You learn the rules when you are at the right place with the right people.
  • When your potential customer sees you with accomplished entrepreneurs, you receive instant validation.
  • Your friends with a bad reputation might be costing you brand equity.

Related: The 3 Biggest Mistakes CEOs Make With Their Personal Brand (And How To Turn Those Mistakes Around)

5. Brand building is a life-long game

  • Building a brand that sells takes time. You are not selling a product in the supermarket, you are selling a perception. Every online and offline interaction potential clients have with your personal brand straightens or decreases its value. The ROI is often slow in the beginning.
  • Once your brand is established, the world or some part of it will be at your feet!

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Branding

3 Mind Hacks For Overcoming Your Fear Of Marketing Yourself

Take it one step at a time. You get nowhere until you put yourself out there.

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When I first started my business, I was so uncomfortable about marketing myself and putting myself out there. For most of us, that’s not something we were raised to do or taught in school. Many of us are taught the opposite.

These days, I see many of my clients struggling with this same challenge. They aren’t sure what to say when asked, “What do you do?” Or they’re afraid to go out and market their product or services.

They’re afraid they don’t have enough experience, or are not an expert and people won’t want to hire them.

The only way to get experience is to get some business. And that requires marketing. So what can you do? The key is to get yourself in the right mindset. Here are three mind hacks to help you overcome your fear of marketing yourself:

1. You only have to be one or two steps ahead

If you are offering a service, you only have to be a step or two ahead of someone to be able to help. If you’re offering a product, you only need to know a little more about the product than they do to help them make an informed choice.

It’s also okay to tell people that you’re just starting out or to say you’ve reduced pricing for a limited time in order to build your new business and gather testimonials.

Keep reminding yourself that you don’t need to be at the finish line – whatever that may be for you. You only need to be a little ahead of the people you want to help. Everyone starts somewhere. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take that step.

Related: It’s Okay To Promote Yourself – In Fact, It’s Necessary. Here’s How To Do It Better

2. Get clear on your message

clear-marketing-message

When you have a clear message, and you know it inside and out, it can give you a much needed boost of confidence to get out there. That confidence has the added benefit of drawing people to you.

Obviously, your business evolves as you evolve. Your message might change with time, but it’s important you start out with one that is clear and consistent – something that gets you excited so others can feel your excitement and confidence.

Create a statement about what you do, and make sure it aligns with your values.

Distinguish yourself by including the following info:

  • The issue or complaint your ideal client is facing
  • How you can help them
  • The shift – the benefit or outcome of your product/service

Here’s an example. You know how some people are living a life others want for them, instead of doing what makes them feel good? I guide people on how to ask themselves powerful questions to figure out what they truly want, what fuels them, so that they can be the CEO of their life and business.

I could just say what I am – a coach. And so could you. But when you say it, people will just think of the last person they met who does something similar. A clear, consistent and exciting message makes you stand out.

3. Get your feet wet

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda.

These words may have been uttered by a fictional character, but their meaning is very real.

If you want to get into the mindset of doing something, do it! It’s okay if you’re uncomfortable initially. You’re doing something out of your comfort zone.

Welcome to entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you will always be doing something out of your comfort zone. That’s what keeps your business moving to new levels. You are always trying, testing and trying again. It’s not about the failures or missteps. It’s about the doing.

Related: 5 Steps To Becoming A More Recognisable Brand

Go to networking events, go where your target clients hang out (online or offline), join a group or just start speaking to one person at a time about what you do. It truly does get easier and easier.

It’s the same when it comes to selling your product or services. Reach out to one person or one company at a time. You’ll start out with one client, then two. And with each client, your confidence builds.

Take it one step at a time. If you have a fear of speaking in public, go to Toastmasters to practice speaking and overcoming objectives. If you have a fear of contacting someone by email or phone, commit to just one a day, then five a day, then 10 a day. Take it step by step. It doesn’t have to be a big step, but it does have to be a real step.

Whatever fears come up, remember they’re normal. This is something totally new for you. It takes time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Those thoughts in your head that prevent you from moving forward, the ones that want to keep you safely in your comfort zone, you need to identify them and reprogram them with thoughts that will help you create the successful life and business you want.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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The Real Value Of Building A Brand

Young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.

Kyle Rolfe

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What is your company’s brand? That may sound like a strange question and the answer could range from thinking about your logo or colour scheme, or the values you frame and put on the wall in your reception area. But that is not what your brand is.

Let me ask you another question: what do customers and employees think when your company’s name is mentioned? Do they think you are a great bunch of people who go the extra mile to deliver on your promises, or do they think you’re a bunch of incompetents who always deliver late and below standard? Do employees think their company is money driven and couldn’t care about people?

What do these people feel when your company is mentioned or when they see your logo? Do they have positive feelings about the company and certain employees they deal with, or do they cringe and hope not to have to deal with you again?

The answers to those questions is your brand. It’s the ability to articulate and deliver on the promise your company makes to the market. It is the integrated result of the values the company leaders hold and the values they inculcate into their employees through their actions. It’s the quality and usefulness of your products or services, and how you deal with customers. And it’s how you promote and operate the company. All these things are your brand.

While the company’s executives are key to developing the brand and all it stands for, the brand promise is the who, what, where, when and how of all you do; the sum of all the company’s interactions with the market and internally with each other. Gartner indicates that companies that prioritise the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors.

Who you are and what you stand for is critical to companies in today’s market where trust is a rare commodity (86% of US and European customers says their trust in corporations has declined over the last five years). Your promise to the market and your ability to fulfil it again and again engenders that trust, which puts you at the top of the pile when it comes to competition.

Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

When it comes to your product or service, are you the first name that comes to mind because you are a trusted partner? Do your employees deliver on time and to or above the standard expected as far as is possible? Do your employees represent the company in a natural, proactive manner because they are invested in the company and its culture? Or do they do the minimum to get by and collect their pay at the end of the month?

There’s much talk about company culture in the media, but most of these articles miss the most important aspects of culture, buy-in and commitment. When your employees value the culture they are part of, when they feel they belong and are valued, it shows in their commitment to the company, each other and to their customers. Did you know that between 60% and 75%of customers will do business with a company again if it deals with a customer service issue fairly, even if the result is not in their favour?

In fact, young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.

Customers are the same. While everyone wants to pay the least possible for a product or service, your brand and the associated value (and positive feelings) customers associate with you means you don’t have to cut margins to the bone to get the job. Customers will pay a bit more (within reason) to ensure they get the full package – product, service, support etc.

So your brand, its value and standing in the minds of people includes the marketing and brand building you do, but the promise you make (sometimes unknowingly) to each customer and each employee is what is critical to success. That promise is made up of the products and services you have on offer, if you are meeting the real needs of the customer. It depends on your culture and how valued and appreciated your employees feel, which extends to how they value and treat your customers. And finally, all that impacts customer service, how you react when there is a problem and what you do to keep your promise and develop and maintain their trust in good times and bad.

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/kyle-rolfe-brand-engineer.

Related: How Snapchat Can Expand Your Brand [Infographic]

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