How To Nail Branded Storytelling

October 6, 2005

Meet our brand, it’s offering a good product; with solid foundations that deliver a real solution and value. There’s one problem; our brand is lost in a wilderness full of competing products and it’s struggling to be heard in a forum full of loud voices.

Enter storytelling

Studies show that connecting brands with an emotion is one of the most powerful advertising techniques. People process emotions quicker, connect with them more strongly and remember the feeling well after they’ve forgotten the facts.

Storytelling offers our brand a way to present itself that taps into people’s emotions and uses them as a motivator to form relationships and hopefully to make a purchase and become a loyal customer. Storytelling isn’t about talking louder; it’s about talking TO people.

“But our brand has doubt…”

Despite the proven value of storytelling our brand isn’t convinced. A study from Bain & Co. found a huge disparity between the way brands and customers felt they delivered customer journeys. The survey found 80% of brands felt they delivered a ‘superior experience’ but only 8% of their customers agreed.

“So what is our brand to do?”

Here’s the training montage where our brand learns the essence of good story telling in two minutes with a motivational rock song playing in the background. Our brand learns:

Why do people connect with stories?

It’s the emotion and the value added. To tell a compelling story the focus can’t be to inform people, it needs to move them. A story goes beyond telling people what your brand does; it shows them how your brand helps.

The key elements of storytelling


Great characters are the foundations of fantastic stories. Iconic advertising characters ‘Not Happy Jan’ and ‘Rhonda’ live on in the cultural zeitgeist long after their campaigns have finished because both featured extremely relatable characters.

People don’t engage with a story unless they connect to the people behind it.

To create the perfect character you need to intimately understand who your typical customer is. What pressure points they face and how you help them solve it. From there you can build a character that audiences can identify with and cheer for. The triumph of your hero IS the triumph of your customer.


People don’t connect with stories if it’s obvious there is an ulterior motive at play. It’s hard to invest in something if you don’t believe it; it’s even harder when you don’t think the teller doesn’t believe in it.

When you’re crafting a branded story you need to develop something that your audience will relate to but is still true to your values.

A journey

In essence, this is the actual story. Since 1987 people have used the ‘hero’s journey’ to explain classic story structure. Everything from genre defining sci-fi’s like Star Wars, to cult classics like Pulp Fiction even Disney films like the Lion King (and so by extension Macbeth) follow a simple easy to follow plot structure.

The three key elements of a hero’s journey


In film and literature, a hero’s journey has 17 steps, in branded storytelling ain’t nobody got time for that, luckily, those 17 steps can be condensed down to three key plot points.

The call to adventure

‘Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, You’re my only hope’ is one of the most memorable calls to adventure of all time. It kicks off the journey and lets us know that something is not right in the world.

In your brand story, the call to adventure should also introduce the problem, the pressure point. It’s the problem your customers have that needs solving.


This is the period where the solution is discovered. It is an opportunity for success, for victory.

In your brand storytelling this is where the drama, humour, or emotional appeal should play out.


With success achieved we see our hero return to normality, better for their journey and with all well in the world.

In your brand story, this is where you’ve solved your customer’s problem leaving them happy and better for the journey.

Some other tips our brand learned to make its story standout.

Don’t tell stories about what you do, tell stories that show why you do it.

Be surprising

Technically infomercials for ‘The Super Awesome We Promise This One Is Not A Rip-Off Abtronic 1000’ follow the structure of a ‘hero’s journey. Make your brand’s journey surprising, interesting and entertaining.

Buy into your story from the top down

It goes hand in hand with authenticity, but your story won’t work if your staff doesn’t buy into it. From the top down, everyone needs to be on board with your story and relaying it to your customers.

Keep it simple

Be clear and focused on the one story, the one journey, and the one message.

Bonus points

The world of digital has shifted the way people interact with stories, and while the fundamentals of good storytelling remain unchanged, our ability to execute them and what audiences want from them has shifted. To take your story to the next level, it’s worth:

Being integrated

Creating stories that can lead to integrated campaigns across multiple platforms.

Create heroes and problems that can be followed up, rolled out on social media, that can be adapted and evolved over time.

Create stories that invite two-way interactions

Increasingly, the most engaged members of your audience don’t just want to see your story they want to shape it and be part of it. Create stories that invite user suggestions for further content – it’s the ‘choose your own adventure’ model for advertising.

After learning these lessons, our brand goes to work creating a story that is focused on relatable characters, authentic and has a clear journey. The story lends itself to integrated digital campaigns and invites the audience into the conversation. The voice of the brand is heard by through the forest of noise. Our brand is lifted out of the quagmire; it knows there is still work to be done, but it’s confident that it now has the tools and position to establish a hold on the market.