Daily Insights

How Narrative Design Can Help Craft Your Brand Story

By: Christopher Ross | Nov 25, 2019

Stories are the foundation of human communication. They allow us to give meaning to our experiences, share lessons and forge connections. When brands use stories well, they reveal an alternative future for the customer in which they are able to “Think Different” (Apple) or to meet “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” (Old Spice).

For brand stories to connect with customers and help them progress through the buying funnel, marketers need both relevance and consistency across product lines and channels. The large, meta-story of a brand and its values provides the initial hook, in the same way that the first chapter of a book or scene of a film grabs an audience. The story must then sustain interest with its plots and subplots to keep people reading, watching, or moving along the buying funnel.

Start by understanding the core story elements and how they apply in marketing. The elements of story are:

  • Character – In marketing, characters are customer personas, the roles, segments and audiences marketers are trying to speak to
  • Setting – The customer journey and where they are in it
  • Plot – The wants and needs of the customer, as well as the values, viewpoints, and experiences customers bring with them as they move through their journey
  • Conflict – The sources of customer resistance to the marketer’s solution
  • Resolution – How the product or service overcomes resistance to solve the customer’s problem

Using these elements, marketers craft a brand story that captures a customer at a given moment in which they have specific wants and serves up messages that reveal one way to fulfill those wants.

The story elements and narrative structure apply in distinct ways at multiple points in time along the customer journey and across channels. The high-level, brand story articulates the value the brand brings to customers. Brands make that value more specific through a customer story or stories that apply the value proposition to a specific persona or targeted audience. Another level down, brands craft nested micro-narratives that contextualize the value for each persona with their specific needs at distinct, pivotal moments in the customer journey. The story may likewise change slightly depending on the channel.

In this way, story provides a model for crafting messages that resonate.