People are storytellers. For thousands of years, we have used the power of story to preserve history, pass down lessons, and convey ideas. There’s no better way to get your message to stick than to frame it as a tale that is being spun – and a brand is no different. As consumers, we want to buy into a story.
The world is now overflowing with products, and trying to make yours stand out simply by explaining its features and benefits is no longer effective. There’s just too much noise to cut through, and possibly a lot of competition in your field already. However, what you do have at your disposal is your unique background. You have your history. You have that beautiful moment of clarity when you realized WHY you wanted to start your company. And this is your leverage – this is what you have that your competitors do not. This is where brand story comes in.
WHAT IS BRAND STORY?
At HMG, our starting point for any new project is discovering an organization’s brand story. It’s important to note that we use discover as opposed to create, because we believe that brand story already exists within any company. Our goal is to extract it, polish it off, and help you display it. Your brand story will then become the foundation for every aspect of your business and act as a guide for decision making. You can filter every aspect of your brand through your brand story, from your visual aesthetic to your hiring process.
Simply put, your brand story is the unique reason for why you started your company, what you believe in, what you hope to achieve, and how you plan to do that.
Once you have these ideas sorted out, your brand story becomes not only the foundation for how your business operates, but also the core of your company culture. Having this foundation set provides a clear and stable starting point for you to build from. Using your brand story as a guide helps ensure that your future decisions remain consistent. When everything from product development to operations to customer service tells the same story, it’s magical.
WHAT IS NOT PART OF BRAND STORY?
Before we dig into what makes up your brand story, it’s crucial that we differentiate it from other aspects of your business, specifically brand strategy. Brand story is not brand strategy. Strategy is the act of devising a plan, usually based upon features and benefits, in order to effectively sell. Of course, strategy is still a very important step, just not what we’re talking about here. You’ll be happy to hear, though, that once you’ve discovered your brand story, it will assist you in forming your strategy.
While we’re here, let’s get “motive” out of the way. Motive is money. Every business is looking to turn a profit – there’s no disguising that – but that isn’t necessarily a part of your brand story. While motive does need to be addressed, you should keep in mind that your motivation to make money is distinct from the inspiration that led you to start your business. Your potential customers aren’t going to be interested in purchasing from you just because you tell them you want their money. And if your employees felt their only purpose was to make the boss a buck, you can expect their performance to be a little lackluster.
There needs to be a deeper purpose behind your company’s pursuit – something that transcends your products and marketing campaigns that connects with your audience on a personal level. The good news? This purpose already exists. All you need to do is uncover it.
KEY ELEMENTS OF UNCOVERING YOUR BRAND STORY
When we set out to unearth your brand story, there are a few key elements we focus on: ambition, approach and message. Let’s break them down.
Starting with ambition, we go back as far as we can to discover your WHY. This is the first problem your brand was created to solve – the pain point you were looking to address. Your organization’s ambition is where its true purpose lies. We like to break this down a little further into vision and mission.
Many aspects of your brand can, and will, change over time, but your vision should always remain the same. Based on your initial inspiration, vision is your organization’s most central belief. This vision is your unwavering desire to see something created. Ideally, it will be your business that brings this desire to life.
At the same time, your vision should be so strong that, ultimately, you don’t really care who sets out to accomplish it. Clearly communicating your commitment to your cause makes it easier for your customers to get behind it, and helps them feel like they’re part of your brand’s overall ambition. You are no longer a singular company looking to sell something – you’re a group of individuals looking to bring about change.
Your mission is your guide to seeing your vision realized. A mission allows you to plan out how you practically will reach your goals while living out your core values. If vision is the WHY, then mission is the HOW. Your mission statement should be clean and concise, explaining your overarching goal and key objectives. Mission can also be a good short-term guidance tool, as it tells your organization where to place its focus. Unlike vision, your mission can pivot over time in order to adapt to things like industry changes or business growth. Even with adaptations, however, mission must always stay true to the vision that it is based on.
Vision & Mission Statement Examples
Vision Statement: Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.
Mission Statement: To help people around the world realize their full potential.
Vision Statement: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Mission Statement: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Vision Statement: We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.
Mission Statement: Spread Ideas.
Vision Statement: Tapping into the universal human yearning to belong—the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be.
Mission Statement: Belong anywhere.
Now that you have remembered your WHY and put it front and center, you can begin to clarify your approach and build on your mission. Approach is where you take your vision and implement it throughout your organization, ensuring alignment across every corner of the company.
To get the most out of your brand story, it needs to be cohesive across all levels of your organization. If one aspect of your brand begins to tell a different story, the entire message begins to lose effectiveness. To prevent this discord, you want to make your business’s vision and mission clear to everyone, both internally and externally. Your team members need to understand what the company ultimately wants to achieve, and how they fit into that pursuit. This way, your brand culture is grounded in your deeper cause and not based solely on chasing the dollar.
Similarly, you must clearly communicate your vision to your audience if you are to turn them into customers and advocates. If your potential customers don’t see your brand’s personality or understand your vision, they will remain just that – potential customers.
With your vision set and your mission clarified, it’s time to prove that you stand behind your words. Your message is where you take your story and find who it appeals to. The most important part of that statement is your story. You don’t want to just take what you think is going to be appealing to people and try to twist that into a story. You need to be authentic out of the gate and stick to your guns.
There will be people who resonate with your message and thus become attracted to your company. There will also be plenty of people who don’t. That’s okay! By staying true to your vision, you can establish a following of loyal supporters who believe not just in your products, but in your brand as a whole. And once they’re sold on your brand, they’ll be sold on anything you offer.
Trying to change your vision to cater to a wider audience would be abandoning your support-base and initial followers, selling yourself short and weakening your foundation. Through your messaging, you should aim to display your brand as honestly as possible and show off the aspects that make it unique.
We don’t create brand story. We discover brand story.
HOW DO WE FIND BRAND STORY?
So, if brand story truly does exist in every business, how does HMG go about discovering it? This is a detailed process, where we really get to know your business and the people in it. Through a company workshop, team and customer interviews, market and competitor research and more, the HMG team will help you discover and refine your brand story. We then pack all of these findings into a comprehensive Brand Toolkit that includes your brand differentiators, vision and mission statements, guiding principles, voice and personality, aspects of visual identity like fonts and color palette, and a lot more! This booklet will provide guidelines for all your future communications about your brand, both verbally and visually.
Do you know your brand story?
At HMG, we don’t create brand stories. We discover brand stories. Somewhere within your business is a story that your audience would love to be a part of. Contact the HMG Creative team to take the first step in unearthing it. We would love to be a part of your journey.
To learn more about your Brand Story and why it’s so important for the future success of your business, check out this presentation by HMG’s Senior Brand Strategist, John Paulsen.