The Brand Story – A Tale Worth Telling
Every Business Has A Story To Tell
Everybody likes a good story and why not? Stories are entertaining,
instructive, engaging and above all human; they connect people to
people, and businesses to customers. Stories are about communication
and communication is the essence of marketing.
We have at our disposal the greatest communication tool the world has
ever known, the Internet, and we are wasting it. Websites are used as if
they were corporate brochures. The techno-experts would even have us
remove its visual and kinetic elements, and turn it into an academic-style
journal to please the SEO gurus. We’ve been there and done that.
Search engine optimization is great, but who is going to go to your
website if it’s boring to view, and tedious to operate. It’s time to move on.
A Communication Venue For The Rest of Us
The Web is a multimedia communication venue, and with increased
bandwidth and high-speed connections we can use it effectively to
deliver our marketing messages. But communication is a funny thing,
just because we talk, write and present information, doesn’t mean we
Since I am advocating storytelling as a means of delivering your
marketing messages, I will illustrate my point – you guessed it – with a
story. In his book ‘Information Anxiety,’ Richard Saul Wurman relates the
following story attributed to U.S. Representative Pat Swindall, of
“A woman seeking a divorce went to visit her attorney. The first question
he asked her was, ‘Do you have grounds?’
She replied, ‘Yes, about two acres.’
‘Perhaps I’m not making myself clear,’ he said, ‘Do you have a grudge?’
‘No, but we have a carport,’ she responded.
‘Let me try again. Does your husband beat you up?’ he said impatiently.
‘No, generally I get up before he does,’ she said.
At this point the attorney decided to try a different tack. ‘Ma’am, are you
sure you really want a divorce?’
‘I don’t want one at all, but my husband does. He claims we have
It’s a great story; it delivers everything a good story should communicate:
a appoint-of-view, information, emotion, and truth about the human
condition. The only thing that would make this story more effective is if it
was delivered by a human voice that could add character, emphasis,
Marketing is nothing more than telling your story in an effective way that
embeds your identity into the minds of your audience, connecting and
communicating who you are, what you do, and why your audience
should be doing it with you. Branding and positioning are the results, not
So Tell Me A Story – It’s All In the Delivery
One of the great storytellers of the last forty years is radio broadcaster
and commentator, Paul Harvey. In his hay-day he had everything a
great storyteller needed to make a memorable impression: the voice, the
cadence, the attitude, the writing, and the ‘schtick.’
He presented his commentaries as if he was reading the newspaper,
even, reading off the page numbers when he came back from
commercial, “Page Two.” He would craft his stories by introducing the
listener to a character in the most casual way, perhaps by referring to
him or her by a diminutive first name. By the end of the story, he would
tell you who this person really was and invariably it was someone
famous, and the story he told revealed something unusual or hidden in
this person’s background. Each story had a strong point-of-view, and
each commentary was ended with the tag line, “… and now you know
the rest of the story.” Paul Harvey’s little radio commentaries are a
quintessential example of Sonic Personality©
“Content is Not Communication”
Web experts are always talking about ‘content’ and how ‘content is king’
on the Web, but as Curt Cloninger wrote in his article ‘A Case for Web
Storytelling’ “content is not communication.”
Content just lies there until it is delivered in some proactive manner, and
plain text content on your website is as far from proactive as you can get.
Stories must be communicated effectively if you want to deliver your
intended message. Left alone, your audience will scan, skip,
misinterpret and generally overlook the point you are trying to convey.
The only effective way to make sure your audience doesn’t misconstrue
the message of your story is to deliver it in a human voice: one with
character, cadence, accent, language, and an attitude that represents
who you are. A story well told creates expectations and relevance; it
creates image and identity, and it focuses on the business promise you
Fakers Need Not Apply
As good as your storyteller is, he or she cannot overcome a fake. You
must be honest to who you are, and what you really do. Every business
has a character, and an operational ethos. Trying to communicate a
message that conflicts with that corporate character is a prescription for
failure. Apple and Dell are both good companies, but Apple Computer is
cutting-edge; Dell is not. Walmart and The Gap are both successful
companies, but The Gap is cool and Walmart is Walmart. No matter how
hard a company tries, they can’t be something they are not, and trying
can only create false expectations, confusion and failure.
A Blueprint for Creating Your Brand Story
Whether you write the story yourself, or you hire someone to write it for
you, you must first gather the necessary material. The easiest way to
collect material is to create a series of questions that when answered
reveal the Brand Story. Think of the process as an interview.
The Brand Story Interview
1. What was the original vision of the company?
2. Who were the company’s founding fathers?
3. How was the company started?
4. What was the guiding entrepreneurial philosophy?
5. Is there a creative genius or technical wizard behind your vision?
6. What is the big idea behind your product or service?
7. What does your product or service do for your target audience?
8. Does your vision rely on quality, cost, or uniqueness of your
c. Knowledge, or
d. Delivery system?
9. Has your focus changed since the company was founded?
10. What is your vision for the future?
Once the material is collected it must then be put into story form. You are
not writing a research paper, nor are you creating ad copy. You are
telling a story, and as such, it should be written as a story. If as
suggested you’re delivering the story using audio, you should write it for
the spoken word and not for print. There are a variety of multimedia
styles that can be used ranging from the radio commentary style of Paul
Harvey to the PBS documentary style of Ken Burns featuring
accompanying graphics and photography.
It’s Not Just The Story, It’s How You Tell It
If you’ve ever tried to tell a joke you heard from a professional comedian
and messed it up, you know how important the telling of a story is. It’s not
just the words; it’s the rhythm, cadence, accent, intonation, point-of-view,
and attitude that makes the story funny, memorable, interesting or
Our previous article entitled ‘The Sound of Business’ goes into detail on
how the concept of Sonic Personality© delivers marketing messages and Brand
Stories in a compelling, inventive, entertaining, and memorable way. It
explains the power of the human voice and the necessity of integrating it
into your website.
The Medium Is the Message
It is hard to believe that there are any companies of any size or
sophistication that don’t have a website, but it is even harder to
understand how so many companies with websites, have no idea what
the Web is.
The Web is typically described in technical terms, but in fact the Web is
merely a venue designed for communication, a place where
conversations take place, where information is exchanged, and where
transactions are conducted. If you can accept the idea that the Web
exists to further your communication efforts, then it stands to reason that
delivering your story is your website’s ‘raison d’etre.’ And without the
sound of the human voice, the delivery of emotional connective content,
and the conveyance of clever, interesting, useful, entertaining, and
compelling stories, the Web is a wasteland, an uncommunitive
environment of random confusion.