First, let’s talk about brand storytelling. Brand storytelling shares the feelings, ethics, and lifestyle of your brand with your customer. It’s essential to building an emerging brand because it builds engagement, brand loyalty, word of mouth, and media buzz.
Whenever I work with a new founder on their emerging brand, I ask them the following questions:
- What story do you want your brand to tell?
- How does your personal story impact your brand story?
- Where did the story of your brand begin?
- Where did the story of your brand shift?
- What's the current story of your brand?
- What's the future story your brand is working towards?
- What are the brand’s storylines?
The answers to these questions informs how we can weave the brand story into the creative direction.
Here’s examples of how you can use your brand story online and IRL.
Start conversations about your brand story. Most creatives hold themselves back from sharing their brand story before they ‘made it’. Thinking they have to look a certain way or accomplish a certain goal before sharing the story. However, as I talked about in my previous post ‘How Building Community Makes Marketing Suck Less’, this is an excellent way to build your brand.
Case Study: When I was the Creative Director of a vegan restaurant, our brand storylines were community, agriculture, wellness, animal welfare, and the environment. I hosted an Instagram live series called ‘Eating with Change Makers’ where I’d invite community leaders within each of those niches to discuss current events and eat a meal together. It led to many incredible conversations and connections but importantly created a space to share our brand story in an organic way, engage with our growing niches, and feature new menu items. Our Instagram lives were saved on our feed for evergreen storytelling for the brand.
Creating a cohesive visual identity that storytells your brand values is an impactful brand strategy because it builds loyalty with your ideal customer. Because you have creative direction on what your brand story is, allows you to make better design and branding choices because you know the message you want to convey.
Case Study: When I was a Marketing Director for a maker market, the creatives who invested in identifiable branding were able to draw more people to their booth on market days. Why? Because their audience who had been following their brand on socials were able to find them IRL and shop.
Host or partner with events that align with your brand values and allow you to connect with your audience IRL. Sharing your brand story online and IRL requires a deep understanding of your audience, a consistent visual and messaging identity, and a variety of digital and IRL channels to reach your target customers.
Case study: I used to host local creative meetups with friends of mine on the first Monday of every month for four years straight. It was a way to gather with people IRL in creative industries, build relationships and connections and foster leads for our membership program. At the time, I was the Co-Founder of a creative skill sharing brand, and hosting meetups was how we built memberships. It was a way to share our brand story in an organic setting and connect with people who wanted to be a part of it.
This one is important. If you have a tangible product or digital product, you need your packaging to communicate your brand story. For example, if your brand story is rooted in sustainability but your products are wrapped in plastic that can’t be recycled, that will turn off your audience who shop your brand because of your ethics.
Case Study: One of the current brands I’m working on is a line of candles handmade by an artist. When discussing packaging, we came up with the idea of hand painting the bottle the candles come in as a touch point to tell the brand story around artisanship.
Your website needs to be the hub of your brand story, where you tell your story in depth and feature your products or services.
Case Study: Let’s use my new website as an example. A big part of my own brand story is that my career has been anything but linear. The designer I worked with to carry out my vision, was inspired by my brand story and created a signature look for my website with swirls that visually represent my path. That design choice for my website has become the most talked about feature of my site. The swirls have now carried over to other digital touchpoints in my brand such as my socials, email marketing, and the cover of my book.
Email is a great tool to discuss current events in your industry, for your brand, and what’s happening behind the scenes. However, crafting an email when you don’t feel comfortable with your own brand story is incredibly challenging.
Case study: A brand that I feel does an outstanding job with brand storytelling is Omsom. During the fallout of their bank SVB (Silicon Valley Bank) they shared what steps they were taking to secure their funding along with asking their community for support during an uncertain time. They shared updates on social media (even including an email from their dad with encouraging words) and thanked their loyal customers for their support. The following week once their funding was secured, they sent another thank you email to their community sharing the story of everything that happened and what they are working on next. Their emails feel very personable like you’re talking with a good friend about their entrepreneurial adventures.
The ability to send a personal text to someone in your community is a game changer. Having a clear brand story will make this (fairly new) communication medium feel more authentic and on brand. No one wants to receive promotions to shop all the time, however if your brand is sending advice, encouragement, interesting articles, etc. it feels like a text from a friend you want to open.
Kelly Bennett (she/they) is an NYC- based Creative Director working with creative founders building emerging brands. You find out more about Kelly’s incubator, case studies, and listen to ‘Creative Direction with Kelly Bennett’ podcast here. Give Kelly a follow @withkellybennett