How to Create Authentic Brand Stories

By all accounts, consumers’ B.S. meters are getting more sensitive every day. They can quickly tell when a benefit claim is exaggerated or a brand’s positioning is stretching beyond reasonable truth. Some skeptical consumers have developed an instant knee-jerk negative reaction to even the slightest hint of impropriety.

Longstanding brands have an advantage in that they have (hopefully) a history of consistent quality that they can rely on to back up their position. But newer brands have a tougher row to hoe. They must present a fully realized story that customers will buy into emotionally.

A new brand that offers no explicit backstory, does not detail origins, or seems misleading often won’t pass the smell test. Even when a brand is a quality, authentic product or service, it can still fall short in conveying a fully story to the consumer. That's because there are many elements, or pieces to the puzzle, that go into creating a compelling story.

Many brands simply look at the category landscape and find their point of differentiation by looking for an underserved niche in the market. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. The driving force of a brand must come from an authentic source — and from a human perspective.

What is the crux of your brand story? Who is the hero? What are the obstacles “he” or “she” must overcome? What is the goal? What human values does the resolution of the story confirm or reinforce?

The answers to these questions, plus others, help define the structure and driving motivation behind your brand story. And then you can spell it out for your customers in a number of different ways — through a company history, a hero’s quest, a short story, a humorous video, or any number of other ways.

And once you have that story embedded in your brand’s DNA, you can implement it at every touchpoint. And once it is refined by time and experience, you can take it to higher levels of communication.

One test of how refined a brand position has become is if it can be encapsulated into a wordless, stripped down logo. However, even then, that symbol must still refer to a resonating, authentic story — one with a challenge, a mentor, and a hero.