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Building your brand story

Building a compelling brand storyLast week, I took a look at what makes a brand story. Today, I’d like to offer some quick tips on how you make that brand story connect with your customers.

As we’d discussed, a brand story talks about your values and your value to your customers. As you tell your story, you’ve got to focus on the following:

A Brand Story Is A Brand Story Isn’t
Clear Complicated
Consistent Scattered
Compelling Boring


By clear, I mean that your story is understandable, it’s lucid, it’s straightforward, and, as much as possible, distinct from your competition. If your story is vague or complicated, your customers’s response will be, at best, curiosity and, at worst, confusion. Here’s one example (see if you can guess who it’s for):

“Back in college, I chased my dream of being the next ‘Bruce Springsteen.’ And to pay the bills I worked the relationships I had to sell audio equipment. While working as a product specialist for a digital audio and guitar wholesaler way back in 1995, I built my company’s first website. I found that I enjoyed online sales and marketing much more than my ‘day job’ so I went back to school, got a business degree and changed careers.

I’ve now spent the last 17 years helping companies put the web to work for their business. Customers use whatever tool works – whether it’s search, social or their smartphone – to answer questions and solve problems. I love figuring out where those customers are, how they interact with brands online and getting them to my front door. That’s where both the fun, and the profits, are.

Most of the people you’re talking to are experts in some piece of e-commerce or online marketing. They live for the technology or the marketing or the analytics. I get excited by how these all tie together with the business. I don’t get excited because of the toys. I get excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.”

Yes, that’s my story. But you can see how simple it is. It tells a lot about me and shows my experience, but it also answers questions for customers about the benefits of working with me. It’s a clear message — “I’m an e-commerce and online marketing guy with years of experience” — that potential customers can easily get their head around.


Once you’ve got a clear message, you’ve got to ensure you tell that story consistently, regardless of channel. While you don’t have to say the exact same thing to every possible customer type, you want to ensure there’s harmony among the various components of your story. For instance, a hotel may tell leisure guests about its wonderful pool and luxurious spa, while telling business travelers about the fitness center and high-speed internet access. But in each case, they’re telling their customers how effectively they anticipate guest needs and how those guests will benefit during their stay.

By contrast, a message that’s highly dissonant will turn consumers off. For example, Hooters and Las Vegas each tried to position themselves as more family-friendly. Um… yeah. That worked. While neither effort blew up in their faces, neither exactly worked well, either (notice how Vegas quickly reverted to “What happens in Vegas” mode).

Your brand won’t tell an effective story if you’re continually changing your tune.


Finally, of course, you want your story to be compelling. The opposite of compelling? Lame. Boring. Blah. You want your story to be like Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” the type of guy police question just because they find him interesting.

A client of mine owns four hotels and a restaurant. He’s selected every one of his hotels the same way: He finds buildings that have great value to the community, then rehabilitates them, turning them back into landmarks for the community. Instead of tearing down “outdated” architecture, he is instead committed to contributing lasting value to his community and preserving part of his city’s storied past. Even more exciting, his whole family embraces their role in the community and will continue using the same model in future generations. That’s compelling. That’s a story worth telling.

You have that, too.

Why did you start your business? Or, for large brands, what do you represent? Why should your customers care about you? Answer those questions and you’re on your way to creating a compelling story.


Building a brand story isn’t easy. But focus on developing a clear, consistent and compelling narrative that helps customers understand your values and your value to them. If you can do that, the rest is easy.

Have any questions? Let me know if the comments or drop me an email. I’m happy to help.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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