How to Use Simple Narratives to Build Powerful Brands

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In today’s industry, storytelling has become the new vogue. Brands of all shapes and sizes are introducing a narrative to their content. You need to think of this narrative as a marketing journey. It’s no longer enough to point to unrelatable metrics. Customers won’t translate a series of charts and figures into a reason to trust you. Instead, you need to be able to convince them of your likability and place in the community.

Since the dawn of social media, the company-consumer connection has become stronger than ever. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give businesses the opportunity to interact with their audience instantaneously.  There’s no longer a need to organise expensive events or arrange time-consuming focus groups. You can now connect with customers on the other side of the globe in the same way you can with those in your local area.  Companies have the chance to prove their worth to every member of their customer base.

So how best to show your audience that you’re an authentic, trustworthy brand? Gimmicky advertising no longer washes with savvy customers. They are looking for more in a brand than simple marketing ploys. This is where brand narratives hold their own. A great story links all the major components of your company. Come from humble beginnings to the verge of conquering the world? Then show your audience exactly how you got there.

Whilst there is more than one way to tell a story, the simpler your approach the better. You want consumers to instantly relate to your brand. The only way to do this is to keep your narrative easy to follow and understand. Strong brand narratives explain your company’s journey for you. So there’s no need to waste your time focusing on untranslatable statistics.

Fostering Trust In The Storyteller

If your brand voice isn’t convincing then neither is your brand. The authenticity of your story is the single most important part of the process. It should be carefully thought out before you print any words. Do you know what the core values of your company are? Are these easily identifiable in your story? Failure to answer these questions can leave you stranded long before you’ve set off. If you don’t know the purpose and direction of your company, then how can you expect your audience to? All great stories start with a captivating opening and this is the first thing you need to decide upon.

People want to understand the lead up to your finalised product or service. No matter how you started, you’re bound to have gone through many changes along the way. These will have helped shape the business you are today. When GoPro was first founded in 2002, it was a niche service aimed at professional athletes. Now, almost 14 years on, it is producing some of the most versatile cameras in the world.


GoPro’s slogan ‘Think it. See it. Do it’ epitomises the main function of their product, as well as the journey they took to create it. The reason their brand narrative is so strong is because they deliver flawlessly on their promise. GoPro’s consumers want to be able to capture every second of their experiences. The camera allows them to do this without any hitches. Simply put, it offers professional performance to amateur adventurers. This professionalism convinces the consumer that they are receiving a bonafide product. The more they find out about the brand, the more they realise this is the case. They haven’t had to use clever gimmicks to sell their brand, just its naked, authentic appeal.

go-pro-adGoPro’s print ad

Ensuring Your Brand’s Vision Is Relatable

A brand that is relatable will resonate far more with its audience.  The consumer should be able to empathise with the main characters in your story.  If they can, then they will find it much easier to believe what they have to say. Portraying your CEO as a hero who defied the odds to bring his or her product to the market is fine. But you need them to be a hero of the people too. No one wants to read a convoluted essay on why your brand is superior to the rest. You need to prove this through the course of the narrative. Don’t force-feed it to them one superlative at a time. Keep your brand narrative simple and compelling. The best way to tell a story is to make people care about those involved.

Take Virgin Airlines for example. When Richard Branson started the company, he had little money and influence to his name. In fact, his only defining edge was his determination and vision to ‘make flying good again’. Finding himself stranded after a cancelled flight, Branson decided to franchise his own airline. The result, Virgin Airlines, made the prospect of travelling comfortable and exciting again. This idea alone allowed him to sell thousands of airline tickets to previously disgruntled passengers. The rest, as they say, is history.

virgin-atlanticVirgin wasn’t successful because of Branson’s previous work in entertainment. It was its relatability to millions of travellers around the globe. Virgin’s brand narrative mirrors the struggle of a traditional long haul flight. It sets up Branson as its spearhead and shows people that he is just like them. Your audience can’t relate if they can’t see themselves in the main character’s shoes. You need to work  out what the driving ambition behind your company is. Realising this will enable you to prove your authenticity to the consumer. How did you get from concept to concrete? Once you know this, your audience will understand the mission you are trying to complete.

virgin-atlantic-adVirgin Atlantic’s ad to promote their comfy Upper Class Suite

Stripping Out Every Superfluous Detail

Simple stories work because they are economical. Their design tells the reader only what they need to know. If your founder’s birth is irrelevant to your brand, leave it out. It may be useful to know a few background details, but everything else is of little consequence. It all comes down to the that creative spark. How did it come about? How far have you come since that moment? These are the things your audience wants to hear about.

By overcrowding your brand narrative with tidbits and facts, you risk diluting its purpose. The singular aim of your story is to captivate your audience and inspire engagement on their part. If you succeed, they go on to become paying customers. An endless account of the early years of your company will detract from the main focus of the narrative. Would you buy into the story yourself? If not, why not? Take a closer look at your narrative. Perhaps you take too long to reach the pivotal part. Reassess the usefulness of each segment and decide whether it helps the consumer understand your brand any better.

Airbnb is currently one of the most lucrative hotel services in operation. With accommodation in 190 countries around the globe, its brand appeal is undeniable. But what makes its story so successful? In short, the concept of staying in a home away from home. Airbnb recently went through its own rebranding process.  Originally, the company was simply a way for travelling homeowners to make money from their absent houses.  Now, the company has become far more invested in the premise of those doing the renting.


‘Don’t go there. Live there.’ Airbnb’s new slogan perfectly defines their stripped down brand approach. They’ve realised that people’s main reason for choosing their service is the increased freedom. People want more than just a claustrophobic hotel room. Once they worked this out, everything else became superfluous. Their brand now emphasises the idea of living in another country temporarily. At heart, the brand narrative plays on humanity’s need for belonging. This simple idea is now used to drive all their adverts and content.

airbnb-adAirbnb ‘Don’t go there. Live there’ campaign

Simple storytelling has enabled Airbnb, Virgin and GoPro to create brands that are synonymous with their vision. The brand narrative of each compels the consumer to accept its necessity in the market. Study the underlying principles of these brand leaders. By implementing them in your own company, you can begin to redefine its purpose. When you understand your story, you’ll be able to build from it a stronger, more appealing brand.

BIO: Joseph Hedges has spent over 25 years working in the design and branding industry. He currently heads the team at London-based branding company, Garden, functioning as Creative Director, CEO and general tour de force. His multi-disciplinary background enables him to understand the needs of a variety of audiences and offer a three-dimensional experience to all his customers. An award winning brand specialist, Joseph lectures at industry events and was a guest expert on Channel 4’s Super Shoppers.

Photo credit: Unsplash

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