Why storytelling is vital to your brand

Heather Rast/Tree Full of Owls

Storytelling is as ancient as the campfire. Every inclusive and self-reliant group and brand has its own unique story heritage. Those stories are part of each organization’s unique identity, a shared ritual evoking strong emotional responses from those tied by birth or bond like employment or commerce.

Beguile customers with your brand’s tale

Like the campfire, storytelling has helped our species protect itself from danger (stories are how we know to avoid hemlock and nutmeg when we’re hungry or exercise circumspection when called before skeptical management) while providing nourishment to our curious, inquisitive, and creative minds. Rich, textured stories are the knitted work product of our aspirations, goals, known facts, fears and weaknesses. Today stories are told in whole and in part via social media bits and web page, eBook, or PowerPoint bites. Collectively, they inculcate new members (customers) to the brand as it’s encountered in myriad channels.

A living, breathing story

One of the most compelling facets of brand storytelling is the manner in which the story — an organic product — continues to live and grow beyond the leaders sharing the tales. There are no harsh lines compartmentalizing the story, demanding it be replicated in whole in perpetuity. Once vocalized, the best stories are told, added to, modified and retold throughout time. They grow, adapt and evolve through time just as the people listening to them do. Brand stories reflect the changing needs of the customer because the strongest brands are attuned to those needs and expectations.

Learn from the story runner

I recently learned about a job role in the media field called a story runner. It was fascinating to discover how instrumental behind-the-scenes story cultivation and team immersion is to producing a successful television show for public enjoyment. Writers, casting executives, producers, wardrobe and hair designers and many others work to create a place and moment in time — a story setting. Collaboratively, they build dynamic scenes featuring complex and flawed characters by contributing their unique knowledge base and points of view. In that sense, good, modern primetime television is an example of the sum being greater than its parts.

The story runner role is a fascinating metaphor for the way best-in-class companies incubate and infuse their brand offering and story internally within their organizations so they may then be projected outside for the world to know. Neither startup nor venerable flagships should categorically assign discovery and articulation of these important differentiators to a single department, lest they miss collecting key inter-departmental insight useful to most effectively communicating “Why buy.”