14 November 2019

5 steps to discovering a gripping brand story

Put your business at the centre of a compelling narrative – one that will persuade customers to step into the story.

From primitive tales to the Netflix box set, storytelling has always had a grip on the human brain. It’s a power that businesses can exploit to carve out a unique space in their market.

At a recent HSBC Strategies for Growth event, business leaders got to grips with their own brand stories with the help of business storytelling expert Claire Taylor.

1. Anticipate customers’ needs

Getting your brand story straight starts with ensuring delightful customer experiences. Taylor cited innovative brands such as Trunki, which successfully combined luggage with kids’ toys.

Besides offering children their own travel bag in the shape of an animal, the products brought other benefits – keeping children occupied and helping to prevent airport tantrums, while easing the luggage load for harassed parents.

While there had been no explicit demand for the products, they provided solutions to travel issues that countless families experience. “Brands like this have understood the needs customers have, even when the customers didn’t know they had those needs,” Taylor pointed out.

2. Find your unique space

Brands that develop a distinctive offering within an existing market also stand out. Hotel Chocolat “literally and metaphorically broke the mould”, Taylor said, when its founders eschewed the usual mould of chocolate squares and produced big slabs instead.

The company bought its own cocoa plantation in St Lucia, in 2006. Manufacturing has been in Cambridge, UK, however the company has plans to make chocolate in St. Lucia and export to the UK, reversing the usual process where the cocoa-growing community benefits only from the commodity price.

“Like many successful brands, they’ve developed something that is unique and owns a notional space in the customers’ mind,” said Taylor.

Brands have to continuously improve to stay relevant. So your brand story needs to not only engage, excite and educate, but to evolve – and spin off into multiple stories too.

Claire Taylor, The Story Mill

3. Understand, then delight

“Smaller businesses often start out by creating a solution to a problem they’ve had themselves,” Taylor said.

“There’s real insight in that, but for any business the basis of your brand story is in really understanding what people’s needs are – not just superficially, but how they’re experiencing them. What is the world like for them?”

She suggests exploring four simple questions to begin discovering your brand story:

  • Who is the customer?
  • What do they need or desire?
  • How is that need or desire experienced?
  • How does your brand delight them?

4. Adapt your story for different audiences

Many businesses have multiple customer segments. Taylor acknowledged the need to speak directly to each audience.

“It’s important to ask these questions for each audience group. While your overall service wouldn’t change, the messaging might be different,” she said.

“For example, a B2B business might need to provide different messaging for a finance, IT or commercial audience within the same customer organisation.”

5. Keep asking if your story is relevant

The perfect brand story is never complete – and the plot is bound to change.

Taylor emphasises the importance of revisiting the questions above: “There is never a time to stop asking these questions, because people’s needs change and the market changes.

“Brands have to continuously improve to stay relevant. So your brand story needs to not only engage, excite and educate, but to evolve – and spin off into multiple stories too.”

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