There seems to be a lot of talk about the importance of branding, but little substance about what comprises a brand. Ultimately, perceptions define a brand. Essentially an extension of the human dynamic of relationships, branding is about feelings, trust and respect. Telling the story of your business is one of the most powerful ways to stir emotions, build trust and immortalize your brand.

What Exactly is a Business Story?

Every business has a story, which includes:

  • A company’s roots and history
  • Track record
  • Values
  • Good deeds
  • Contributions to the world
  • Successes and failures

Knowing which of these aspects to highlight is part of the challenge of branding. A business story need not be all “rainbows and butterflies,” but in order to be an effective branding tool, it needs to be positive overall and most importantly, relatable.

Why do Business Stories Matter?

People have countless choices for products and services and they are increasingly cognizant of how a business can influence the world for good and bad. Customers want to know they are supporting something positive and meaningful; they want to spend money with businesses they can trust to be virtuous.

Nobody really wants to support a company that is just out to line the pockets of its investors.

When a good story is at the heart of a branding strategy, it makes a business more relatable and trustworthy. Consider how Starbucks and Facebook, both highly recognized and successful companies, have engendered remarkably different levels of trust.

Doing it Right: Starbucks
Starbucks has carefully refined their business story. They meticulously manage the story at every point of customer contact, from the baristas to press releases to books published by Howard Schultz. They have been successful at keeping the story “warm and fuzzy” and as such are loved and most importantly trusted. One of the ways they keep their story alive and on message is by training their employees how to tell it. In initial training, all employees watch video presentations that explain Starbucks’ history, how it takes care of coffee farmers, messages from leadership and why they will love the work.

Missing the Boat: Facebook
On the other hand, Facebook leadership has made little effort to tell their story thoughtfully. Outside influencers such as the movie “The Social Network,” news stories about profits and connections with the NSA have contributed to increasing dissatisfaction among users. Though Facebook is currently the biggest social network, few users would be eager to say it is a brand they trust or respect. The company’s relationship with its users is pretty much one of convenience, not one built on trust and loyalty. Whenever the next powerful social network emerges, you can bet that users will abandon the brand.

What Parts of Business Story Create Trust?

People have a desire to belong and contribute to a better world, so talking about how your business makes the world a better place will help create trust. Does your company support charities? Do its products improve the community or the world? Make sure people know about the good things your organization does as you tell your story!

Personal stories are another tool to build trust because they “humanize” businesses. The people who make a business work often get lost behind the image of the brand, which results in perceptions that the business is faceless and soulless.

Effective business storytelling highlights the contributions and achievements of the people who make the business work. Although it is good to have CEOs and executives to tell their stories, it is even more powerful to highlight contributions of front-line and background employees.

It is a bit tricky to tell personal stories and highlight the contributions of low-visibility employees, but there are some effective methods.

  • For the most authentic (and trust-creating) approach, let your real employees shine in your ads and video clips on your website. You could have them lead a tour through your offices, demonstrate a product or simply show them in action. For example, see the commercial for Salon 11 and take note of the actual stylists in action.
  • For larger brands, this may not be practical, and you might want to take an approach as GoDaddy did with the “Hot for Technology” campaign. They compared and contrasted what goes on behind the scenes of their seductive marketing. The ads in this campaign did a marvelous job telling the story of the company, explaining why they used over-the-top sexy ads and what really happens behind the scenes.

Another powerful approach is to be open and honest about your company’s history, successes and failures. If your company began as an underdog, highlight that and point out the positive ways in which the company found success. If the business made some major and/or public blunders, do not try to hide them, rather, put a positive spin on how they made the company better.

Storytelling Matters

Humans love stories, which is why we have news, mythology and traditions. Stories are how we learn and how we judge the world around us. They are fundamental to the creation of trust and loyalty. Telling your business story through compelling video, effective copywriting and purposeful messaging will help create lifelong customers who hold your business in high regard. With effective storytelling, the very sight of your logo will invoke feelings of trust, which will ultimately lead to more business and a stronger position in the marketplace.