A compelling brand story is more than just frills — it’s the thing that will help you break through the noise and rise above your competitors. If you want your story to resonate with consumers, it needs to be both relevant and creative.
Branded content is one of the keys to creating a loyal customer base, but it has to be done right. Today’s customers crave authenticity more than ever, which isn’t surprising. Because they’re constantly inundated with advertising and corporate messaging, they have become wary of fake news and dishonest marketing. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 42% of consumers can’t discern which brands are trustworthy.
To garner trust, companies must convey authenticity in new ways. If your brand’s storytelling lacks creativity, don’t despair. It’s an art, so start with the basics, and gradually refine your narrative until it looks and sounds the way you want it to. At a loss?
Here are four ways you can create a more compelling story that conveys your authentic brand and drives customer conversions.
1. Start at the source
If your brand has an interesting origin story, share it with your audience. Explain the moment the spark was lit and an idea was born, or the moment the brand went from idea to reality. When tapping into your origins, keep in mind that life isn’t all sunshine and roses, and your audience won’t identify with a story that presumes it is.
No doubt you’ve run into significant obstacles along the way — capitalize on those by including them in your origin story. People bond over shared hardship, and highlighting the difficulties of your journey makes your brand more honest, approachable, and, ultimately, more trustworthy. Also, make it a point to include your brand’s purpose in your story so that customers can connect with it. TOMS Shoes brings in incredible profits, and the brand has stayed true to its mission of donating a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold. No doubt this mission has been a big factor in the brand’s success.
2. Mess with the medium
Video is perhaps the most popular storytelling medium today. That makes it a great choice for conveying your brand’s character, but it also means that it can be difficult to stand out, even with a top-quality video. To make more noise, experiment with animated videos or, if you have the budget for it, virtual reality. Podcasts are also growing in popularity and serve as a great platform for reaching your customers.
Carl Reed, cofounder and chief creative officer of Lion Forge Labs, specializes in storytelling through alternative media like comics, animation, and gaming. “With no shortage of options for stunning visuals, savvy marketers are turning to captivating media for driving their brands’ stories forward. Comics are an excellent choice for this. They are great for explaining abstract principles and are limited only by the imagination of the artists. Moreover, they convey a sense of approachability because they seem more fun and rough-hewn, less slick and corporate.”
The point of storytelling is to be heard and diversifying your mediums can enable that for your unique message.
3. Add some star witnesses to your case
Even when consumers are captivated by your brand story, it can be tough for them to forget that you have an agenda. You’re understandably looking to bolster your own business, but you can draw attention away from the obvious. Bringing in industry experts who aren’t necessarily affiliated with your brand can create far more trust than having customers listen to you talk about yourself.
For example, Ford might feature a researcher at an independent crash-test facility who can testify to the safety of the company’s vehicles. The researcher doesn’t need to explicitly compare Ford’s cars to those made by GM, Tesla, or Subaru, but expert validation of the company’s claims can make them more compelling. If Dodge says its Charger is one of the fastest production cars made in America, the company might call on an expert from Car and Driver to weigh in on this claim.
4. Call on consumers
User-generated content (UGC) is an incredibly powerful tool for building trust. Happy customers are frequently a brand’s most outspoken advocates, but it’s up to you to tap into this resource and give your fans a platform through which they can reach their peers. Equipping users with some kind of loudspeaker frequently benefits all parties involved.
Airbnb’s community stories, for example, allow actual users to explain what they love about the company and how it’s made a difference in their lives. The stories are also mutually beneficial — for Airbnb, they serve as free advertising and inspire consumers to travel more, hopefully using lodgings booked on the site. Meanwhile, the hosts who tell their stories gain increased visibility and likely see a significant increase in the demand for their property rentals.
Another way to use UGC is to take a one-dimensional review and utilize it in video form. H2H Movers, a fast-growing moving brand based in Chicago, takes reviews they receive from satisfied customers and turns them into brief videos like the one below. It’s a great way to repurpose content while showcasing happy customers via a very cost-effective manner.
In today’s crowded marketplace, storytelling is more than window dressing. Instead, it’s an essential differentiator that can help your brand rise above the competition. Due in part to companies like Amazon, old purchase decision criteria such as convenience and excellent customer service have become mere baselines that customers expect. Without a compelling story, customers fall back on the oldest differentiator, price.
For a company that makes high-quality products, competing on price alone is never desirable. Shallow cuts in profit margins become deeper as competitors follow suit. Fortunately, a creative brand story that increases interest and loyalty will allow you to compete in other ways. If you follow these tips, your story will gain traction and help your company reach its true potential.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.