The Power of Storytelling: Brand Marketing Through Stories

03 November 2022

Behind every successful brand, there is a compelling story that expresses the brand’s personality and culture. In this week’s article, we’ll walk you through the main steps to creating a brand story that target audiences and consumers will be able to relate to.

In this article, you’ll learn: 

  1. What defines a brand story
  2. The significance of a strong brand story
  3. Angles of a brand story
  4. Communicating your brand story to your target audiences
  5. The B2K2C Model: Telling your brand story through KOCs

What defines a brand story?

A brand story is a story that condenses the motivation, spirit, culture and vision of the brand. Throughout history, humans have had the instinct of learning life experiences from stories and adapting them to real life. Telling, listening to, and believing in stories have become part of human nature. As one of the earliest communication methods, stories have four basic functions: refining information, gaining attention, gaining trust and arousing emotions. And this is exactly what brand marketing aims to achieve. Brand stories can be used as an entry point and become an effective brand marketing tool. A successful brand story can naturally drive communication and interaction.

The significance of a strong brand story

Brand marketing through storytelling is meant to engage target consumers by telling a story that aligns with the brand’s DNA. In the process of drawing consumers into the storyline, the brand’s values and messaging are subtly implanted in the minds of consumers. Good storytelling can help brands:

Build lasting, emotional connections with consumers

The younger generation of consumers pays more attention to emotional appeal when purchasing products. A strong brand story can effectively resonate with consumers emotionally, helping to leave a positive imprint in the back of their minds. A strong brand story is the core of improving brand communications, stimulating purchase intention, building customer loyalty and enhancing brand equity.

Embody the brand’s unique personality and values

Consumption today no longer takes place simply to meet the necessities of living. In particular, the younger generation of consumers seeks to exhibit their unique personalities and identities through their consumption choices. Through storytelling, brands can adopt unique characteristics, emotions and personalities that provide customers with additional value beyond the product itself. If a brand can create a legendary, characterised and personalised brand image through story-based brand marketing, it can increase its chances of standing out from the homogeneous brands seen all over the internet and on e-commerce.

Demonstrate brand value and proposition

Brand stories help to simplify the brand’s proposition and convey the brand’s vision to consumers. It conveys corporate values with clear, simple yet attractive stories, helping consumers better understand the brand and enhance the recognition of the company, thereby facilitating sales. These stories can endow meaning to the brand’s efforts beyond providing products to consumers, reflecting the brand’s desire to transform the industry or even society as a whole.

Angles of a brand story

The primary purpose of a brand story is to shape the brand’s image, and the story is the assistant. So how should the brand story be designed to better shape the brand image? Any brand, through the course of its development, will mark many milestones, including the history of the brand, research and development of the product, the founder’s personal experience, the interaction between the brand and consumers, and so on. These could be meaningful subjects for the story of your brand. Here, we provide you with six creative angles for your brand story.

Core Features

Most people know to turn to Budweiser in their search for the “king of bottled beer” and visit the nearest Apple store to learn new ways to “think different”. The brand story can be developed from the core features of the ace products, which are not only easy to understand but also become an impressive advertising slogan. As long as needs pop up in the lives of consumers, the corresponding brands and products will immediately come to mind.

Value

Xiaomi was able to achieve great success at its launch by presenting audiences with a convincing story of unparalleled cost-effectiveness and emphasising the value of Xiaomi mobile phones component by component, allowing users to truly appreciate the product’s advantages. This strategy enables Xiaomi to cultivate a group of loyal enthusiast consumers, successfully embodying the “born for enthusiasts” nature of the brand’s products and the corporate vision of “allowing everyone to enjoy the fun of technology”.

Craftsmanship

Hermes is known for its traditional handmade craftsmanship. The founder of La Mer notably extracted “magical” seaweed ingredients after 12 years and 6,000 experiments… In these brand stories, the product quality is depicted through the brand’s unique formula and technique, and the brand’s perseverance and strong belief help them make the image of the craftsman deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.

Generate word of mouth

Here’s a classic case of advertising through word of mouth: “My father bought the AO Smith water heater more than 50 years ago, and I am still using it now. Do you want a water heater you can use for half a century?” From the emotional bond of intergenerational inheritance to the product’s more than 50 years of solid reliability, the brand story has carried out a successful brand reputation building from the perspective of consumer emotional resonance and product durability. Other examples are “iPhones that protect your privacy and deliver consistently better support than the competition” and “Kiehl’s delivers skincare products based on the same old 160-year-old promise – choosing the very best natural ingredients for its products”, which are all brand stories that are conducive to building consumer trust and brand reputation.

Build a brand culture

The style, philosophy, values and social responsibility of a brand all convey the spirit and culture of the brand, and these are the unique qualities that distinguish one brand from another. For example, MUJI tells a brand story of “removing the trademark and eliminating unnecessary processing and colours”. This represents a culture of “decluttering”, and purchasing MUJI products has become a way for young people to exhibit a minimalist lifestyle.

Use a backdrop

An expressive backdrop can better allow consumers to immerse themselves in the nucleotides of the brand’s DNA, and can also help set the overall emotional tone of the brand story. Huawei used to tell the story of the brand’s hard work and struggles to innovate via photos of fighter jets and ballet dancers, respectively. However, although both are images of perseverance, the connotations of both scenes are significantly different. The imagery of ballet dancers evokes associations with the purity, beauty and elegance of ballet, while also depicting the hardships of training and the joys of dreams that come true, showing a brand story that is inspiring and beautiful. On the other hand, the scenes of fighter jets evoke the ruthlessness and danger of confrontation between two armies, showing contention rather than beauty. When the scene is selected correctly, the story can achieve the intended communication purpose.

Communicating your brand story to your target audiences

Following the above six angles to bear in mind when planning your brand story can only address the main obstacle of creating a brand story, which is “what kind of story do I want to tell”. However, this does not mean that your brand story will automatically resonate with your target consumers. To create a brand story that has the potential to become a hit, it is necessary first to clarify who you are telling the story to and then decide where to tell the story (i.e. through which channels and on which platforms) and who can help you tell the story (i.e. Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Consumers) to complete your strategy.

Embrace common pain points and align your brand with target consumers

Suppose you want your brand story to have a profound impact. In that case, you must understand the precise positioning of the brand, clarify the target market and audience, gain insight into the pain points and needs of target consumers, connect the brand with the core interests of users, and then produce content around this pain point. Through storytelling, the brand should answer the target customer groups: What problems can the brand solve for you? How can it change your life?

Say you are in the process of creating your brand story. Why is the concept proposed by your brand a common pain point? Because you also tried to solve the same problem but found no results in the market. So you decided to make a product that can solve the problem for everyone. With such common experiences, consumers will be more inclined to believe that the brand is on their side, making it easier for them to engage with the story and make a purchase.

Find out where your target audiences are gathering and launch your story there

After identifying your brand’s target market and audience, the next step is to match your consumer profile with the different user profiles on various social media platforms. Identify the platforms with users that match your brand’s target consumers and use a combination of KOLs, KOCs and brand representatives to spread the story in accordance with the characteristics and content format of the platform.

Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu, as a mainstream female-based product seeding platform, was initially focused only on the beauty and apparel industries. As the platform grew, it later diversified to include more lifestyle-related content such as sports, travel, home furnishing, hotels and restaurants. More than 90% of Xiaohongshu users are females, mostly 25-35 years of age, distributed across first-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The distinctive feature of Xiaohongshu is “recording and sharing life’s beauty”. Influencers on Xiaohongshu are good at creating an atmosphere through storytelling and high-quality pictures. Brand stories can assume the perspective of “creating a better life” to effectively establish a rapport with users and amplify the brand’s values through seeding and interaction operations.

Douyin

Douyin is the most popular short video platform to date The platform encompasses a range of users from the post-50s to the post-00s. The platform has a more balanced gender ratio and a consistently high MAU. Brands from any sector can find their target audience on Douyin. Since Douyin content mainly takes the form of short videos (with the platform rolling out a much less popular photo format), it has a wide advantage when it comes to user immersion. Along with its AI-based interest-driven mechanism, brand story marketing on Douyin can dig deep into the minds of users, using vivid interpretation to attract attention and slowly establish consumer recognition.

Weibo

Of all three platforms mentioned here, Weibo has been around the longest. Most Weibo users are around 20-29 years old, and the proportion of women is slightly higher than that of men. Weibo users include people from a wide range of backgrounds, such as film and television personalities, cultural elites, corporate executives, influencers and the general public. Today’s Weibo is more of an open forum to exchange opinions or to announce grand events, with the ability for brands to launch popular hashtag topics anytime, anywhere. Weibo is a great choice for brands seeking to collaborate with KOLs and KOCs to announce marketing events and share brand stories with a wide audience.

The B2K2C Model: Telling your brand story through KOCs

Nowadays, there are a large number of content creators who come loaded with strong consumption potential and the capacity to influence thousands through unique insights in their respective areas of interest. Most young female consumers search social media for information after hearing about a brand, in particular on Xiaohongshu. Therefore, starting with Xiaohongshu, social media brand marketing strategies have developed into a unique B2K2C (Brand to KOC to Consumer) model.

Instead of KOL, the “K” here refers to KOCs. As key opinion consumers, KOCs are not only actual customers of the brand but are also guides who can endorse the brand, spread brand information and expand consumer groups. In the closed-loop B2K2C link, the brand establishes a reputation in the community through actual, authentic experiences by KOCs to influence the consumption behaviour of more users; these users share their experiences and opinions, shaping the brand and the opinions of other users, forming a positive, growing cycle.

In the process of brand story marketing, KOCs combine their own experiences with the core aspects of the brand story to create and share content. This way, consumers are no longer passive bystanders but become a part of the brand story. The combination of brand and consumer stories is a powerful factor leading new users to choose a brand. Furthermore, existing users will also be more willing to share brand stories thanks to a stronger sense of participation and ownership. In this scenario, KOCs and general consumers play the role of co-creators and witnesses in the communication of brand stories, with their desire to share positive experiences functioning as fuel to drive word-of-mouth dissemination.

Zhang Yong, the founder of Haidilao, operated on the belief that “people are the cornerstone of Haidilao’s business”, Haidilao has since transformed from a four-table shop in Jianyang, Sichuan into a global restaurant chain with a market value of ¥100 billion. The creation and communication of Haidilao’s brand story also focus on humanisation. The brand once created a promotional TVC depicting the negative emotion that a young person suffered alone in the big city, which was all eventually “cured“ by Haidilao. To follow the lead, KOCs then started to share their own touching stories of going to Haidilao alone and being healed emotionally. The B2K2C cycle was then completed by ordinary consumers who could relate to the experiences shared by the KOCs, many of whom were even motivated to share their own heart-warming experiences of going to Haidilao alone when they were depressed. The B2K2C model helps to spread the Haidilao brand story and cements Haidilao’s “healing” and “accompanying” persona in the hearts and minds of consumers.

From the era of hard-sell advertising to the current era of soft-sell advertising, more and more brands have begun to convey brand identity through stories. The brand story is at heart the art of persuasion. It is a method of communication that directly connects the brand with audiences and stimulates the recognition of values. It is also an effective marketing promotion strategy. A brand story can be a narration of the brand’s founding, the biography of an iconic figure at the company, the artistic presentation of the product’s craftsmanship and techniques, the transmission of the brand’s philosophy, or the resonance of a certain emotional memory, to name but a few examples.

Successful story-based brand marketing is not as simple as writing a good article and disseminating it to the public. The process of building a good brand is the process of internalising a unique value proposition in a product through a story. Consumers are buying not only the quality and function of the product itself but also the emotional experience brought by the brand story. Therefore, a successful brand story must not only be cleverly conceived but also properly relayed. Precisely identifying the target audience of the story, selecting the right platform and marketing strategy, and collaborating with KOCs to spread the word are the three main, indispensable steps to successful brand marketing through storytelling.

Although creative, meaningful storytelling is crucial for successful story-based brand marketing, brands should not focus only on creating a unique story and neglect to cultivate the authenticity of the brand’s image. New marketing methods are always emerging as the industry continues to develop, but only by leaving lasting impressions on consumers through sincerity and authentic stories can brands gradually develop a loyal following.

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About 评价达人 – PJdaren:

Since 2016, PJdaren has helped some of the world’s largest brands build trust, collect insights and drive sales in China by engaging Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) through our state-of-the-art influencer marketing solutions.

Our full-service solutions connect brands with our over 4 million-strong KOC and KOL community. We facilitate targeted, authentic conversations and content, enabling brands to capture the market with measurable results.