Creating Your Brand Story
There are 6 key elements that make up your brand story or identity.
- Your Purpose or ‘Why’
- Your Promise or Unique Value Proposition
- Your Core Values
- Your Personality
- Your Ideal Customer Profile
- Your Visual Identity - Logo, Colors, Design
In this exercise, we’ll walk you through each of these elements to help you create and define what your brand is about. This is the most important part of any branding project.
After you've completed this exercise, you will have a completed Brand Story Brief.
That Brand Story Brief will be the foundation and guide for everything you do in your business.
You can signup to download the worksheets that go with this exercise, along with the complete Branding Field Guide at the bottom of this page.
“People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Simon Sinek is best known for his Ted Talk “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
According to Sinek, the the most innovative, successful people and companies start by defining their 'Why.' The Why is their mission, or reason for being.
“Your Why is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do” – Simon Sinek
For example, The ‘Why’ behind Tom’s Shoes and Warby Parker is a socially conscious one. Tom’s donates shoes to people in need, and Warby Parker donates glasses to people who don’t have access to eye care.
Action Item: Define your ‘Why’What is the purpose and the motivation behind what you do? What do you believe? What gets you up in the morning and gets you excited? Start with some “I believe/we believe” statements. When doing this also keep in mind the following: more importantly, why should anyone care? Your Why needs to connect with the market you are trying to reach.
Your Unique Differentiator
In a world where no one ‘needs’ what you have to offer, you have to have something that makes you different in order to stand out. What’s the one thing you want to be known for that differentiates you from everyone else? Why should someone choose you over a competitor?
You will never be noticed if all you are doing is the same thing that everyone else is doing. Your Why is a big part of what makes you different.
Blue Ocean is about looking for opportunities. Trying to compete with competitors in an overcrowded marketplace and fighting over a shrinking customer pool results in nothing but a bloody red ocean. Instead of playing the same game as your competitors you should be looking for Blue Oceans of growth. By creating a new space in the market and unique differentiator, the competition is irrelevant.
Purple Cow is about making your brand more remarkable.
"Cows, after you've seen them for awhile, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.
The world is full of boring stuff — brown cows — which is why so few people pay attention. Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service.” Seth Godin
Your differentiator is your unique value promise. Think of it as your 'elevator' speech, or short unique description of what you do.
Like a short statement based on this template.
“For [insert Target Market], the [insert Brand] is the [insert Point of Differentiation] among all [insert Frame of Reference] because [insert Reason to Believe].”
Here’s an example from Amazon:
“For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.”
Your Unique Differentiator
Your Core Values
Being about something means you have very distinctive values.
What do you stand for? A value should be something you live by.
Many successful brands rally their customers around shared values. When customers choose a particular brand over another, they are buying the values that are important to them.
Your Core Values
Action Item: What are your core valuesWhat do you stand for? A value should be something you live by. When creating your values, ask yourself:
- Is this value genuine?
- Does it feel compelling to you – could you live this every day in both your business and personal life?
- Will it mean anything to your ideal clients?
- Is it relevant to your brand?
- Does it make you different?
- Are these values sustainable?
Your Brand Personality
Your brand personality is your voice, tone, style and the more detailed traits of your brand.
This video presentation by Kate Spade's CMO is one of the best lessons on how to create a brand voice that resonates with your customers. Kate Spade’s brand voice reflects its target customers’ lifestyles, and they infuse that into everything they do on social media and in person.
MailChimp’s Voice and Tone Guide is a fantastic example of how they infuse their personality throughout their communication and content.
Another way to define your brand and personality is through archetypes. Archetypes can help define who you are and help you connect with customers on an emotional level.
The presentation below is based on the book: The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.
It's an excellent resource for creating and defining your own brand archetypes.
Sally Hogshead's 49 Personality Archetype Matrix is another great tool for helping you figure out both your personal and business brand.
Your Brand Personality
Action Item: Who are you? Define your personality or Archetype
Are you friendly? Fashionable? Creative? Rebellious? Fun? Crazy?
What words describe you? What’s your tone of voice – funny, serious, clever, cool, in-your-face?
Your Target (Ideal) Customer Profile
A key part of your brand story is knowing exactly who your ideal customer is. No one can successfully target everyone (or they will end up reaching no one).
Creating a detailed target customer profile, or persona, gives a face and personality to your target customer.
Really knowing who you want to target will help you reach the right audience with your marketing.
Creating a profile should go beyond just basic demographics, and should focus on their emotional needs and drivers.
Examples of target customer personas
Free People Girl
Free People’s brand story is created around the experience of being a Free People Girl, who is their target customer.
“The Free People Girl is a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic. A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between. Who loves Donovan as much as she loves The Dears, and can’t resist petting any dog that passes her by on the street.
Today we draw, design, sew and buy for her. We offer her countless options within our own Free People collection, so that even if she takes her best pal shopping, they won’t come out looking at all alike. And if she wants her colors and patterns all mixed up, that’s even better, picking through our sweaters, knits and skirts. And our design team is expecting to offer even greater variety in our intimates and accessories business.” Free People http://www.freepeople.com
Free People uses their blog and social media as a place where their Free People Girl can be a part of that story. Everything they share, each image, blog post, video or social update is relevant to her, and it connects her with their brand.
“Building 25 is where the magic of Free People happens. In the Navy Yard on the edge of Philadelphia a cluster of renovated warehouses sit alongside the Delaware River, and in one of them a group of young, fashionable, creative people – mostly women – delve into the details of living the life of the Free People girl. We sort through fabric swatches, take photos, share ideas, video, art, food and culture, and travel the world in search of inspiration to create fashion that reflects our creative, independent, impressively-bold and free-spirited FP girl.
The BLDG 25 Blog is a way for us to open the doors of our home to let you peek inside, come in, and hang out for a while. We wanted to create a place that merged our worlds and offered insight into the illuminating culture of Free People. We hope that this blog inspires you to embark on creative, fun, enlightened, and fashionable adventures each day, and that you return again to share your experiences with us” Free People, Building 25
"She is a Young Professional in a city: maybe in the public eye, maybe a writer, a docent, or program director at a charitable organization. She is invested in her work.
She loves Art and Entertainment, is engaged in Fashion, and is Culturally Curious. She is a Downtown girl with an Uptown sensibility.
The Kate Spade New York Girl
• Is Culturally Curious
• Participates in Life to the Fullest
• Writes Her Own Story
• Likes to Stand Out in a Crowd
She is quick and curious and playful and strong. She is a voracious reader and a fantastic dancer. She saves old snapshots but loses her umbrella. Her emails pile up but she never forgets to call her grandmother. She has $7 in change at the bottom of her handbag." Kate Spade
The Persona Project by Jason Travis
Jason Travis’ created photographic personality profiles of his subjects.
“By photographing an individual and the items he or she carries with them, Jason reveals a portion of their identity. Things normally kept private in the folds of a bag are made spectacle, giving insight into each person’s style, interests, and personality.”
“Learning about my subjects through glimpses at their daily essentials gives me a direct line into their lives. Accompanied by conversation, I always get a unique story as well.” Jason Travis’ Persona Project
MailChimp Persona Project
Jason Travis also worked with MailChimp to create posters that represented their customer personas. The posters were displayed in their offices, with that by doing so their ideal customer will always stay in the front of people’s minds.
Your Target Customer Profile
Action Item: Create a profile of your customer
Create a profile of your ideal customer that goes beyond just basic demographics. Think behavior and psychographics, as well as emotional drivers. Your Why.
Focus on their likes and dislikes, their problems and solutions, and not just on their features (though these are important as well). You need to describe your ideal target customer in such a way that it seems like an actual, real person – or persona.The following questions will get you started:
- If your brand was a person, who would that person be?
- Where do they shop?
- Where do they hangout online and off?
- How would they talk?
- What music do they listen to?
- How do they dress?
- Are they active in social causes (if so, what)?
- How do they feel about the future/what are their plans?
- What are their key characteristics? i.e. Optimistic, Fashionable, Athletic, Outgoing, Shy, Intellectual, etc. (list as many as you like)
- What are their frustrations - what are they not getting that they want or need?
- What are their trigger words? i.e. Free, Cool, Latest, etc.
- What are their values?
- What brands and companies do they like/trust/believe in?
- What drives them to ‘want’ something?
- What else can you think of to describe your ideal customer?
- What would your ideal client say about you after any interaction with you?
- What kind of customer do you not want? i.e. People who are always looking for the cheapest deal. People who have seen everything and are surprised and delighted by little. Non-tech savvy etc
Your brand story is one of the most important things you can do for your business. It’s the foundation for success in everything you do.
Even if you’re just getting started and you don’t have lot of money to hire a professional to design your brand, having a story will help you connect with the right client. Which will help your business grow much faster.
If you haven't already done so, download the free worksheets that go with this exercise, along with the complete Branding Field Guide at the bottom of this page.