Why Brand Storytelling is a Lot Like Going to a Public Pool

  • Brand storytelling humanizes businesses and makes them more engaging to consumers.
  • Asking yourself honest, thorough questions about your brand’s identity is critical to shaping your brand narrative.
  • Not everyone is going to identify with your brand, and that’s the point.
  • This article is for business owners looking to expand their reach through brand storytelling.

The temperature’s right. You’re feeling good about yourself. You grab a bottle of sunblock, do several pushups and a 30 second plank, and then head to the neighborhood pool.

Now that you’re here, you’re second guessing yourself. Should you really take off your swim cover? Should you really get in the water? Is that really just a stick floating in the corner? But you’ve come so far, it’s 87 degrees, and if your 9 year old can cannon ball herself onto the suspiciously floating tube, you can at least get your toes wet.

So you smile at your daughter, pull off your swim cover, and have a great afternoon connecting with other nervous parents and watching your kids make new friends.

There’s really not much difference between doing all that and brand storytelling. Here’s why.

every good brand story’s got a little nudity

If you’re ready to really develop your brand’s story, you’ve got to get down to the skin of it.

Let’s say your brand sells handmade wall art. There’s a huge market for wall art, so a lot of people are going to be interested in checking out your products.

The problem is that you’re one of many, many, many brands jostling for the same customers. If you’re a small, local shop, you’re competing against brands with big names and big advertising budgets. Is it even worth telling your brand’s story?

Actually, defining and sharing your brand story is your best shot at competing. So get ready to expose yourself. The more honest you can be about your brand’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses, the more you’ll be able to grow your business.

Dog jumping into pool thinking, I'm feeling a little exposed. Metaphor for brand storytelling and vulnerability.

To begin developing your brand narrative, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the problem my brand solves?
  • Who are all the types of people who have this problem?
  • Do I care about these people? Why do I care?
  • What are my brand’s weaknesses? Where do I lack experience and skills?
  • What are my blindspots? What people and problems do I struggle to consider?
  • What’s my plan to strengthen those weaknesses and eliminate the blindspots?
  • What are all the different ways that I can share my brand’s story? Blogs? Podcasts? YouTube videos? Instagram carousels? Memes? Press releases? Newsletters?

Let’s be frank. You started your brand to make a living. Yes, you’d like to make some money. Maybe you want to make a lot of money. But there are a whole bunch of ways to make money in this world. So why’d you launch your brand?

If you can honestly answer the questions at the start of your brand’s story, you’ll begin to understand its unique value. And yeah – you’ve gotta believe that your brand is uniquely valuable if you really want to sustain your business.

It might sound cheesy, but there’s no other snowflake showing up at the pool quite like you. Some people will ignore you. Some will judge you. But if you know what mission your brand is on, you’ll attract the crowd that was already hoping you’d show up.

brand stories invite judgement

Now let’s play a game of multiple choice. Which of the the following is not a good reason to go to the pool?

A. Because you want to go to the pool.

B. Because the people in your family want to go to the pool.

C. Because your friends want to go to the pool.

D. Because the Joneses are going to the pool.

If you said D, we’re on the same page. Your time is limited, so you have to really define who it’s for. The Joneses aren’t the right priority.

That’s how you can think about crafting your brand story.

Two hippos in water. One shouting, the flamingo float, honey, not the donut. The other mostly submerged hippo saying, Please stop omg. Metaphor for brand storytelling inviting judgement.

Brand storytelling is most effective when you know what you value as a brand and why that should matter to your customers. Except you’re going to struggle to build that brand narrative if you don’t know who your customers are likely to be.

Let’s say you’re a local real estate investment company looking to build a portfolio of small multifamily properties. The purpose of your website is to attract private partners, people who loan you capital for your next investment deal. Here are the questions you should be thinking about as you shape your website copy:

  • What’s your real estate investment company’s origin story, and what does it say about your brand’s identity?
  • Who are the people who might be interested in investing with you? Where do they live? How old are they? Where do they work? Why do they want to invest in real estate? Why should they invest in real estate?
  • What is holding those people back from investing? What’s holding them back from investing in your brand?
  • What are your brand’s values? Why should a private lender trust your real estate investment company over a more experienced one with a larger portfolio?

If you answer those questions honestly, you should be able to evaluate whose judgement matters to you, and whose you can let go.

The water’s fine

A lot of businesses struggle with brand storytelling. They know their products and their services, but they don’t necessarily know what they stand for outside of making money by selling those goods. If you lack a compelling brand story, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one. You do. Every brand has a story to tell.

Knowing what questions to ask, taking the time to thoroughly and honestly answer them, and crafting the copy necessary to carry your message isn’t easy. Think inflating three pool floats, packing enough water and snacks, confirming that everyone is appropriately sun-blocked and clothed, and making sure no one drowns or gets left behind.

It takes work. But brand storytelling is one of the most effective ways to show consumers that you care about the things that are important to them.

Picture of cat looking into pool saying what is this sorcery? I will make it my slave. An metaphor for using brand storytelling.

Getting honest, figuring out your brand’s story, and then finding the courage to actually share it… over and over and over again… is a lot like dressing down into a swimsuit and showing up slathered in zinc oxide in front of a whole bunch of strangers every weekend.

In both cases, you’re going to vacillate between feeling like a rockstar living your best life and a total fraud trapped in a vortex of capitalism and patriarchy. It’s stressful. But it works.

The consumers in your market? They’re human, just like you. If you can provide a product or service that they need and connect with them at the human level, you’ll find that you attract far more people to your business than you thought possible, and you didn’t have to change yourself to do it.

You just had to be you.

Let’s Work Together

Dianna K Benjamin Indianapolis freelance writer and freelance copywriter

Hi! I’m Dianna, a freelance writer in the Indianapolis area.

If you’ve got a unique product and powerful story but not enough time or expertise to give your brand the copy it deserves, check out my copywriting services. I’d love to showcase your brand through writing.

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