How to create a compelling brand story

A great brand story will help you build value, engage your current and prospective customers and stand out from the crowd. It’ll help you differentiate yourself from your competitors, perhaps inspire the more visual elements of your brand identity and make your business memorable.

Of course, I’m talking about more than a dry history of your company on your ‘About’ page, I’m thinking about something that’s going to capture the imagination of your customers and build loyalty and love.

You might start thinking about your brand story when you’re styling your brand, and read on for an example of a gin brand who wove their story throughout their packaging. You’ll certainly need to think about your story when you come to plan your website or create the copy for your packaging or promotional literature. So let’s explore what makes a brand story compelling and how you can create something truly exciting for your business.

Let’s start with some inspirational examples…

Grays Farm

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I’m currently working with a dairy farm in Surrey to help them launch a new range of gelato, yoghurt and milk. We’re currently working with a designer to create the visual elements of the brand identity, but just as important for the website and packaging is going to be the copy. Creating a brand voice that communicates effectively and builds a relationship with customers is going to help Gray’s Dairy get to where they want to be much faster.

Here’s the essence of the story, the elements of which we’ll use on the packaging, on the website and also in any promotional literature. Here’s the ‘working’ copy.

Farmed by three generations since 1928, Gray’s Farm is more than a dairy. It’s a story of family, love and legacy. As one of the last family farms surrounding the capital, this new adventure is about building on the knowledge handed down from generation to generation and creating a thriving business for the next.

Brothers James and Robert, along with Rob’s wife Katherine founded Gray’s Dairy in 2014 with a firm commitment to creating deliciously wholesome dairy that’s as good for you as it is flavoursome. As busy parents to three hungry children, Rob and Katherine understand the importance of making food both exciting and nutritious. Taking their inspiration from the land and hedgerows surrounding their National Trust tennant farm, Gray’s Farm gelato will include flavours such as Strawberry Jam, Blackberry and A Mouthful of Farmyard (including chocolate cow pats).

And let’s not forget the cows. Firmly a part of family life, The Gray’s prize-winning Ayrshire herd produce the creamiest, most delicious milk you’ve ever tasted. Perfect for nice but not very naughty gelato, creamy yoghurt or just splashing on your cereal.

Can you see how the personality, values and ethics of the business are told (hopefully) effortlessly through the story? This will certainly need chopping about for use on the side of a small yoghurt pot, but it’s an emotive, engaging and fun story which will help build strong loyalty for the business.

Silent Pool Distillers

Silent Pool are a new gin distillery based in the Surrey Hills and make the most delicious gin, so much so, that I served it at my book launch a couple of weeks back. I fell in love with the bottle and the taste way before I learned about their brand story, but that just makes it altogether more meaningful.

Here’s a part of their story.

Drawn by a common passion for the precision and innovation of craft distilling, a group of friends came together to create a new kind of distillery producing hand-crafted, artisan spirits in a historic location in the Surrey Hills, just a stone’s throw from Central London.

They found an extraordinary location on the Albury Estate, and a site that comprised a number of dilapidated farm buildings right next to the legendary and mythical Silent Pool. These buildings, on the Duke of Northumberland’s Estate, were especially renovated and re-built for them, and today they are the home of Silent Pool Distillers.

You can read the full story on the Silent Pool website but you get the picture. I think this is a great example of how any business can communicate what makes them unique and what drives them forwards in a compelling and interesting way. Even if you run a service based or business to business company, there’s inspiration in this story for you.

The legend of Silent Pool

And then there’s a page on the Silent Pool website marked Legend, which makes me love the whole thing even more.

A sacred site linked to the 13th century, legend tells of a beautiful young woodcutter’s daughter who lived in the forest that surrounds the Silent Pool.

One day she was bathing in the pool. Disturbed by the sounds of an approaching rider on horseback, she found herself without the time to recover her clothes from the bank and so, to protect her modesty, she moved towards the deeper part of the lake. The stranger on the horse saw her and, overcome by her beauty, he moved towards her and tried to lure her out of the water. Startled and frightened, the young woman screamed, and ventured further into the lake where, unable to swim, she drowned. The horseman galloped away, and disappeared into the forest.

Folklore has it that the rider was none other than the evil and cowardly Prince John, unofficial Regent to his popular brother King Richard.

To this day, the ghost of the drowned maiden is said to haunt the lake at midnight. Some say the girl’s pale figure has been seen floating eerily above the misty waters, whilst others claim to have heard her screams as she calls to her father for help.

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Silent Pool have then taken the inspiration from this story, and carried it, and the 24 botanicals in their recipe, through to the design of the bottle. Isn’t it just gorgeous? Illustrated on the label you’ll see the botanicals represented and also King John on his horse, the woodsman and his daughter.

Don’t underestimate the importance of sharing your story and championing what makes you unique, that’s what helps you stand out.

Floret Flower Farm

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Image credits: Floret Flower Farm

I’m a huge fan of Floret Flower Farm: their idyllic lifestyle (to me at least!), magical growing hands and deft floral design just totally captivates me. I was sold just on their imagery but then I actually bothered to read the words on their website and just fell headlong in love with the whole setup. Could there be a more perfect or powerful example of a brand story than this?

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Image credits: Floret Flower Farm

Years ago we left the hustle and bustle of city life and moved to the Skagit Valley to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle for our little family.  We dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from our garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard.  Shortly after we moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that we could plant a garden.  His kindness that day offered a glimpse into what country life would be like.

Tucked among the many vegetables in that early garden was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in honor of my great grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age.  As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table.  While my creations were far from beautiful, she always cooed over them as if they were the most precious things on earth.  Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us.  So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me.  I shared much of the gardens bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path.  

During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend.  I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands.  Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes.  She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden…right then and there I knew I had found my calling.

Creating a compelling brand story is about building trust, loyalty and desire and floret do this in spades. So how can you do the same?

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Image credits: Floret Flower Farm

My top tips for creating a compelling brand story

Consider what makes you unique. Download yourself a copy of my Planning Workbook if you haven’t already and start to unpick your values, your history and your vision. All of this is great fodder for your brand story.

Keep it real. Lose the corporate speak and imagine you’re sitting down and chatting to your ideal customer over a coffee or a glass of wine. How can you enchant them? How do you keep them interested?

Create emotion. All of the stories above work because they draw on our emotions: they create a gut response that builds value and loyalty.

Think of it as a story. This isn’t a history dissertation, it’s a story. You need to keep people interested, take them on a journey and entertain.

Make it relatable. Floret’s story works because their move to the Skagit Valley is a dream many of us can relate to. Finding Home tell a similarly compelling story on their website. It’s nice to support the real people who are working hard to make their dreams happen so celebrate that if your back story is similar.

Over to you.

What else would you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you!

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10 Comments

Jane

Hi Fiona, those brands sound great and I certainly get what you are saying re a connecting story. I’m working through your book trying hard to build a brand identity for my new interior design service. It will be different, I hope, in that it will be a much cooler and more approachable and accessible compared to most other traditional and I think stuffy and pretty boring interior design services out there, however apart from trying to connect on my blog by taking my potential followers on my new biz journey I’m struggling to find an angle. Not sure it will fill my potential clients with confidence knowing it’s a brand new biz, what do you think ?

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FionaHumberstone

Jennifer has written a great answer above – really not very much for me to add! I’d agree that you should celebrate your new business journey – people often love that… Good luck!

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Jennifer

Hi Jane!
I’m sure Fiona will pop in with some great advice but I wanted to say that in my experience, if you have confidence in what you can do, others will too.
As a serial entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to start from zero, especially in industries where you need a portfolio of work to showcase your skills and talent.
I just started a brand new businesses six months ago and had a full client roster within six weeks of launching that is enough work to get me through early fall.

I think that sharing your journey will actually inspire trust in you as a person and if I know anything about being in business, it’s that people like to buy from people 🙂
Having the confidence to be real and upfront about where you’re at is a great way to build trust and respect.
I encourage you to embrace your confidence in your ability and let that shine through your work and site.
People will see that and won’t have a chance to think being brand new is a drawback. 🙂

Oh-and like most things, if you don’t make a big deal about it, no one else will either.

Congrats on the new venture — it sounds like a really amazing new take in an industry where stuffy and boring can be the norm!

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FionaHumberstone

Totally agree! What great advice. The only thing I’d add to that is to focus on talking about your experiences that led you to starting your business and also what inspires you – your creative style. Thank you so much Jennifer x

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dawn

my goodness fiona, i loved those stories, they painted such strong visuals in my mind … i was just thinking similar thoughts this morning that i want to include more ‘feeling’ and ’emotion’ in all my visual outlets (blog, website, instagram) so this was lovely to read 🙂

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Jenni Tulip

I love brand stories and talk about their benefits to the people I work with but the hardest thing, I have found, is writing about myslef! I don’t feel I have a story that represents my business well. I have interesting ‘stuff’ to talk about but linking it to my own brand is so hard. I can help people with their writing but, for some reason, find writing about my offering is hard to do!

Jenni
SocialRocks

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Fiona Humberstone

Always so hard to write about yourself! I struggle with this so much too. I’d suggest you think about why you got started and what makes you passionate about what you do. What do you think your customers are lacking before they work with you and why does it matter? Good luck!

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Thelma L Hamilton

I am working thru How to Style your brand. I have been in the same business for over 25 years. I am feeling led to redirect my focus and yet, I feel very silly that I have not “gotten it together” yet. I am overwhelmed with decisions about words and colors and seasons, oh my!

I bought a new website a couple years ago and paid thousands of $ for it to be built. Now I am thinking it was a huge waste of money. It does not represent me or my focus at all. I wish I had access to a way to put this all together in a timely fashion, simplified.

Thank you so much for offering ideas and posts.

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Fiona Humberstone

Don’t feel silly at all Thelma! You have 25 years of heritage and success to work through and finding your message within that can be a challenge. You’ll find that my new book, Brand Brilliance will really help you sift through all of this and work out what your message should be. And How to Style your Brand will help you work out how your brand should look and feel so that your next website is a more successful one 😉

Do download all of the resources too as they are designed to help you find your focus and your clarity. Enjoy!

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