5 Key Elements to Building a Brand Story

Len Jacobson


Brand Story Strategist Len Jacobson from StoryWorks enthralled the Friday morning Innovate Pasadena capacity crowd at the Cross Campus offices.  Who knows how long he spoke because he was endlessly entertaining and charming while delivering a very powerful message about the importance of having a real and true story about your company and brand.

What is a brand story?  To answer this, Len told the story of Method cleaning products whose early risqué ad showed a naked couple cleaning.  “So gentle you can clean naked,” said the ad.   Today, every page of the Method web site is infused with a descendent of that basic idea, now articulated as “Clean Happy.”

The founder of Method asked Len to test something: clean a bathtub with a popular bathtub cleaner and, half an hour later, run your finger across the clean surface.  Behold the powdery residue.  Then, imagine filling that bathtub with water and immersing a baby in it.  Not something you want to do.  That, the founder told Len, is what their product is fighting for.

Here are Len’s 5 Key elements of building a story for your brand and company.

  1. Find the Drama: This is central to every kind of story-telling.  Method, as an example, has the drama of making baths better for babies. Where is the fight? What needs to be overcome?
  2. Write the story standing in your customer’s shoes: Len called this the 180 degree rule.  Instead of making it all about you, think about it from other people’s perspectives.
  3. Make it Sticky: Clean Happy is a pretty sticky idea.  So is Think Different.  Sticky helps it be more viral, too.
  4. Don’t stand on a soapbox:  It’s not about telling people your story.  Nowadays, the story is interactive and your market is helping build the story.
  5. It’s a journey not a destination: the brand story isn’t written and then put on a shelf.  It morphs over time.  It responds to events in the market and in the world.

“We crave meaningful connections, not data exchanges,” Len said.  But, clearly data is also important because I also took this somewhat ironic note: “Stories are 22x more memorable than facts and figures.”

But, brand stories are not just something to help your customers understand you better.  A good brand story, says Len, aligns the often disconnected parts of your organization.

Here’s an interesting idea I picked up from the Storyworks web site: if you were to have everyone at your company tweet what your company is about, would you worry about the results?


You can find Storyworks on the web at http://www.storyworks.net.