Branding Basics 02 – Branding & the Power of Storytelling

The other week we focused on what defines a brand, touching on the brand DNA: Vision, Mission, Values and Promise. This week’s journal focuses on Brand”ING” - the process by which you portray yourself to your audience and the power of storytelling - the pinnacle of marketing here at Attitude Design . It is these processes that I want to touch on as we go through our series of branding basics.

Branding - defining your brand

Branding is an important part of your marketing. Your brand is what your audience think and feel about you. As I like to put it sometimes “your brand is not what you say, its what they say”. Branding though, is the process by which you portray yourself to your audience as you seek to influence this. Branding is all about what you say and how you say it.

So, “how do I create a brand?” you may ask. I’ve already touched on the key steps to the ingredients of a brand in this post, and so this week I am going to expand on these key ingredients.

You’ve got to really define things- below we have set out the x4 core areas of a brands DNA. See if you can define your brand in the light of the below topics:


It’s really imperative that you do have a vision - this is your end goal. The ultimate goal is to have a clear vision of what you believe in and what you want to achieve. This will form the compass point in order to help you check your decisions are on track and inline with the vision. It will also help to define your finish line. It is often a brands “vision” which helps to differentiate it from it’s competitors


Secondly, we come onto your mission. Now we have defined what we want to achieve, how are we going to do that? Our mission is how we are going to fulfil that vision.


Then we come onto your values - what underlying values will we stick to whilst performing our mission? What is our culture, what is our belief system, our ethics?


The final one then is your promise. Your promise is based on your values, meaning that if your values are engaging, enriching, adventurous and exciting, then your promise has got to reflect this.

So then, this is how you see your brand. Defining the above will help you decide on who you are but as I touched on last time, really it’s about what other people say about you. For them to believe the things you have set out in your brand DNA you have to live and breath them. The REALITY has to fit with your definition of yourself. If it does not then customers will have a negative view of your brand. If you fulfil and embody your brand DNA customers will be satisfied, loyal and supporters of your brand.

The Power of Storytelling

There are many different ways you can look to influence your audience with the vision of your brand. Any contact they have with you will contribute towards this.

However one way which I want to deal with is what we consider as the real pinnacle of marketing here at Attitude Design - the power of story telling.

As children, we all loved stories, and the stories we loved best were the ones where we aspired to be like the heroes and engaged with it on that level. People remember stories more than they remember facts and figures. Storytelling is the most ancient form of marketing, the sharing of ideas through storytelling has been utilised since creation, and is still at work today, with the added platform of social media now being used to share these engaging stories with others.

The challenge is, can we take our brand and, as we articulate that to our audience, can we articulate it through a story that they can engage with, perhaps with heroes and villains that our audience can relate to on different levels? If we can do this, we’ll find that we can actually get a much higher level of engagement and loyalty from our audience.

This is what best selling author Seth Godin says about this - “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but the story you tell.” As I mentioned last week, sometimes we can have a very short-term view of what we’re offering, but what is the story behind what we’re offering? Your story is what is going to set you apart, and how you tell that story is absolutely crucial, because people buy into your brand not because of the what, but because of the why. If people believe in your organisation - what it’s doing, why it was founded, why all the staff are there and what everybody is trying to achieve, if they believe in the ‘why’, then the ‘what’ is an offshoot from that. The what can change over time (e.g. products) but the why should be set in stone over the long term.

Examples of brands who tell stories

Brands have adopted this technique of storytelling to market their brand for years. For example, a few years back the Apple brand ran an advertising campaign about “Mr. PC” and “Mr. Apple”. Mr. PC was a pretty standard, boring old chap, and Mr. Apple was cool and hip and they were talking between themselves. What Apple were doing there was telling a story about their product and how it fitted in and they were trying to engage with all the hip, young people. Apple weren’t actually promoting their products here, they were promoting their brand through this story. It’s very interesting that a lot of people buy into brands like Apple not because of the specific device, but because of the story they’ve been told.

Another example is Gucci handbags. You can buy a replica handbag from many “black market” places, but people don’t really want that. Why? Because they know it’s a fake and thy feel a bit dirty about it. Why do they feel a bit dirty about it? Because the story that they’ve been sold about this high quality, high living fashionable lady is genuine, and that brand has told that narrative to them. This means that they can’t deal with a substitution, even though the bag will do exactly the same thing.


Conclusion - what’s your story?

Terry Pratchett once said - “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” What he was saying there is that people are shaped by stories - the research shows that people connect with a story, with a narrative that fits with their own narrative and aspirations.

In effect what we do as humans is create a “reality” about ourselves, a story. We then seek to connect with ideas and other stories which fit with our view of ourselves. If a brand therefore tells a story which aligns with ours then we a re more likely to buy into it.

So, if I see myself as a trendy young person, then Apple is the thing for me, because it fits with my story. If I see myself as a fashionable lady (which I don’t by the way!) then a Gucci handbag would be the thing for me. We connect with brands because of the stories that they’re telling that we want to associate with.

If we can tell a story, then we’re going to get more people engaging with our brand. It’s all about connecting and knowing your audience. The truth is that, once you know your story, you can then work on telling that story. So when you brief a design agency like mine on a leaflet etc, you’ve already got the key things that we need to bring in, that narrative as well as the short term.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to join me soon for the third in our ongoing - Branding Basics series - when we will be looking at testing your branding. 

Matt Davies

Creative Director

Matt Davies