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Creative Director of ArtVersion, a Chicago design consultancy. We craft ideal user experiences for the world’s most innovative companies.
Stories are universal to the human experience. They have the unique ability to capture the imagination; they can entertain and educate, while at the same time inspire vast numbers of people around the world from generation to generation. Throughout history, influential figures have taken advantage of this incredible power to spread their ideas and forge connections with people.
With all this potential, it is no wonder that stories have also been leveraged as an effective tool for communication in the business world. Even if they might not be aware of it, companies across industries often use storytelling to help their target audiences gain a better understanding of who they are and what they do.
What they may not realize is that they can use the foundations of storytelling to more effectively build and market their brand.
Character Development for Brands
Storytelling can be an incredibly effective tool in building relationships with audiences and establishing resonance. To get the most out of it, businesses first need to understand the specific components that make up a good story and how they can be incorporated within the context of their brand.
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While plot is an undeniably essential aspect of any story, it’s the characters and their associated journeys that take a story to the next level. Characters are the elements within the story that audiences can relate to the most and are the reason why certain stories have stood the test of time. And you can bet that the characters within those stories have solid character development.
The main character is arguably the most crucial piece of the story. If the character development is handled with care, the main character at least will have distinguishable characteristics that make them stand out as well as a goal that drives them throughout their internal journey. These are the pieces that make the story worth telling and have the potential to elevate the story from good to great.
The same principles can be applied to branding. For businesses, your brand is your main character. Therefore, you need to take the time to develop critical elements that transform it into something that audiences can connect with.
To do this, you need to focus on building your brand’s character from the inside out.
Internal Precedes External
There are both internal and external characteristics that contribute to brand identity. It’s the same with characters in a story; they have physical traits that describe their appearance as well as distinctive motivations that inform their personality and actions.
The visual brand elements, such as a logo, are of course important factors that help people associate with your brand. These visual aspects are meant to complement your brand in the same way that they complement a character in a story. But it’s almost impossible to generate an authentic visual representation of your brand character without having something underneath that gives it substance.
In order to create a brand identity that has any sort of depth, you need to first focus on the qualities that make up your brand’s internal journey. That means drilling down to uncover your brand purpose, which is what grounds you to your “story.” You need to spend the time to understand your purpose by clearly defining your brand’s mission and vision. Not only will this help inform the external visual elements for the brand, but it will create a brand character that is multidimensional and meaningful.
Using Purpose as a Driver
When you think about the characters in your favorite stories, you’ll probably notice that a lot of emphasis is placed on their overarching goal or objective. This could also be described as their purpose, or internal journey, which works to motivate and guide them throughout the entirety of the plot. It’s also what grounds the character in the story and helps explain to readers why the story exists in the first place. This is often the intriguing component that inspires readers to finish the story.
The same is true for brands. Your purpose is your brand’s mission and vision. This can sometimes get confused with financial goals or short-term objectives. But in order to be successful in the long run, your purpose should get to the root of why you exist as a brand. What do you hope to accomplish for your audience or for society as a whole? Defining your purpose from the start helps to not only justify any actions you may take as a business but helps to guide those actions as well. You can make more informed and effective business decisions if you are grounded in genuine purpose. It provides a solid foundation for your brand to build on and allows you to adapt more efficiently when necessary.
Not only that, but this will help you build authentic connections with your audience. If you are entirely focused on your overall mission and vision, you’ll naturally create a brand that resonates with the people who believe in that same cause. A great plot can be wasted on empty characters. In the same way, a product or service is essentially meaningless unless it is grounded by a purpose that people can connect with.
With so many brands in the marketplace, you need to create something that stands out in order to connect with people. Spending the time to develop a unique brand “character” that is both grounded by a genuine internal purpose and supported by meaningful external elements gives audiences a reason to follow along with your story. In this way, your brand has a real chance of resonating and creating a lasting legacy.
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Author: Goran Paun, Forbes Councils Member