The truth of brand stories

While brands are mostly created in our minds, it’s still beneficial for companies to put effort in their brand storytelling. Emma Autio and Tero Huovinen share some thoughts about why we need brand stories and how to make them good.

Nobody wants to get caught lying, but if good stories happen to those who can tell them, is it really necessary for the story to be totally true? In their article HS Visio asked if brand stories need to be true. We think that in brand work it’s good to follow an old rule, according to which a brand story needs to be inspiring, differentiating and true. Writing a story for any brand at this time requires more and more substance knowledge and deep understanding of sustainability, regulation, context, value chains and reasons behind behavioral change. A creative idea is not enough and a copywriter can’t write the story on their own. Scenario-thinking, fact checking and acid-testing should be an inseparable part of any story-writing process.

All brands don’t even need a story, but every one of them needs storytelling. A good story helps in creating value alongside the hard KPIs. A good story reduces volatility and helps to argue for also the more difficult decisions that need to be made. With consumer brands the actual history and reasons for founding the company in the first place are usually a big part of their identity, and also something that a possible new owner is willing to pay for. But in B2B companies it’s the future and concrete steps towards it that count which is why their stories tend to be more imaginative.

The process for creating brand stories is one of those rare moments, when a busy management team is forced to stop and think about their company’s true strengths. Those that you can’t find from balance sheets and income statements. Difficult questions will be asked from them: why do you stand out from the competition? How come you are more innovative than others? What is special about your culture? You say sustainability is at the core of your strategy, how? And in a proper brand story all of these questions should be answered in an emotionally appealing way.

A good brand story does not only simplify the company’s offering into an understandable format for external audiences, but also unlocks ideas and excitement in the hearts and minds of the management and the employees. And it should also provide an inspiring starting point for drafting a story to other stakeholders such as investors, media and for example NGOs. In the best case, the story resonates among all stakeholders, also known as the people. It makes them feel something. They take the story and make it their own, and tell it forward.

Emma Autio is a creative brand builder, trusted advisor & master of disaster with strong design background. Emma runs Miltton’s brand consulting business and is especially excited in using brand development tools on the roads less travelled. Emma believes kindness & quality can go hand in hand.

Tero Huovinen is a senior advisor and business leader with more than 20 years of experience in global, stock-listed companies. Helping businesses from demanding crisis situations to brand development. Investor brand building and identifying companies’ true strengths makes Tero tick.