Sarah Trad Co-owner, Closed Captions Communications walks us through why a brand story is as important as its name and logo, and what to focus on while writing yours.
It’s poetic to talk about souls and discovering your brand’s exquisite essence before revealing it to the world. But what is a “soul,” and why does it matter so much?
As a journalist by training and practice, I have a lot of questions. When I started dabbling with creative writing for restaurants, it was mainly to uplift their menus or their company’s corporate decks. Until one day, when I found myself facing the most challenging yet prosperous project: creating the personality and tone of voice, along with writing the brand story, mission statement, and values, for a brand new Mediterranean restaurant to be opened in The Palm, Jumeirah.
That day, and for a month after, questions poured on me like the green code lines from the Matrix. I went on an educational journey focused on branding, creative narrative for companies, the F&B sector in the MENA, and the simplest quest that combines them all, how to bring out the best of a company through genuine words.
As someone who months later chose to courage through impostor syndrome and into the “business owner” world with my older brother, by launching our own branding narrative studio, I’ll lay out what a brand story is as simply as I can.
- It answers questions. The who, what, where, when, and most importantly why, should all be answered within a brand story. Merge your company’s core values as well, even if not explicitly.
- It reads well. A story audacious enough to request people’s attention better be a good, well-written one.
- It shows a human face. Companies are entities; a space with employees who work to produce a service/product. Brands are ideologies; a realm where supporters meet on common ground and indirectly help the brand grow bigger and better.
- It focuses on customers. A company is built to either serve the ego of its owner or the needs of people. Choosing the latter is wiser.
- It entices a switch. Not only will your company offer similar services/products to your competitors, but it will also share the same customer base. You want them to switch? You gotta show them your unique selling propositions (USPs).
Some out-of-touch companies put the “why” aside while, in fact, it’s the most genuine answer to that question that attracts people. Why are you in this business? Why should I care about yet another restaurant by the sea? Why should I become your customer? The switch from brand to brand is not easy, and most probably your company did not invent or discover the wheel, which means you’ll be jumping into already populated waters in almost all fields. The least you could do is be genuine with your intentions and purpose.
How about how to write a story for a brand? I’ll use the restaurant as an example:
- Knead in the brand’s personality and tone of voice. Anything and anyone without a personality is too bland to demand attention, let alone loyalty. When I was working on that first project, the restaurant that had me discover the depth of branding and its amazing impact, I had to detail out who she is, what her personality is like, and how she communicates with people. (Yes, “she” because she’s a person who’s inviting you to her fresh banquet by the sea.) Within the personality exercise, I graded from 1 to 10 the following character traits: Excitement, Ruggedness, Sincerity, Competence, and Sophistication. Then, I filled them out with more details based on how I see her. For her ruggedness score, she nailed a 3/10 because even though one can swim and enjoy the sand while eating, the place remains upscale and neat, with certain high standards. As for the tone of voice exercise, I delegated adjectives to each of the following: Character, Tone, Language, and Purpose. Her tone is straightforward, fun, and inviting, while the language she uses is clear, persistent, and occasionally witty. These will help later on with social media and marketing campaigns and will set out the tone to be used throughout all communications.
- Have your target audience in mind. When writing, the community you’re aiming to build should stay in mind. She welcomes everyone, from couples and big groups to children and pets. Instead of listing them one by one to prove to readers that the restaurant is inclusive, I merged them into the story along with what cuisine is being offered and within what atmosphere. The glue to it all would be making the reader feel the vibes they will dine in, imagine the scenery that’ll surround them, and decide for themselves what values they’ll be gaining by choosing this specific restaurant.
- Use complex descriptions through simple language. Adding colour to a story makes all the difference. It’s been scientifically proven that engaging stories affect the mind in ways that make the person friendlier, more generous, and receptive to information. Still, simplicity is highly reliable when talking to an ocean of diverse people, so shelve the literary complex terms and analogies.
- Explain the problem and the solution. In every story, there’s a protagonist facing an issue and venturing into solving it. With this restaurant, the conflict is finding an upscale space that can accept kids, pets, and people in informal/beach wear (though this is not explicitly mentioned); the climax is the birth of the place with its all-welcoming vibes; the resolution is a spacious restaurant with indoor and outdoor areas, a beach lounge, and a smoothie bar to fit everyone’s taste.
People don’t want to be told who you are or what they should think of you. When you meet someone for the first time, their impression on you is based on your own preferences, not theirs. With how advanced and analytical we’ve become, it’s slightly harder to fall for lies or inflated truths. Marty Neumeier, a branding genius whose many talents and insights propelled Silicon Valley companies into branding competition back in the 80s, has summed up the company-customer relationship in two sentences: “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” Focus on the reason why you exist (customers’ needs) and why you’ll be making money and helping your employees learn (customers’ money and feedback), and you should be good no matter how small or big your company gets.