Imagine I presented you with a graph, and then two weeks later, I asked you to tell me what was on that graph. Would you be able to do it? Now imagine the same scenario with a story instead of a graph. For most of us, the story would be easier to remember. That’s because stories are a fundamental part of how we experience the world. Stories evoke emotion, help us relate, and help us remember. Most importantly, stories influence how we make our decisions, which is why it’s so important for every business to harness the power of their own story.
Businesses and brands should start by focusing on their origin story. Unlike a company bio, an origin story shouldn’t focus on how a business got started. Instead, a good origin story should focus on why a business got started.
Start with the Problem
Every good story starts with a problem. In storytelling, the problem is referred to as the inciting incident. The inciting incident, as the name implies, is an incident that incites the initial action of the story. This is the part of the story that hooks the audience and sets the rest of the plot into motion. See if you recognize some of these famous inciting incidents:
A university football coach noticed that his players weren’t staying hydrated no matter how much water they drank, so he paired with the university to develop a better form of hydration. (Gatorade)
A Stanford computer science lab manager wanted a better way to communicate with his wife 500 yards across campus, so he figured out a way to connect two local networks. (Cisco)
A traveling salesman noticed that shaving required people to constantly sharpen their razors, which gave him the idea of creating a disposable razor. (Gillette)
These brand stories work well because they present two things, a problem to solve and a character to root for.
Use Plot Complications to Show Value
Plot complications represent challenges the main character has to overcome before reaching the final resolution. In a brand origin story, these are the challenges a business faces while developing their product. Challenges keep the audience engaged throughout the story and add to the perceived value of the overall product.
Sharing plot complications may mean sharing failures with your audience, and that’s not a bad thing. While failures shouldn’t be the focus of a brand story, they add depth and perspective, and in the end, audiences love an underdog.
Keep It Honest
A story doesn’t have to be overplayed to be good. Businesses should focus on showing the passion behind their brand’s inception. Creating a good origin story is about showing the reason why a business is around and why their product is valuable. As long as those two things are accomplished, the story doesn’t need extra flair.
That doesn’t mean a story shouldn’t be entertaining. It is still a story, after all.
Keep it Simple
Being wordy often takes away from a story more than it adds to it. You don’t want your audience to feel disoriented by overly big words and flowery language. Being casual and using casual language makes a brand seem personable, which makes it easier for audiences to connect.
And don’t be afraid to write in first person. First person writing sounds more natural in a brand story. Writing in third person makes the narrative sound disembodied and not associated with the actual business.
Differentiate Your Business from Competitors
A brand origin story should show why a business is unique from what’s already out there. This is a business’ chance to stand out—whether it’s a difference in the final product, business processes, fundamental goals, or price. Businesses should dig deep to show how they are different.
Consider Adding a Community-Focused Angle
Many brand origin stories incorporate a community-focused element. Maybe a brand does philanthropic outreach, or maybe products are made through green or environment-conscious processes. Whatever the case, having this element shows how a brand gives back and adds to the actual depth of the brand story. Plus, having a community-focused angle gives your audience another reason to root for your company.
Always Come Back to the Why
At the end of the day, the goal of a brand origin story is to share the spark and passion of a business with their audience. A good brand story communicates why a business matters in a way that resonates. That’s the whole point of the story.