This review outlines the key messages in “Building a Story Brand: Clarify your message so customers will listen”. Donald Miller is an American author who runs a podcast of the same name. He has written a variety of books over the years (I remember reading “Blue like Jazz” about 15 years ago).
The premise is that you can approach telling your brand by thinking about the story that your customers can resonate with. So what are the drivers behind people making decisions to purchase a product or engage you to provide services? The promise is that the book will transform how you think about who you are, what you do and the unique value that you can bring to your customers.
It all boils down to the fact that movies are predictable, but we still go see them, because we identify with the narrative arc of the characters even if we know how it ends. Think about romantic comedies, buddy films, superheroes – they all are basically very similar. The introduction lays out the premise: “This is not a book about telling your company’s story … customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own. Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand. That is the secret every phenomenally successful business understands.”
So the central theme is clear – put you customer’s stories above your own. The question is how you go about doing that and the guidance takes the form of a framework. Underpinning that is the principle that you need to explain how your company will help people survive and thrive and explain that in a simple way. The example given is Apple, which went from advertising with long articles about technical specifications to simply two words on a billboard: “Think different”. They realised that communication needed to be simple and ‘tell the story’ of how their product could help the consumer become the hero. Buying a product became about being an alternative thinker. Amazing really. They clarified the role they can play in their customers life and communicated that simply.
So down to the actual framework proposed, the key point is that every story has the following elements and you need to tell your story so it resonates with each of these points:
1. A Character – The customer is the hero, not your brand
2. Has a problem – Customers buy solutions to their problems
3. Meets a guide – Customer wants help from a guide (Yoda)
4. Who gives them a plan – Someone who offers a plan is trusted
5. And calls them to action – Needs some challenge from the guide to take action
6. That helps avoid failure – The customer wants to avoid a tragic ending
7. And ends in success – Tell the customer how their lives can be changed
In working out how your brand will do the above the book also looks at websites and notes that they should clearly state what the offer is eg “We help you cook like a pro” or “We make better websites”. So the idea here is that the website itself should be aspirational, promise to solve a problem, state what they do, and have obvious calls to action.
The last part of the book deals with the fact that if you can tell the story well then it will also be useful for your team to understand how they fit in the scheme of things. So, this can help call people back to the mission of the company – which may not have been clear in the first place.
I found this book was interesting to read through because so much of it made logical sense but I hadn’t seen it expressed in the way it was here before. I recommend it if you are looking at your own branding and messaging and thinking about how that could be improved.
Note: While this was not a legal book or a review focusing on legal issues we see the “telling the story” as an issue all of our clients face. So, we hope this summary is a useful tool for you as you revisit how you are telling your story in the market. Do you know a book we should review here? Drop us a line and let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org