How to tell an authentic brand story (and step away from brands that don’t)

Let’s explore what authentic storytelling is, and how you can begin to explore what that means for your brand

Yoyo Meeting

Somewhat ironically, businesses and teams who have the most genuine and authentic story to tell - seem to often struggle to tell it the most. When we’re out at a restaurant or a party, it can be either a re-charging and inspiring honour to listen to someone who is truly passionate talking about their life's purpose, or their favourite hobby. However, as much as it can be all of those things, context matters. Let’s explore what authentic storytelling is, and how you can begin to explore what that means for your brand. 

Authenticity is all about context

When we aren’t at a social event, and instead looking to have a need met - (and the likelihood is, your users are) we seek something else. If I were to go to the pharmacy  in need of allergy medication I would need to communicate with the pharmacist behind the desk. As I stand before them, snotty and red-eyed - I likely do not want to hear at that moment, all about why they became a pharmacist or the history of antihistamine. What I need is certainty, clarity and reassurance. I need to hear, “This tablet is called “snot-away”, it should help with your symptoms in 30 minutes from taking it. It can be taken alongside your other medications. If this doesn’t work you can return to take this other tablet - the reason this tablet is the best for you is because it won’t make you drowsy.” 

To extend the metaphor further, if I were to walk into that same pharmacy to be told, “This super-pill was crafted in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, by a crack team of environmental scientists - it is a toxin release, super-vitamin that doctors HATE!” I’m going to turn around and leave. Because it reeks of inauthenticity. 

So, what can businesses be on the lookout for when it comes to the quest for authenticity? Here are three places to start. 

1. Does your inconsistency stink of instability?

One big sign of an inauthentic brand story is inconsistency. If your messages and values change a lot, you have no chance of competing with the brands that know who they are. It feels obvious that a consistent message should be your goal, but the main cause of confused messaging is usually polarised stakeholders and too many cooks stirring the pot. If your digital and marketing teams are flying from pillar to post trying to please a myriad of higher-ups that don’t agree with each other, it tends to show.

Nail and prioritise what you want your users to know about your brand. Prioritise what users need to see and hear, and mix in a dash of what you love telling people. Agree to stick to that core brand story and simplify your messaging.

2. Are you casting a wide net with forced messaging?

Another sign is when a brand story feels fake or forced to fit a particular niche. Examples of this you may have seen in the wild include greenwashing brands crow-barring words like “green” and “sustainable” into businesses that do nothing in particular to support these claims. You may also have read articles that are so search engine optimised that they read like absolute word salad. In either case, someone has made casting a wider net and reaching particular audiences that aren’t really relevant to their brand - above telling the most authentic brand story.

3. Have you used a cookie cutter approach?

There is nothing wrong with using tried and true approaches to business and design. In fact, utilising interactions that are familiar to users will speed them up and create a feeling of ease. However, the magic ingredient that many brands miss is creativity. This sounds sentimental but it isn’t - the brands and digital experiences we remember are the ones that showed us something we haven’t seen anywhere else. What’s amazing about this, is when you show something that only your business has - it’s likely to be super-authentic. If your product is a shoe with a patented shock-absorbing sole, invest in showing that off with a 3D animation that users can interact with. Is your brand helping to build houses in places that struggle with homelessness? Invest in having drone footage taken of the sites where this is happening. Whatever it is that makes you genuinely unique, apply creativity generously. 

4. Does your brand look like it is run by robots?

In the age of A.I. and procedurally generated imagery, many brands are trying to save time and money by using assets that weren’t crafted by human hands. This isn’t a problem at all, when used in moderation and vetted by skilled creatives. In the wrong hands content like this has an icy feel. A similar example of this feeling might be when brands provide users with chat bots that are pretty useless if you have even a mildly exceptional problem - and no easy way to reach a real human being to chat to. This immediately makes a brand feel distant, cold and uncaring. On a smaller scale, content that simply contains no content showing human-beings using or interacting with your product will stop users from being able to view your product or service as something that can fit into their own (very human) lives.

If your brand story isn’t currently capturing your passionate team, or your stellar product the way it should, get in contact with us at Yoyo. We can help you to define your brand and develop your brand story into something you and your users can be proud to share.

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078 Yoyo April 2023 WEB