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May 14, 2018
Storytelling is as old as man. Since the very beginning, people have gathered around fires to exchange tales of their adventures and origins. True or entirely fictional, stories had the power to gather people. And if a story was told well enough to leave an impact, it was shared again and again. Stories found themselves told from generation to generation.
Today, the power of storytelling is still strong. It’s how we communicate. It’s also how we build communities and develop cultures. In business, storytelling is how brands get their messages across to their audiences.
Every brand a story. Every company has a unique history. Many companies today exist because they were inspired by stories of another brand. Entrepreneurs talk about how they came up with their ideas, the struggles they’ve encountered and overcome.
These stories that brands tell are what consumers crave. Today, consumers demand authenticity and transparency. Audiences don’t like having products pushed in their faces by ads broadcasting that their product is the best. They refuse to allow brands tell them what they need. They only trust brands who allow them to take a peek behind the curtain and who want their loyalty enough to let down their guards.
The best peek a brand can give them is an understanding of their history. A brand backstory or origin story. Because everyone likes knowing beginnings.
The brands who have been successful at storytelling now enjoy a following that is not only strong in numbers but also loyalty. We’re talking about brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Google, Starbucks, and Apple. However, it isn’t enough to just tell new narratives. Now, we see more and more brands telling their backstories.
A brand backstory or history pulls audiences deeper into a brand’s narrative. Think about the last time you watched a movie and the scene cuts to a flashback. You’re given a glimpse of why someone, or something, is the way they are today. Suddenly, you feel invested and understand.
A deeper level of understanding is exactly what brands hope to achieve when they share their backstories. Brands call these backstories their origin stories or their corporate stories. Whatever they’re calling them; they’re certainly working. Here are four examples of brands who are using their backstories to allow the audience a look into their souls in the hopes to gain their deeper understanding and loyalty:
Intel tells us that “it’s what’s inside that counts.” They love proving that point by constantly sharing photos of their inspirational history and showing what’s on the inside of Intel. They love to educate their audiences by posting old photos of the company’s brilliant founders and employees who made Intel what it is today. The throwback images they share are accompanied with captions that reveal Intel’s interesting past such as what was going on in the minds of the founders’ decades ago. It’s an incredible way to see Intel’s journey over the decades though visuals and narratives.
People all over the world have heard of Lego. The iconic toy manufacturer has been around for 85 years. Brand Finance named Lego as the “world’s most powerful brand” in 2015.
In celebration of the brand’s 80th anniversary, Lego gave the world a look into their heartbreaking yet inspiring story. The Lego origin story video ran 17 minutes long, yet it was powerful enough to keep audiences engaged.
We learn about how Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen overcame devastating blows that involved a fire, a stock market crash, the death of his wife, and bankruptcy. And to really tug at heartstrings and bring the backstory to life is the fact that Christiansen’s very own grandson narrates the video.
If you want to see 150 years of New York Times journalism in the print that it originally appeared in, then you just have to step into the New York Times TimeMachine. The publishers digitized their past newspapers and archived them so that they are fully searchable by subscribers. You can see the April 16, 1912 issue with the headline “Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg” or even its 1865 issue announcing that an “assassin” shot President Lincoln.
This archiving has resulted in whole new audiences engaging with content originally published over the past 165 years. These articles can be curated into content collections for new audiences. They provide a look into the New York Time’s history, share the backstory of previous and current reporting, and serve as a way to link the past with the present.
Barbie first appeared in 1959. Similar to Intel, the Barbie brand aims to educate its audience on its long history. Barbie’s millions of social media followers are consistently delivered with bite-sized content on Barbie’s backstory via their Barbie Fun Facts. Their audience learns everything about their founders to when specific versions of Barbie and toy sets were first released.
By sharing their backstory, we learn how the brand has evolved. Barbie’s storytelling aims to capture the attention of parents whose memory of Barbie may be far different from the new brand image they’re developing for themselves. So not only is their brand backstory aimed to educate their audience, but it also attempts to shift the narrative from Barbie being just a doll to a role model for young girls everywhere.
Brand origin stories aren’t reserved for brands like old brands like Levi’s Strauss, which is over 180 years old. You can still tell a compelling backstory regardless of how old or young your company is. It can be about that lightbulb moment when you first came up with the idea for your business. Talk about how you came up with your brand name or your logo. Give credit to the people who helped you along the way.
The key is to be authentic. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your brand failures. In fact, audiences appreciate stories about learning from failures. Focus on the key battles you had to win to be where you are today. Don’t dwell on the emotions, only how you overcame the obstacles. The point is to not only educate your audience with the facts of your origin, but to inspire and keep them invested so they will tune in to what happens next.
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