Essential Steps to Digital Marketing Success: Developing Your Brand Narrative

By Teylor Schiefelbein
April 24, 2020

In the continuation of this blog series, we’re breaking down step two on how to achieve digital marketing success — developing your brand narrative. I highly recommend you first read 5 Essential, Misguided Steps to Digital Marketing Success to get the full picture and then work through step 1, How to Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy. If this seems like A LOT of information and work, remember that long-term, sustainable success is not achieved through shortcuts. Doing the necessary research and work upfront will allow you to move forward with both purpose and confidence, and prevent you from wasting time and money on false starts.

Still with us? Let’s dive in.

What is a Brand Narrative?

Your “Brand Narrative” is more than the short bio on your social media profiles or the paragraph on the “About” page of your website. Rather, it encompasses how your internal team and the public view and refer to your brand. When developing a brand narrative, it must answer these key questions—

  • What is our origin story?
  • What is our mission?
  • How do we speak to our community?
  • What type of imagery represents our brand?
  • What makes our brand uniquely better?

And baked into every single one of these questions, how are we positioning our target audience as the hero of our brand’s narrative?

What is our origin story?

Referring to how your business got started as your “origin story” may seem a little Marvel-esque, but it is intentional. When a customer first becomes aware of a particular brand, those in the marketing world mark that as the beginning of the “customer journey.” With a digital marketing strategy, a persuasive brand narrative, and the remaining 3 steps we recommend in place, you can influence whether a customer’s journey leads to a purchase or a lost lead, never to be heard from again.

In the book, “Building a Story Brand,” author Donald Miller emphasizes the importance of positioning the customer as the hero and the brand as the vehicle that helps them achieve what they set out to do in the first place. So, while an origin story can illustrate how the “vehicle” was made, the bulk of the origin story should address how it [the brand] helps the hero [the customer] solve a problem they’re facing so that they can go on to live happily ever after. As a general rule, we suggest that an origin story be tipped in the customer’s favor; 70% is about the customer and 30% is about you.

What is our mission?

After the customer reads a little about how you came to be and how you can help them, the mission statement is a nice follow-up to paint a picture of the future. You won’t find the nitty-gritty details in a mission statement. Rather, it is meant to be aspirational and act as a guiding light for brands as they navigate the business world. It is simple, yet encompasses all of the brand’s products and services.

Here is some inspiration—

JetBlue: To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.

LinkedIn: Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. 

Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

How do we speak to our community?

This question is especially important as you go through the process of hiring a copywriter or try your hand at writing your own marketing content. Not only do the words you choose form sentences, but they also imply tone and inflection. And if your writing style is casual or sarcastic or cold… then your brand will be seen as such.

There are a few exercises that are especially helpful when deciding just how you want to speak to your audience…

  • Record yourself telling a friend or family member about your product or service. Ask them for feedback — not regarding the details of the product or service, but how the conversation made them feel.
  • Listen back to the conversation. Are there certain words or phrases that made you nod in agreement, or worse, cringe?
  • Observe yourself or team members on a call with a customer or client. Are you proud of what is being said and how?

Without body language and inflections while speaking, it is much more difficult to control how a message is interpreted when written. It takes years of practice and experience to write with confidence, and without fear that your message will be misconstrued. 

When working through this, our team works alongside the client to identify adjectives for how you want your audience to feel after viewing the brand’s website, social media platforms or marketing materials — whether it be comfortable, motivated, or informed.

If customer-facing content will be created by and passed through several different hands, then it can be especially helpful to identify how you don’t speak to your community. Provide written examples of review responses that would never fly or specific phrases that you feel are tired or just not an accurate representation of your brand.

What type of imagery represents our brand?

Images, just like words, incite feelings. Your Brand Narrative should outline the specific elements of photos and graphics that supplement your story and mission. Your brand narrative might include photos of people smiling, backgrounds of a certain color scheme or graphics that feature a consistent shape or texture. 

Example “stylescape” for our client, The Prime Clinic, that guides our stylistic decision making.

While creating and curating imagery is a talent, the guidelines should be so clear that anyone on your team could build a library of images that your audience would quickly identify as “yours.” For web designers, photographers, and social media managers — this clarity makes designing your platform, curating, and creating imagery for marketing assets a straightforward process.

What makes our brand uniquely better?

Unless you have invented a completely new product or service, your brand narrative must acknowledge that alternatives exist. Now, we’re not calling out our competitors by name — simply recognizing the customer has other options and making it clear why they should choose your brand over another. At Alter Endeavors, we refer to this as your “uniquely better.” Identify 3-5 solid reasons your brand is better than the next can be tough to execute on.

Competitor Research

First, it requires you to know exactly what your competition is touting! You’ll likely find some similar guarantees along the way, which then requires you to either frame it better or go in a different direction. 

Audience Research

Refer back to your Digital Marketing Strategy. What do you know about your audience? What drives them? Your “uniquely betters” should speak to their specific pain points and motivations.

Execution 

This shouldn’t be a solo exercise. You should be talking to your team and surveying loyal customers. Ask why they initially chose you and continue to do so. Look for common denominators. Dig deep.

 

So far, we’ve shared the steps to develop both your digital marketing strategy and your brand narrative — 2 of the 5 steps necessary in order to achieve digital marketing success. If you have been working in private up to this point, we challenge you to share your work. Start a conversation with our team to ensure you’re headed in the right direction and that your strategy and brand narrative are thorough and convincing. 

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