I just finished reading Building a StoryBrand. It’s a great read that lays out a step-by-step framework for creating a clear and actionable marketing narrative for your brand.
In going through this book, I pulled out 3 takeaways: the seven universal story points all humans respond to, the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it.
I give those to you now and highly recommend that you get the book. But if you’ve only 4 minutes, read this instead.
1. The seven universal story points all humans respond to.
Every story has:
1. A Character or Hero
The customer is the hero, not your brand.
2. The Hero has a Problem
Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.
3. The Hero Meets a Guide
Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.
If heroes in a story could solve their own problems, they would never get into the trouble in the first place. That’s why storytellers, through the centuries, have created another character to help the hero win.
4. The Guide Gives Them a Plan
Customers trust a guide who has a plan.
At this point, we’ve identified what the customer wants, defined three levels of problems they’re encountering, and positioned ourselves as their guide. And our customers love us for that effort. But they still aren’t going to make a purchase. Why? Because we haven’t laid out a simple plan of action they can take.
Making a purchase is a huge step, especially if our products or services are expensive. What customers are looking for, then, is a clear path we’ve laid out that takes away any confusion.
5. And Call Them to Action
Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action.
In stories, heroes don’t take action on their own. They must be challenged. If we’re telling a story about a man who needs to lose pounds and suddenly decides to do it of his own will, the audience will check out. Why? Because that’s not how life works. There needs to be a reason. Our character has to run into a high school sweetheart who is now a yoga instructor, or he needs to lose a bet, forcing him to run a marathon. Characters only take action after they are challenged by an outside force.
6. That Action Helps Them Avoid Failure
Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.
Stories live and die on a single question: What’s at stake? If nothing can be grained or lost, nobody cares. Will the hero disarm the bomb, or will people be killed? Will the guy get the girl, or will he be lonely and filled with self-doubt? These are kinds of question in the minds of a story-hungry audience.
If there is nothing at stake in a story, there is no story. Likewise, if there’s nothing at stake in whether or not I buy your product. I’m not going to buy your product. After all, why should I?
7. And Ends in a Success?
Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.
2. The real reason customers make purchases
People want your brand to participate in their transformation. Universal desire to transform is a single largest motivator. Smart brands define aspirational identity. Here are some examples:
Villian: Gas guzzling, inferior technology
External: I need a car.
Internal: I want to be an early adopter of new technology
Philosophical: My choice of car ought to help save the environment.
Nespresso Home Coffee Machines:
Villian: Coffee machines that make bad coffee
External: I want better-tasting coffee at home.
Internal: I want my home coffee machine to make me feel sophisticated.
Philosophical: I shouldn’t have to be a barista to make gourmet coffee at home.
Edward Jones Financial Planning:
Villian: Financial firms that don’t listen to their customers.
External: I need investment help.
Internal: I’m confused about how to do this (especially with all the tech-driven resources our there).
Philosophical: If I’m going to invest my money, I do need an advisor who will thoughtfully explain this to me in person.
3. Simplify your brand messaging
A key to writing is not what to say but what not to say. The chief enemy of your brand story is noise because customers don’t make buying decisions based on what we say but what they hear.
A good one-liner helps your customer identify themselves. It helps them overcome their problem, gives them a plan, and promise a better life.
Instead of saying one-liners like “I run a gym.”
A better example: “We help retired couples who want to escape harsh cold avoid the hassle of a second mortgage while still enjoying warm, beautiful weather of Florida in the winter.”
The Character: Retired Couples.
The Problem: A second mortgage
The Plan: A time-share option
The Success: Avoiding these cold, northern winters
Overall, a good read which did a great job in teaching a step-by-step guide to implement clear, concise, emotionally engaging marketing that can capture your customer’s attention in a noisy world. Most of the advice is timeless, based on the psychology of how human beings perceive and relate to our offerings through stories.
I hope you find these excerpts helpful to fully implement all aspects of the framework into your marketing roadmap.