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How to Tell Your Origin Story: The Art of Brand Storytelling

Written by Mark Williams | 24 April 2014

“Stories also create value. If you take a simple object and build a story around it, the value increases exponentially. People shop with their heads and their hearts, and they will pay for an object based on how much it means to them.”  Richell Parham, CMO, eBay

Once upon a time…

-      Google was two nerds in a Stanford dorm room with pizza and an algorithm.

-      Nike started with a handshake, $500, and the name Blue Ribbon Sports.

-      Starbucks was a single store tucked away in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market.

Before these brands became household names, they came from humble beginnings. But maybe that’s one of the things that make them unique for consumers. We are hard-wired for the origin story of how David triumphed over Goliath.

Why Your Back Story Matters

Brands like Virgin and Apple are built on so much more than the utility and specifications of their products. Your product or service is only part of the story. A potential customer’s relationship with your brand will likely begin before they actually purchase your product at all. If you don’t have a background story you are just another commodity, a replaceable cog in the consumption machine. There is no way to differentiate your brand or your business, because creating a brand story is not simply about standing out and getting noticed, but about building something that people care about and want to buy into. It’s about thinking beyond the utility and functionality of products and services and striving for the creation of loyalty and meaningful bonds with your customers.

You may already know that a brand is more than a logo – it is how people feel about your business, or about a specific product or service offered by your business. However, the way people feel about your business doesn't materialise by chance. Over time, their impressions and interactions with you and your business develop a bigger picture of your brand in their minds.

"Find something meaningful about your past, and describe how it led you to your present mission."

Clients want to know how you and your brand came to be. Your brand story is how people decide if they like you, trust you, and if they decide to buy from you. They needed a reference point to place you, a newcomer, in their heads. But once they know your story and, therefore, trust you, you’ll begin talking as if you both had been friends for life. Even more, the relationship will grow stronger and there’ll be chances to exchange ideas, interests and even a place for partnerships.

In the same way, if you are trying to do something completely new or different with your brand, your audience will try to find a way to “place” you in their minds. They need to find a way to process and understand this unfamiliar concept you present. You need to earn their trust before they can take a chance on what you are offering.

By sharing who you are and where you have come from, you can build that trust. When you ground your idea in what’s real and what they already know to be true, you provide your audience a sense of security.

People need to know where you are coming from before they decide if they like you, if they trust you, and most importantly, if they decide to buy from you.

Your origin story is your place of true credibility. Show them that your motivation for your idea is honest, worthy, and true.

When you tell an origin story that’s worth believing, your audience will take that leap of faith with you.

How will you tell your brand story to others to build trust? We’d love to hear your comments!

But we have more funny stories to share. Download now our Pitching Nightmares eBook and learn how to avoid those pitfalls for future pitch success.


This blog post was brought to you in collaboration with Kay Fabella. Kay believes in the power of storytelling as a force for social change. She builds better brands for entrepreneurs and small business owners from all over the world, helping them find their authentic, human brand stories to gain more clients and grow their business. For more information on brand strategy consulting, online trainings, or in-person workshops, please get in touch with Kay here.