Brand storytelling for tech: 5 strategies that will set you apart
Brand storytelling is often missing one crucial element: story.
If your narrative isn’t resonating with your audience or you’re struggling to even come up with one, it might be time to get back to basics.
Try out these five strategies, employed by some of the most successful tech companies, to build a better story from the ground up.
1. Establish the hero of your brand narrative.
If you’re like many companies, your business is probably the hero of your brand stories. Or maybe it’s your CEO. If either is the case, it’s time to rethink your approach.
The hero of your story is your customer. She’s the one who needs to improve cybersecurity or track fitness or find insight in masses of data. You’re the guide, the mentor helping the hero through the adversity she faces along the way.
Every hero has a goal, and your company brings that goal within reach.
Where users want to easily share content, Facebook makes the world more open and connected. As humans seek to make the cosmos our backyard, SpaceX will enable us to live on other planets. What’s the big-picture goal you help your customer achieve?
Define smaller goals along the way that add up to that broader mission. Facebook is fixing slow loading times on the mobile web by opening instant articles to all publishers. SpaceX is creating reusable spacecraft by learning how to land rockets.
2. Set context so your technology stands out.
When he introduced the first iPhone nearly a decade ago, Steve Jobs first ran through the state of the smartphone market. At the time, smartphones meant a phone, email, and the “baby Internet.” Jobs emphasized that while these devices were a little smarter than regular phones, they were much harder to use, even for basic features. He painted a picture that made the iPhone’s functions and user interface stand out as a massive leap ahead.
Even the most routine news can be made significant with the proper context.
- What topics have dominated your industry over the last five years?
- What trends are reshaping your industry now?
- What new regulations are changing how your customers operate?
- What challenges do your customers have with business as usual?
- What do your competitors offer and how do they characterize it?
Your product will only stand out against the right backdrop. The answers to these questions can set the stage for your technology as something new, different, and necessary.
3. Pinpoint your inciting incident.
The inciting incident is the event or change that sets a story in motion. In corporate storytelling, it could be the problem that compelled you to launch a company or the inspiration for your latest product, to name two examples.
Lackluster instant messaging programs led a gaming startup to create its own – what we now know as Slack.
Drew Houston wanted to get some work done on a bus trip from Boston to New York, but he forgot his USB drive. He immediately started building what became Dropbox.
Often, companies announce a new offering without ever mentioning the context or the inciting incident. Why does this product exist?
It doesn’t need to be an earth-shattering moment. It doesn’t even need to be a moment – more often it’s a set of circumstances that have come to a head: an abundance of messaging apps with limited use, a mobile-first world where we need to access information from anywhere at any time.
Make it specific and concrete and show the arrival of a need you’re now solving.
4. Use conflict to connect with your audience.
What obstacles stand between your customers and their goal?
The types of conflict most relevant to tech company stories are:
- Person vs. self: In recent years this conflict has been part of the stories told by fitness bands, smartwatches, and other wearables motivating users to get moving.
- Person vs. person: Slack’s story goes after coworkers draining each other’s productivity with excessive email and unproductive meetings.
- Person vs. technology: Stagnant technology can hold any user back. Dropbox’s story highlights the pain of bloated email attachments and siloed files.
- Person vs. society: Regulations are the biggest conflict in this category – what issues do your customers have with compliance or maintaining efficiency in the face of new laws?
- Person vs. nature: GoPro’s story plays off this conflict for surfers, snowboarders, and other athletes who want to record their sessions without destroying their cameras.
Conflict is at the heart of every story and helps your audience identify with the problems you’re helping customers solve.
5. Resolve your story by showing the new normal.
Here’s where you tie up loose ends by showing how your technology addresses the conflicts and helps your customers achieve their goal.
Remember, it’s not just about the product, but what the product means for the reader. As GoPro puts it, “The world’s most versatile cameras are what we make. Enabling you to share your life through incredible photos and videos is what we do.”
Show the results of your solution. Slack points to productivity gains with a user survey, showing hard numbers for drops in internal emails and meetings. Facebook shores up its mission for an open and connected world by debunking the six degrees of separation theory with data: It turns out Facebook users are connected by an average of only three and a half people.
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 8, 2016
Now try revising your story
All right, take it from the top.
Who’s your hero? What’s her goal? What stands in his way? What does success look like and how are you helping your hero get there?
What’s your story?
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