Storytelling has created connections between people since the beginning of humanity. Imagine this scene in a historic marketplace: a trader is trying to persuade customers to purchase his goods. Rather than shouting louder than his competitor three stalls down, he starts sharing his adventures acquiring the goods. More and more people gather around the stall, and some make a purchase. Others share the story with their families when they return home.

As idyllic as this sounds, it is not a viable approach to brand storytelling in the 21st century. But many principles remain the same: shouting louder than competitors is rarely sustainable in the long term. Simply sharing facts about a product or a service does not create lasting connections between brands and consumers. Stories continue to draw people in.

Like the story told by the market trader made shoppers stop and listen, stories attract consumers’ attention. Arguably, this is now more important than it was hundreds of years ago because brands compete in a busier marketplace. Consumers are no longer restricted to purchasing from one or two traders in one marketplace. They are also surrounded by persuasive brand messages and advertising wherever they go.

Brand storytelling can make the difference between being memorable or forgettable. The power of storytelling has been scientifically proven time and again. Stories make information more memorable because they appeal to our emotions and create a deeper connection. A Stanford University study found that 63% of people listening to pitches remembered the stories. 5% remembered statistics.

Brands can tell different types of stories to create connections with their customers. These include creation or founder stories, culture stories, customer and community stories, or challenge stories. Here are three examples.


Bumble and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd

The story of the dating app Bumble and its CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is an excellent example of a brand creation story. Originally a co-founder of Tinder’s dating app, Wolfe Herd was ousted following a relationship breakdown and sexual harassment. She founded Bumble, a dating app that only allows women to send their first message after users match on the platform.

Not only did Wolfe Herd find the company, but she also spearheaded its public offering. Wolfe Herd became the youngest woman ever to take a company public at 31 years old. She had set out to create a better place for women in the world of digital dating. In an interview with Time magazine, Wolfe Herd connected her story directly to her brand: “Honestly, my ambition comes from abusive relationships. […] I engineered an ecosystem of healthy male relationships in my life.” This creation story will resonate with most of Bumble’s female users.

The platform’s success shows the power of brand storytelling. Bumble currently has over 12 million active monthly users and generated over $360 million in revenue in 2020.


Starbucks changes America’s coffee culture

It is hard to imagine any big city worldwide, let alone in the United States, without a branch of Starbucks. The company established a coffee culture in a country where coffee was something diners, and restaurants gave away almost free of charge. “Free refills” of filter coffee were one of the mainstays of diner breakfasts.

Naturally, Starbucks offered a high-quality product far beyond free-flow filter coffee. But, more importantly, the company provided an environment that turned the simple act of having a coffee into something more sophisticated. Starbucks outlets offer a comfortable place to hang out, work, and even have a casual business meeting.

The company’s marketing used a story around coffee culture. Having a coffee at Starbucks or picking up a Starbucks on the way to work became an event rather than an afterthought. Over time, the brand story expanded into community storytelling. Starbucks branches displayed information about their relationships with coffee producers around the world. With emotive pictures and stories, they showed how the brand was not only changing the communities of consumers but also of producers.


Lloyds TSB makes banking likeable

For most average consumers, banking is a necessity rather than an inspiring experience. Financial services marketing focusing on interest rates and differences between accounts is unlikely to change that perception. So, how do banks create a connection with their clients?

British bank Lloyds TSB has taken two different approaches recently. Both tell a story, and both have been successful in creating connections.

Customers and their daily lives have been at the heart of the company’s advertising for years. Their iconic illustrations and animations depict the life of Lloyds TSB customers in everyday situations. The characters show families, single people, seniors, and other scenarios, making it easy for consumers to relate. Telling customer stories have helped this banking brand stand out among its competitors.

Lloyds TSB used its creation story in a different approach to connecting to customers. Its black horse logo dates back to 1677 when a London bank first used it as a decorative sign. Lloyds Bank took over that business in 1884 and inherited the iconic logo.

More than simply a decorative sign, it is now an integral part of its marketing strategy. Most recently, the bank used two black horses to tell an emotional story of intergenerational support in a much-discussed commercial.

Brand storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Iconic brands have used their brand story for years to create connections between products and consumers that transcend features or pricing.

Stories about a brand’s creation or a founder’s struggle will stay with users longer than bullet points or statistics. Creating a culture around a product has the potential to lead to lasting shifts in consumer behaviour.

Plus, stories can bring products and services to life. Brand storytelling facilitates long-term business growth that will carry your organization through challenging economic circumstances.