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  • Daniel Phillips

I've gone all-in on helping brands tell their story. Here's why (and how you can create your story).

Updated: Feb 4, 2020


In the last year I’ve done a lot more brand strategy work with my clients than I anticipated. As a digital strategist with a brand background, this wasn't something I actively set out to do, but rather a result of helping clients where they needed it most.


Brand stories are vital

I have a fundamental belief that people follow brands with great stories and brands with great stories get better marketing results. To support this I was finding more and more research and client feedback that reinforced this idea: businesses who don't have a compelling brand story are less successful. Storyless brands miss the starting point of a meaningful relationship with potential customers; giving them a reason to care.


Creating compelling stories for business may have been considered 'fluffy', or out-of-reach and reserved for companies with big marketing teams (AKA colouring-in department) and fancy brand agencies. Not the domain of the typical SME kiwi businesses.


But as business owners, we are realising that stories are a critical part of success, regardless of size. This is a narrative the best advertising agencies in the world have supported for decades. Stories create uniqueness and human-ness for your business that is not replicable. And people remember and share stories far more readily than they do sales collateral.


“Today, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you also have to be a good storyteller.” 

Richard Branson (and stolen from the Storytech website)



Seeking out a great brand story process

In wanting to help more businesses develop their brand story, I set out to find a best in class solution: how can I help more clients to create meaningful stories (at scale)? And how do I ensure we can deliver quality outcomes to startups and established businesses alike using a repeatable process?


My first step was seeking to engage clients with freelance brand strategists. This proved to be hard: finding the right person who was the right fit (and available when you wanted them_ was tricky and time-consuming. And if you find the right person, the processes and output are varied and not always clear.


On the other end of the scale; engaging an agency for brand strategy is typically 'out of the question expensive’ for most businesses. And it's always slow. Very, very slow.


Converselly, if you wanted it fast, some clients looked to engage brand designers. But almost inevitably comes the realisation that a brand strategy is very different from a new logo.


The traditional approach wasn't helping. Being a digital-guy I wanted the solution to be a modern, SAAS-ey, and digital. I wanted to work with a scalable product, not a consultation. More outputs, less PowerPoint.


So I searched the whole internet and found what I reckon is the world's best solution, just 20 metres away from my desk at the Biz Dojo in Ponsonby.


Enter Storytech. James Hurman's 'world-class brand story in a day' digital product.


Storytech is an online tool that helps businesses create their brand story. Developed by James Hurman (ex Colenso BBDO head of planning and regarded as one of the best brand planners on the planet) and his team of geniuses at Previously Unavailable, Storytech is a workshop tool based around a pre-videoed version of James, held in a clever website, that steps you through a guided brand story development process.


Using Lean Methodology the workshop steps you through creating three canvases:


  1. Lean canvas: Your customer, their problem, your solution, your UVP, and unfair advantage.

  2. Story canvas: Your history, purpose, ambition and personality, all encapsulated into your story

  3. Story-telling canvas: Defines where and how you tell your story across owned, earned and paid mediums.


With the workshop all done and dusted in 5-6 hours (with some refining required in the following days) this process has proven to be incredibly effective at shifting a business from confusion to clarity at a pace I've never seen before from branding work. The claim of 'world-class brand story' made by James rings very true.


Apart from doing it fast, I've learned that the Storytech process lends itself to solving a vast array of business problems - an outcome I was surprised to see.



Solving business problems through storytelling.

I’ve now facilitated 10 Storytech sessions for a range of businesses: big, small, start-ups and established brands. Some of the uses cases/outcomes have included:


Developing a brand story after a company merger

We used Storytech to turn the story of two companies into one. This, in turn, created the briefs required to get external agencies to name the new brand, create the brand design etc. We found the story helped with engaging existing staff on the merge process and creating the brief for new staff recruitment too.


Testing a new business/brand idea for an established company For a listed company looking to do a JV with an existing partner, we challenged ourselves to write a story about a new product idea to see if we believed in it. In this instance, it turns out we didn’t believe the story, so the idea was shelved. This saved potentially hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) in developing something that wouldn't work.


Defining the story for a product that didn’t yet exist

We started with a story to help inform what our product (in this instance a finance product) would need to offer in order to be valuable to our target customer. Instead of a post-rationalised story for an existing product, we wrote a story for the ideal product. This created a huge amount of ideas that were genuinely customer-centric.


(Re)Articulating the story of a 20-year-old business

We used Storytech to bring the founder's story to life and deeply understand the DNA that made this business successful. This will be followed by a new campaign which re-asserts the reason why this company has stood the test of time where many others haven't;

.

Redefining the story of a company who have graduated matured past start-up

With this business in year-4 of trading and with momentum and stability, we created the story of a more mature business: no longer a start-up, but a company that has helped a number of other companies over the years.


Marketing 'Counselling'

We used this process to help two directors of a company who had slightly different views on the future of their business to come to an agreement of what next. Divorce proceedings were halted. :)


Renergising a team with a new story

This company had a flat year after choosing to invest in marketing infrastructure (a marketing automation website) at the expense of storytelling. Along with getting our brand strategy, the process enabled us to put some fire back in the belly of the team who'd had a pretty tough time.


More than just start-up branding

As you can see the breadth of cases where Storytech can be applied is pretty impressive


Not only does it create brand stories and solve business problems in a rapid, fun way, but we are able to get owners, staff, and stakeholders highly engaged in a process that's been out of reach until now.


'I think brand and marketing is all fluff and bullshit’ is a standard comment I encounter at the start of the process. Seeing people transition from being 100% skeptical of marketing to being genuinely excited about their company story is very inspiring to be part of.


Story creation is a key starting point for better digital marketing

I'm absolutely pumped about doing more of this sort of work as it makes my core business of digital marketing strategy so much more effective. As a result of my enthusiasm for Storytech, alongside digital strategy and execution, I'm now offering brand story creation using Storytech as a core pillar of Aftermath's offering.


Referring to it as a Rapid Story Telling, with this process I will:


  • Co-create your brand story/strategy alongside key internal stakeholders

  • Take responsibility for creating the outputs of the workshop, developing a clearly articulated brand story across the 3 canvases. 

  • Develop the story and storytelling plan, creating a framework for briefing future creative work.


I do all this for a fixed (SME friendly) price and it’s all done and dusted within 3 days max.


While any business can run Storytech without me, the value I add into this process is:


  • I'm adept at getting to the heart of your story quickly

  • As an external party, I will ask the probing questions of the business leaders that may not be asked by internal team members

  • I actively promote the exploration of new ideas

  • I'll pick up on the comments that equate to 'storytelling gold' that may otherwise be missed

  • I take responsibility for engaging all the people in the room, not just the extroverts or those who usually do all the talking.

  • I keep everyone on track with the story: I make sure it’s a brand story, not a product story.


I've well and truly drunk the Koolaid on this: if you're in business, you need a story and in my opinion, this is one of the best and most accessible ways to do it.


If you'd like to enquire about doing a Storytech session drop me a note: dan@aftermathdigital.co.nz.


Or if you'd like to do it without me, visit www.storyte.ch