The Beginning, Middle, and End

Building a narrative that makes your brand a part of your customer's dreams.

Brand narratives that become dreams.

Recently, I started building out a workshop to start building some furniture. It's something I've always wanted to do. The only thing that has kept me from doing this sooner in life is the fear of losing a finger or four of them at a 45-degree angle. The anxiety of getting the right tools and setting up a space where I could use them effectively and clean up easily was important as well. I didn't want the four-finger discount. I wanted a system that worked, that I enjoyed using, and that looked good in the garage.

I obsessed over every detail of my setup. I researched every product I bought. For some tools, the options were flexible. For others, there was only one choice, and I wouldn't have any other option.

I was so consumed with the process that I would think about it all day, talk about it socially, and lay in bed working out detailed problems in my head. At night, I would inevitably dream about the process.

Some brands care less about the devotion of a customer. They simply want to be a choice that is selected often enough to reach sales goals.

Those brands are optional.

For other brands, they aim to earn the kind of loyalty from their consumers that make their brand a part of their customer's dreams. For these brand enthusiasts, such brands are not optional. The consumer will have it no other way.

Brands achieve this kind of connection when they are incorporated into the narrative of a customer's life. As a marketer, you can shape that narrative and help your customer see it. To do so, you have to understand the DNA of a story and build your whole marketing strategy around it. Here's how to do that.

First, understand where you are starting.

Conduct an Audit. I like to review marketing content, research the behaviors of customers, and conduct interviews to ask for their opinions.

Determine your Message. Develop brand priorities and messaging talking points. If you want people to think of your product as the first choice for the "job site," that is a messaging priority. "Easy to use" may be another. Write all these priorities down.

Write the Story. Craft these foundational elements into a brand concept. It usually helps to draft a hypothetical story with context. People don't use a saw blade to cut through wood. They use it to create features that make their home more comfortable or organized.

The Framework

Now that you've captured this foundational background let's look at the framework to use this information to create a brand narrative. I like to break down our background information to understand how they relate to each other. This allows us to uncover brand challenges and messaging priorities. We want to parse the data to understand three things.

  • The vision of your brand
  • The concerns of your audience
  • The context of your market

Connection Points

We’re looking for the point at which each of these factors overlaps each other as ideas. To communicate your brand's goals in the language that resonates with your audience but is distinctive within the marketplace. 

A brand strategy is essentially a plan for your image and message that helps you pursue your brand goals, but how it is structured is what makes it successful. For brand marketing to be successful, we'll need to use the principles of narrative. Often referred to as "story."

A beginning, middle, and end.

Story or narrative form is often used to describe marketing, not because you'll release a novel but because every purchasing decision is based on an assumed setting. Improving organization in the home – not cutting wood. A narrative consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. The background, the situation, and the outcome. As a brand manager, whether you're creating a static ad, a video, or a single headline for a search ad, the features of the narrative are at least implicit. Your control over these helps customers place themselves into the story. And if you're lucky, your brand, into their dreams.

Let's unpack story form a little bit more. A story consists of several components. For our purposes, it can be summarized like this:

Hero. The story is about a main character. The customer is always the hero. It's easy for a brand to think of its product as the hero, but as we explained here, using the example of Mr. Clean, your brand is merely the guide, the shaman, or the secret weapon.

Desire. Next, we identify the problem to be solved or the desire of the customer. The desire to be loved with the gift of a diamond ring or the problem of unclean surfaces which need a cleaning product.

Tension. Your hero will be faced with the tension of choices or the lack of making one. This may be implicit or explicit, but the simple truth is this. Everyone else's saw cuts wood. Yours helps transform the customer's home.

Answer. This brings us to the difference that your brand offers in the story. As I said before, any brand of saw can help you cut wood. Choose ours if you want to improve your home and your life. Your brand offers a path that allows the customer to meet their desire or fill their void.

Resolution. Your story is concluded by revealing the moral resolve that leads the Hero to the answer. This is often captured in a closing statement. Like in the old Police Squad episodes, they ended each episode with a moral outcome. Ultimately you can do the same thing. Bring your story to a close by highlighting the destination that your hero reached with the secret weapon of your brand.

Put It To Work

Think of this framework when writing copy or creating your next marketing piece. Even if you're just updating a feature on your website, you should use this thinking to ensure you capture these elements. This process provides a structure for creating ads, developing scripts for commercials, and assembling elevator pitches. Use this framework as a guide when creating your marketing story, and if you want to go deeper, download our free toolkit.

Want to go deeper? Download this free resource today to maximize your brand impact.

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