The role of story in branding

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —July 12, 2006
Filed in Business storytelling

My friend Darren Woolley sent me this link to Storytelling: Escaping the Price War. The subtitle is: How Perrier and Other Marketers Have Elevated Product Value with Authentic Narrative.

The authors, Christian Budtz and Klaus Fog, have written a book about finding and telling your company’s authentic stories. Here’s a snippet:

Does your company have an original story to tell? A story that is so honest, captivating and unique, that we are willing to pay a price premium to become part of it?

In line with the basic principles of psychology, storytelling is a way for companies to understand their values and personalities. The critical task, however, is to identify the story that makes your company different from the competition. Without this unique story to build from, your company is exposed to copycats and risks being forced to compete fiercely on price alone.

Yep, I agree. Especially the second paragraph. It’s what we do at Anecdote (here is a white paper I wrote about narrative and branding). As I was reading the article I was fighting a prejudice I have thinking that people into branding are only seeking the story that defines the company. So I was pleasantly surprised to read this sentence:

Little anecdotes, seemingly insignificant at first, may very well be the stories that most effectively show why your company is special.

Authenticity has become a popular sentiment in storytelling lately, and rightly so. Who tells a story affects its authenticity. Here are two perspectives on that point:

So where do you begin digging for stories that show the unique value of your product or company? A good place to start is to search for people within the company who have made extraordinary achievements.

One of the most credible sources for unique stories is to be found outside of your company: among your customers.

Do you think story listening is starting to take off in the US? This article suggests that finding stories is a key part of the process to effectively use narrative. At Anecdote we have a three step process:

  • Prospecting. Everyone has stories to tell, but in many cases we are unaware of them. Prospecting involves creating a conducive environment for people to remember their stories. This might involve one-on-one interview techniques or group processes such as anecdote circles.
  • Patterns. We can improve the way we tell our stories by understanding the story structures and patterns appropriate for the task.
  • Performance. Effective story telling comes from a belief that the story is authentic. People judge authenticity on how the storyteller delivers their story.

What do you think of these three steps? Love to hear your thoughts.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Nerida Hart says:

    The power of story in an organisation is demonstrated in the book Storycatcher : making sense of our lives through the power and practice of story / by Christina Baldwin, 2005. In Chapter 8 on the Power of story in organizations. Toke Paludan Moller is brought into an organisation to try and establish the original purpose of the organisation through workshops with the staff and uses the following 3 questions :
    1. What are you proud of and what do you really appreciate about working in this organization?
    2. What do you dream is still possible for this organization to go to the next level?
    3. What do you personally feel should be the purpose of these 2 days?
    The idea is to allow the possibility for their real story to come back into the room. The idea is that without understanind the original putpose of the organisation, we cannot begin to fix the issues around an organisation losing its way.
    For anyone interested in story from both a perosnal, cultual and organisational viewpoint, I highly recommend Christina Baldwin’s book.

  2. Matt Moore says:

    I suspect that storylistening will get more traction as execs realise that just making stuff up is ineffective. Altho given what I have read recently about “astroturfing” I do wonder. Remember: if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.
    Like the 3Ps.
    I also suspect that storycoaching has a future: where you don’t tell the story yourself but you enable others to tell it for you.

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