The Secret to Telling a Compelling Brand Story by @JenKaneCo

by Jennifer Kane | Featured Contributor


This post started out as a mess – which is fitting, since that’s where a lot of stories begin.

I had gathered together a host of salient thoughts, deep quotes and pity insights. But, none of them fit together or made any sense — kind of like two boxes of puzzles had been mixed together and then stuck back on the shelf.

It’s a problem entrepreneurs run into when we’re crafting our brand stories, too.

We’ve got an elevator pitch here, a testimonial over there, and maybe a compelling anecdote in our back pocket. So, we stitch all those ideas together, call it “our story” and start sharing it with the world.

But, just like how that mess of words on my screen wasn’t a blog post, a bunch of ideas cobbled together about your brand isn’t necessarily a brand story either.

No, a story is something else.

Stories are something that translates your passion. They make your customer or clients’ need feel real and your purpose in fulfilling it, urgent. They give your audience something to care about.

But, in doing all of these things, the stories you create about your brand can be a little scary, too.

Time to get naked.

Unlike elevator pitches, testimonials and anecdotes, stories have a narrative arc and a hero who faces a conflict, test or challenge. The hero resolves or overcomes that challenge, which, in some way, changes him or her.

The scary part here is the words, “conflict, test or challenge.”

Conflicts, tests and challenges are things we generally avoid talking about in business conversations because they might suggest to our audience, that…

…Once upon a time, we didn’t have our act together.

…Once upon a time, we made a mistake.

…Once upon a time, we wrote a horrible first draft of this blog post.

And, who wants to admit something embarrassing like that?

But, ironically, those embarrassing, vulnerable moments are the most important part of your story.

Moments like that sit at the center of all of the great stories that we tell…

Vulnerability is what makes your story worth listening to and remembering. (Nobody’s dying to learn more about a brand whose story goes like this: “We were awesome. We did something new. We ended up even MORE awesome!”)

It’s also what makes people buy your product or services (which the point in telling your story in the first place.) Science backs up the fact that storytelling is the ultimate weapon at your disposal for connecting with your customers or clients. It has the unique ability to get your audience to “drop their intellectual guard” so they are more receptive to what you want to say.

To see this in action, check out Chipotle’s Back to the Start video…

It’s a beautiful story, simply told in just over two minutes.

Admittedly, it is also a bit of a vulnerability cop-out for Chipotle, and that works against them. We may finish watching this video and be receptive to Chipotle’s message, but it’s the farmer (and the pig!) for whom we really feel. He is the memorable hero of this story.

So, put yourself in the farmer’s shoes, not Chipotle’s, when you sit down to write your brand story. Make it simple. Make it unique. Make it honest.

And don’t be afraid to say that, once upon a time, you were a little bit lost, but you charted a new course and found the way to your happy ending.

Just like I did, typing the final words of this post.


Content and Communications Strategist – Jennifer Kane of Kane Consulting – Minneapolis, MN

JenKaneJennifer Kane is an entrepreneur and marketing/communications strategist with more than 15 years of experience working with B2B and B2C companies through her firm, Kane Consulting.

Jennifer conducts training sessions, teaches and speaks nationally on topics related to social media, content marketing, change management and digital communications. Combining humor, tough love and passion, she’s known for giving it to people straight — from the hip and from the heart.

In addition to writing for her own blog, The Social Cyborg, Jennifer is part of the author community at Steamfeed, has guest blogged for BlogWorld and Mark Schaefer’s blog, {GROW} and been syndicated on BlogHer. She is also frequent guest on the Next Stage Business Radio Network podcasts.

Jennifer is mom to one active eight-year-old and two lazy Basset Hounds and manages the “Spinal Fusions Suck” social community on Facebook. In her spare time, she thinks a lot about the zombie apocalypse and the awkwardness of writing about oneself in third person.

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8 Replies to “The Secret to Telling a Compelling Brand Story by @JenKaneCo”

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  4. Sangita Joshi

    I like this – both the prime thought on story telling, the video which is really cute, but also the fact that a story needs to be of necessity true and not always brush things under the carpet. I empathise with the messy blog first drafts too 🙂

  5. Nadine

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jennifer! I have been reading tons of posts on brand storytelling and none of them really “spoke” to me. Your examples are incredibly insightful, I’m so happy I found the link to this article! Awesome resource.

    – Nadine

    1. Jennifer Kane

      I’ve found that, too. There are a lot of “tell your story!” posts out there. But not too many that tell you how to actually DO that. It seems like it should be an easy exercise, but most of the clients I work with struggle with it.

      Glad to hear that the post was helpful to you. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it!

  6. Melissa

    Wow! That video is powerful. Thank you so much for sharing – great post!

    1. Jennifer Kane

      The video is pretty great. So simple, and yet it says so much. Thanks for the feedback and for reading the post.

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