What is Brand Storytelling and Why is it Important?

What Is Brand Storytelling, and Why Is It Important?

We’re living in a digital world, and consumers are bombarded with marketing content – from every direction, practically non-stop. Capturing attention and creating a meaningful connection with audiences has never been more important. 

This is why brand storytelling should be a crucial component of any long-term marketing strategy. But what exactly is brand storytelling, and why is it so crucial for brands in the age of information overload? 

In brief, the power of storytelling lies in crafting a compelling narrative around your brand, products, or services in a way that resonates with a target audience on a deep and emotional level. It goes beyond mere promotion; instead, it aims to showcase the essence of your brand, the values it stands for, and the experience it offers.

Today, we dive deeper into the world of brand storytelling. We’ll discuss how to craft a compelling brand narrative that resonates with your target audience, and builds brand Fluency, Familiarity, and Fame. 

What is Brand Storytelling?

Brand storytelling is the part-art, part-science technique for brands to convey their identity, purpose, and values through compelling narratives. At its core, it involves using the power of storytelling to create an emotional connection with a target audience; fostering familiarity and long-term brand growth.

The elements of brand storytelling are akin to those found in the most captivating fictional tales – those stories that stand the test of time and seem to step across boundaries of age and culture. 

For instance, a strong brand narrative comprises elements of the traditional storytelling arc, such as: 

  • Characters
  • A plot
  • Drama / mystery / uncertainty
  • A mission
  • Resolution
  • A coded message


Fluent Devices in Brand Storytelling

In terms of brand storytelling, fluent devices are powerful tools that amplify and deepen consumer communication. From visual cues like characters, logos, and colours, to tonality and motif, to distinctive taglines or even sounds and music, fluent devices reinforce the brand’s message, ensuring it stays recognisable and memorable.

These devices ensure consistency and coherence across various touchpoints, helping brands present a unified and coherent narrative that remains consistent even as brands grow.


The Power of Emotions

One of the most significant advantages of brand storytelling lies in its ability to create a profound, intense, lasting, and impactful – in other words, an emotional – connection with the audience. 

By eliciting emotions like joy, empathy, or inspiration, brands can tap into the human psyche and forge authentic relationships with consumers. 

However, the horizon of emotional possibilities extends beyond what we would consider ‘positive’ emotions. In fact, creating a more ambiguous atmosphere (as seen in this 2022 Wegmans holiday commercial) that leans into nostalgia, bittersweetness, remembrance, or homesickness can be incredibly powerful, depending on the particular brand story you want to tell.  

In this way, brands mobilise creative impact; instead of merely presenting products or services, they become storytellers, engaging audiences in a memorable, meaningful way. This engagement translates into pronounced business effects, sustained brand-building, and profit-generation potential.


Why is it Important to Tell Compelling Brand Stories?

Compelling brand stories have the remarkable ability to evoke emotions and create a powerful aura around a brand. 

This emotional connection with the audience is key to driving business success and inspiring consumer action. When brands elicit strong feelings, they can build ‘Surplus Feeling’ – this stands as a reliable predictor of real-term growth. 

By focusing on crafting impactful and emotionally resonant brand stories, businesses unlock the potential for sustained growth and become an enduring presence in the hearts and minds of their audience.


Building Brand Fame

Building brand Fame is not about chasing short-term, sales-centric metrics or quick-wins; it’s about investing in the long-term strategy of brand-building. 

By consistently telling compelling brand stories that strike an emotional chord with the audience, brands can transcend individual connections and actually cement their place in a cultural landscape. It sounds grandiose, but consider how some of the most effective fluent devices extend beyond their audiences and become part of a zeitgeist: got milk, should’ve gone to Specsavers, Compare the Market’s meerkats, the McDonald’s jingle, and so on.  

Fame is about becoming part of people’s lives, embedding the brand in their experiences, and fostering a deep and meaningful relationship. This focus on long-term Fame, rather than quick-win sales, leads to lasting and significant business outcomes.


Strengthening Fluency

Our 5-Star rating system is designed to gauge how an ad will impact long-term brand growth based on the emotional response of audiences. Ads that resonate strongly and create positive feelings score well – facilitating stronger growth for brands. 

It is emotional impact that consistently boosts the Star rating – and when high-impact ads and campaigns are connected through fluent devices, the result is Fluency

Fluent brands are instantly recognisable, consistent in their tone and messaging, and create a seamless emotional synergy across their communications – just look at the timeless gravitas of the Harry Potter universe, for example, which is exemplary in its elicitation of emotion through fluent devices. High Fluency is a hallmark of successful brand storytelling.


Ensuring Long-Term Brand Building Success

In The Long and the Short of It, Binet and Field conclude that “emotional advertising is twice as efficient as rational, and delivers twice the profit.” 

Emotionally-effective brand storytelling goes deeper than simply forming powerful audience connections; those connections actually translate into genuine business effects. This success is driven by being easily remembered and recognised by consumers, and by consistency in messaging. 

Through the creation of compelling and emotionally resonant brand stories, businesses can forge enduring relationships with their customers and drive sustainable growth in the long run.


How to Create a Powerful Brand Narrative

Crafting a compelling narrative is the cornerstone of successful brand storytelling. To truly resonate with your audience and drive long-term brand growth, consider the following strategies.


Appeal to Emotions

Emotions are the driving force behind consumer actions; emotional storytelling taps into human experiences, values, and aspirations, forging deep connections with consumers.

But there is business logic behind this, too. Even in the digital age, campaigns that take an emotional approach are demonstrably more likely to create lasting brand impact, as shown in The Long And The Short Of It (Binet and Field). This finds that emotional ads are twice as efficient in delivering profit than rational, message-focused approaches.


Play to the Right-Brain

As highlighted by Orlando Wood in Look Out, marketers should aim to capture broad-beam attention by playing to the right-brain gallery. Focus on elements that serve the brain’s right hemisphere, such as: 

  • Compelling stories
  • Human connection
  • A clear sense of time and place
  • Dialogue
  • ‘Betweenness’
  • Melody
  • Subversion of language

In today’s digital world, the communication-cultural pendulum has swung, and many ads predominantly appeal to the left-brain – with isolated product shots, abstracted visual messaging, adjectives used as nouns, and rhythm favoured over melody. But by incorporating right-brained elements, you create a more engaging and memorable brand narrative.


Don’t Just Capture – Hold Attention

Winning attention is essential, but that’s only the first step: holding it is where the battle is won. 

Many contemporary ads fail to do this chiefly because they lack the essential elements that pique the right-brain’s interest. Left-brain-centric advertising assumes that the viewer is already significantly interested in the product or service, and that the product’s relevance is enough to hold the audience’s attention. In fact, it is not.

Answering three simple questions – who’s involved, what happens, and where the action is set – make an ad dramatically more interesting to the right-brain. 


Be Consistent

Fluency always wins in brand storytelling. As in How Brands Grow (Byron Sharp), brands grow because they are instantly recognisable and unfailingly consistent in their messaging. Each narrative pillar should reinforce, bolster, or develop a previous one, contributing to overall brand Fluency. 

In Lemon, Orlando Wood writes on the power of characters – “highly visual properties with the ability to make an impression quickly across platforms.” Recurring characters and scenarios create memory structures, ensuring that your brand’s look, feel, and tone remain relatable and recognisable across touchpoints.


Predict Emotional Response

Accurately forecasting an audience’s emotional reaction to your ads is crucial for predicting their effectiveness. Our 5-Star rating system measures the emotional response of audiences to gauge an ad’s potential to drive growth – by understanding the emotional impact of your brand narrative, you can fine-tune your storytelling to create more powerful and effective campaigns.


Leverage Consumer Insights

The most effective advertisers actively listen to the marketplace and leverage consumer insights to build outstanding ads and campaigns. 

Monitor and refine your brand narrative by testing results out in the wild. System1’s ad concept testing tool and ad testing platform allow you to gather valuable performance data and refine your brand storytelling for maximum impact. By incorporating consumer insights into your narrative, you can create a brand story that truly resonates and drives long-term success.


Brand Storytelling Done Right

OK, so we’ve talked up the whys and wherefores of brand storytelling… but there’s nothing quite like a case in point, right? To that end, below you’ll find four instances of brand storytelling executed with aplomb. 

  • Joy is MadeAmazon: Transforming itself from retail titan to media magnate, Amazon has zeroed-in on the art of storytelling within its brand tapestry. Its Christmas ad emerged as a pure sentimental gem; featuring a father breathing life into his child’s cherished snow globe, it left hearts aglow with warmth and wonder. The ad stands testament to the enchanting, perpetual allure of narrative-driven advertising at Christmas.
  • Christmas Time to Melt – Lindt: Another masterful Christmas ad comes from Lindt. It unveils their brand narrative – built around blissful moments, indulgence, and skilful chocolatery – and weaves it within the tried, tested, and trusted staples of festive messaging. All of the Lindt classics are on display here, including the artful chocolatier and the indulgent voiceover, showcasing a stellar use of fluent devices.
  • One of a Kind-ness – Barbour: Barbour – a brand that really leans into its narrative of British heritage and traditional aesthetics – scored a home run with this one. Paddington Bear graced their 2021 ad and returned in 2022 on a quest for the perfect Christmas present for a dear friend. Once more, audiences were captivated by the heartwarming tale.
  • Serena Legacy – Nike: This ad cleverly weaves together the Nike brand narrative (of sporting excellence, individualism, and achievement), with the story of Serena Williams: one of its most influential ambassadors, whose own brand represents resilience, overcoming, triumph, and legacy. The campaign creates synergy by aligning Serena Williams’ career with the ethos of the Nike brand.  


Brand Storytelling to Live Long in the Memory

In the age of digital and information overload, brand storytelling is a powerful advertising tool for marketers looking to focus on long-term results and growth. 

Crafted around compelling, impactful narratives, brand storytelling creates emotional connections with audiences, fostering brand Fluency, Familiarity, and Fame. Emotions play a pivotal role in this strategy – rather than something intangible, a creative appeal to emotion stands as an efficient way to drive business success and inspire consumer action. 

Brands can more effectively capture and hold attention by riffing on right-brain elements, such as time and space, characters, dialogue, betweenness, and other brand touchstones, like taglines and jingles. Consistency is paramount, ensuring brand messaging remains coherent, and consumer insights help predict emotional responses to further enhance the effectiveness of brand storytelling. 

As advertisers tap further into the power of storytelling, we unlock the potential for long-term brand growth and enduring customer connections. With creativity, emotion, and strategic planning at its core, brand storytelling represents a vehicle that can propel brands towards sustainable growth and lasting impact.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our ad testing tool (Test Your Ad) and our concept testing tool (Test Your Idea) quickly predict the short-term commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing platform which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health

Get in touch now to start the journey toward more creative, strategic, brand-building marketing with System1.