22 Aug 2023
Unleashing the Power of Storytelling. Brand Story vs Strategic Narrative
By Caroline Herrick, Head of Brand & Creative
Earlier this year I spoke at the Tech Marketers Conference about the power of a strategic narrative in helping businesses articulate their company strategy and differentiate themselves in highly competitive markets. I’m often asked the difference between a brand story or position and a strategic narrative so thought it time to write a blog post on the topic.
The importance of storytelling
Storytelling is deeply ingrained in human culture – back to ancient times, when we relied on verbal stories to pass knowledge, history, events and moral guidance down through generations. Stories tap into fundamental aspects of human psychology – emotion, memory, engagement, and empathy. We are genetically wired to respond to stories. They make information relatable, memorable, and emotionally resonant whilst conveying ideas, feelings, and culture across time and space.
Storytelling in business is no different. It can help organisations to connect with their audience on an emotional level, and it helps brands to differentiate themselves, build trust, communicate values and foster loyalty. Each of these are important levers – particularly in the B2B space – in creating long term demand and sustainable business growth.
Brand storytelling vs a strategic narrative
A brand story and a strategic narrative both play important roles in brand building, but they have five distinct differences.
- Scope, focus and ownership. A brand story is like a family heirloom – it embodies the history, values, and personality of a brand to create an emotional connection with customers. It’s crafted and owned by marketing.
A strategic narrative takes a future focused view. It encompasses company strategy, purpose, vision and customer insights. It provides a roadmap for the business based on customer insights, not product development. It can rally all stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, partners alike) around a common direction. A strategic narrative is supported and executed by marketing but it is owned by the CEO/Founder.
- Internal vs external audience. A brand story is designed for external audiences, especially customers. It aims to foster brand loyalty and preference.
A strategic narrative is dual-purpose. It communicates direction and provides a point of difference to external stakeholders, and also serves as a North Star for employees. It aligns the business internally, aiding decision-making and fueling focus and clarity within the ranks.
- Time orientation. A brand story is a trip down memory lane, capturing the essence of a business’ past and its present. It articulates evolution, values, and unique selling points. A strategic narrative communicates the future. It's a forward-looking compass that paints a picture of a transformative shift or change in the world that unlocks future opportunities for the business, its customers and stakeholders.
- Communication context. A brand story takes centre stage in marketing and advertising, creating experiences, engaging customers, and attracting prospects. When done well, it sets businesses apart from their competition and fuels sales, market expansion, premium pricing, shorter sales cycles and more…
A strategic narrative plays a role in many communication contexts – internal communications, investor relations, organisational change initiatives, and even crisis management, as well as sales and marketing, product development and talent acquisition. It's the North Star that ensures consistent communication across all stakeholder groups.
- Strategic framework. Underpinning the strategic narrative is a framework that starts with the customer. This is overlaid with a company's mission, vision, values, and strategic priorities. It lays the foundation for understanding the purpose and direction of the business, aligning stakeholders, driving decision-making, and prioritising actions, product development and resources.
A brand story, though critical for brand building, is more like a cog in the machine, focused on communicating the current value proposition, building trust and credibility in the marketplace, and forging emotional connections and loyalty with customers.
Brand story or a strategic narrative - what’s right for your business?
Every business needs a compelling brand story. Period. But a strategic narrative is not for every CEO/Founder, or for every business. Here are the four signals that indicate a strategic narrative might be the fuel you need to accelerate your business growth.
- You're leading industry change. If your business is at the forefront of technological innovation or addressing a significant problem in an innovative way, or there is a significant change in behaviour or mindset that you can tap into, a strategic narrative can position you as the leader who is driving positive change.
- You need to bring vision to life. When you want to communicate your long-term vision, goals, and the path you're taking to achieve them, a strategic narrative provides understanding and a roadmap for all of your stakeholders and clear differentiation in highly competitive markets.
- You're engaging diverse audiences. If you're seeking to inspire and motivate a wide range of stakeholders, including investors, partners, employees, and customers, a strategic narrative provides a unifying framework that ties everything together and maps out the journey you’re on.
- You're expanding and evolving. A strategic narrative is beneficial when you're in a phase of expansion, mergers, acquisitions, or other significant shifts that require alignment, focus, and clear, consistent communication.
In a nutshell, no matter where you are in your business's brand journey, leveraging the power of storytelling is key to captivating hearts, and inspiring minds along the way.
If you need help with telling your company story, we're here to help👇.