The other day, I had (what I think is) a great idea for an ad for Apple.
You see, I got a pair of AirPods for Christmas. I’ve been wanting them for a while – wireless earphones are wonderful for everything from client consultations to sweating it out on the treadmill.
In fact, they are almost always within grasp. In the morning, I plop them in as I watch Mad Men while getting ready for the day. At the gym, they feed me the latest episode from one of my favorite podcasts. During the day, I use them to listen to music at the coffee shop or while taking client calls. At night, they’re there while I listen to my Audible while making dinner and when trying to fall asleep (thank God for the sleep timer).
All of this? It would make for a wonderful commercial aimed at solopreneurs.
Apple is a classic example of incredible brand storytelling. From Jobs’ renowned presentations to their captivating ads, almost any marketer or advertiser will tell you Apple’s an inspiration.
But they’re not the only ones doing it. In fact, there are thousands of women-owned businesses who use storytelling in their marketing. That’s what I want to talk about today. But first, let’s get on the same page about brand storytelling and what makes it work.
What Makes Brand Storytelling Successful?
Successful brand storytelling doesn’t just tell you what the company does and how they do it – it empathizes with their target audience and tells them why they’re different from anyone else.
Storytelling is human nature, yes, but sometimes we get so caught up in what our company does (its features) that we forget to take a step back and describe them in a way that resonates with our customers (through benefits).
So before we dive into examples, let’s review the steps to telling a great story:
- Start with a hook: empathize with your audience by setting up the story & identifying their challenge
- Make it meaningful through conflict: every great story has conflict – describe what life without your product/solution looks like & incorporate emotions (i.e. frustration, lack of confidence, etc.)
- Tie it all together: use a clear and direct call-to-action to tell your audience what to do next
This is the basic story structure – it’s the roadmap you can use to set up and tell the rest of your story.
As we dive into the examples below, we’ll compare their methods against this story structure to show how following this template is a key to success.
11 Examples of Successful Brand Storytelling
Meet the invisible majority. Most American women are plus-size, but they make up less than 2% of the images we see. We want to change that.Refinery29
Medium: Landing Page
Talk about a strong hook. Refinery29’s 67 Percent Project aims to present more diversity in their content according to the diversity of women outside of it.
With this project, they committed themselves to updating their content so that 67% of the images on-site and throughout their social media platforms feature plus-size women.
Of course, the cause they’re promoting is a great one – and having something great to talk about already makes your storytelling that much easier. But that’s just the icing on the cake.
Here’s a breakdown of their story structure:
- Hook: They hook the audience with a bold statistic: 67% of women in the United States are size 14 or larger. Then, they introduce “the invisible majority”, establishing empathy and identifying the challenge.
- Conflict: After their introduction segment, they set up the conflict as “The Unconscious Bias Problem”, saying “we can’t afford to ignore the 67% anymore”.
- Resolution: At the end of the page, they call you to action. They tell you to join the movement by sharing stories & images on social media using the hashtag #Seethe67
The reader is taken on a journey from the shocking statistic, the introduction to the women (photos of their faces help to establish that empathy), down to the acknowledgment of unconscious bias and, finally, a call-to-action.
This form of storytelling is a little bit different than the one above, but it’s still just as relevant.
If we were to tell you we wanted to start a blog for a company selling period underwear, you might look at us like we’re crazy. After all, what could we possibly write about that isn’t so…bloody?
This is where Thinx does an amazing job with their content. They think beyond their product and address issues their target audience faces outside of the bikini area. They feature op-eds, essays, pieces on women’s health & feminism, and even cover pop culture.
Through their blog – branded as Periodial – they empower women to better understand and own their bodies.
Let’s break down the story structure here:
- Hook: The actual hook varies based on blog post, but the hook here is the topic. They hook their target audience to the brand by addressing topics they’re interested in, bringing them to the site and beginning their engagement with the brand.
- Conflict: This is a little more fuzzy when we’re talking big picture about the blog as a whole – but essentially they’re incorporating emotions in their articles and their opinions on important issues to side with their target audience.
- Resolution: The call-to-action here is to start interacting with the brand. From there, they’ll use more stories to get you to buy from them too.
Great content marketing is a wonderful way to share your brand’s story on a regular basis. The key here is to diversify your topics while keeping your brand’s core messaging & positioning top of mind through it all.
Getting Away means getting more out of every trip to come. That’s the idea, and the mission, behind everything we do.Away
Medium: About page
Away is a brand of luggage and travel accessories founded by Steph Korey and Jen Rubio. Designed for millennial travelers, they tell a story that’s as simple as it is inspiring.
On the About page, they share their beliefs and their journey, making even aspiring travelers fall in love and want to buy a suitcase for that feeling of adventure and freedom that comes with traveling.
Here’s a breakdown of their story structure:
- Hook: They hook the audience by starting with what they believe in. They talk about feelings of adventure, of connection, of exploration.
- Conflict: They describe what life without their product would look like: a dying phone and a broken bag – two of a modern travelers’ worst nightmares.
- Resolution: Don’t worry – Away makes everything you need to get away. Nothing more, nothing less. They’re missing a clear call-to-action directing readers to “shop now”, but they successfully introduce their product as the solution to the conflict.
Their story makes you want to travel – and it makes you want to travel using their products. By combining the emotions associated with exploration, simplicity, human connection, and adventure, they inspire their readers to go off on their own journey with an Away bag in tow.
Medium: About page
Happy Family Organics is a food company that provides “enlightened organic nutrition” for babies, toddlers, and children. Launched in 2006, the company’s mission is to help change the future of children’s health through nutrition.
On their About page, they share their inspiring story from conception to where they are today (well, in 2017). The story takes you along the journey from idea to the recent awards they’ve won – letting the reader fall in love with the story as well as the brand itself.
Let’s break down the story structure:
- Hook: Happy Family Organics is working to change the future of childrens’ health by providing easily accessible healthy and organic baby food.
- Conflict: The founder, Shazi Vizram, experienced her friend struggling to find healthy baby food for her twins.
- Resolution: They’ve won awards including the Best For The World: Changemakers Award in 2017. Oh, and their call-to-action is to read about them in the news.
This story structure is more focused on the founders’ journey rather than the readers’, but it’s an example of how you can form that deeper connection with your customer by sharing your path to success with them. This way, they can envision it for themselves in a different way: “hey, I struggle with finding healthy baby food too – but not anymore!”
Form: Podcast & Magazine
The Wing is “a network of work and community spaces designed for women.” They have a collection of coworking spaces throughout the nation and are expanding rapidly.
One of the best ways to use storytelling in marketing is by creating content that your target audience finds interesting, educational, and entertaining. That’s exactly what The Wing succeeds to do with both their podcast and their magazine, No Man’s Land.
Here’s the story structure:
- Hook: Their hook is clear from the beginning of their page, in their header: “Stories for women with something to say and nothing to prove.” Ummm, hello. I’m one of those. I’m in!
- Conflict: The podcast is all about stories of women who were “too bad for textbooks”. Meanwhile, the magazine features example stories such as how motherhood affects the bottom-line.
- Resolution: It’s similar for both: subscribe to the podcast and buy the magazine.
Turn one-time customers into loyal companions by creating content they’re truly interested in. The Wing does an amazing job at this. The podcast about women in history might not seem like it has anything to do with the business at first, but when you think about it, it’s exactly something their target audience would be interested in.
Medium: Brand story page
Some brands have brand stories so strong they belong on their own page. That’s the case for Ayva, a jewelry design company that sells beautiful pieces of art.
Their mission is to help the women who wear their jewelry experience their favorite moments in love every time they slip on a ring or a pair of earrings. They sell pieces of jewelry designed to tell their customers’ stories.
Let’s break down their story here:
- Hook: They hook the reader with a quote from Aristotle which states “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” This sets the stage for the feeling they aim for with their products.
- Conflict: They use a strong sense of emotion by correlating their jewelry with the strong sense of nostalgia one gets when sniffing a particular scent or seeing an image that brings back good memories.
- Resolution: While there’s no specific button to start shopping, they’ve created a hashtag that calls the reader to action to #startyourstory.
Through this structure, the brand works to emulate a sense of nostalgia – something that has a lot of emotions tied to it. They want to connect their products with the sense of a good memory which is hard to do. But when done right, they may create a lasting connection with their customer.
Medium: Blog post
Brandilyn Davidson is a photographer and visual storyteller for female founders. She specializes in helping women show up as their best selves in front of the camera by providing a positive and confidence-boosting experience.
This woman does an incredible job sharing her story in this blog post and it’s a prime example of incorporating personal experience with an important lesson to take away. She gets vulnerable, shares her story, and encourages her potential clients to do the same.
Let’s break down her story here:
- Hook: The first sentence where she describes throwing a full stack (of what? keep reading to find out!) out the window and breaking out into sobs. It has the reader asking: what happened?
- Conflict: She relates to women by describing how much she used to hate seeing images of herself. She explains her struggles with self-confidence and gets really vulnerable. Why? Because her readers are probably experiencing the same thing (I know I do – especially in front of the camera!)
- Resolution: Working with her, you’ll feel great and, ultimately, look great. Who doesn’t want that! So, hell yes I want to hire her!
In her blog post, Brandilyn does an amazing job taking the reader on a very relatable journey. She knows their primary pain point – self-confidence in front of the camera – and establishes empathy by telling a story about her own struggles with it.
You immediately trust her and know she will do whatever she can to get the job done right.
Medium: About page
Svaha designs and produces apparel that doesn’t fit stereotypical gender norms. The idea for the business started when the founder’s – Jaya Iyer – daughter wanted a space-themed shirt. After all, she’s always wanted to be an astronaut.
However, shocked she couldn’t find anything remotely science-themed for girls, she decided to take the issue into her own hands. After securing funding through a Kickstarter campaign, she’s now operating this incredible apparel business.
This is amazing in itself, but let’s break down the story here:
- Hook: Those with children who don’t necessarily like things in the gender norm (boys like unicorns, girls like space) will totally connect with Jaya’s dilemma. Bam! They’re hooked.
- Conflict: The conflict here is the frustration around not finding the right clothes for her children. Her sons like rainbows and her daughter likes science, but finding apparel to reflect that was impossible!
- Resolution: That’s where Svaha comes in. Their mission is to break gender norms and create cool clothes – no matter what society says your interests should be.
Like I’ve said in other examples, having an incredible story to tell helps. It’s a great mission and it looks like the company swooped in just in time to fill a blank space in the market.
Medium: About page
As many of us know, staying healthy is a combination of filling our bodies with good nutrition and staying active. Because most of us work at desks (or on the couch), we get our activity by working out. The thing is, many sport bras kind of totally suck.
They’re uncomfortable, they don’t fit us right, they don’t last long enough, the list could go on. That’s why Elyse Kaye decided to change that. She founded Bloom Bras, a revolutionary solution to the pain and challenges of shitty sports bras.
She tells the story of how the company started on her About page. Let’s break it down here:
- Hook: The reader is hooked by the goal of the company, which is to create products that are adjustable, comfortable, and empowering women to get active.
- Conflict: The conflict is simple: it’s the frustration of not finding a sports bra that fits us. Either they aren’t big enough or not adjustable to fit our unique shapes just right.
- Resolution: That’s where Bloom Bras come in. They offer a customizable solution that gets women feeling better about getting active.
Elyse shares her story of creating the bra as a solution for those whose boobs are just…not standard (aka everyone’s). It’s inspiring and immediately shows she had women like her in mind when creating this product, which builds trust and makes you want to go out and buy one.
Medium: Video (see video here)
Hezalia is a digital platform where bold women can “reclaim women’s health and wellness through media, storytelling, advice, and community.” The website features everything from shopping from amazing women-owned businesses, inspirational stories, and finding a health professional.
The founder of Hezalia, Lindsey Jackson, is also hosting a two-day workshop for rebellious women at the end of January called #enlightenedAF. To promote the workshop, Lindsey put together an incredible video using storytelling to express the anger and frustration around how society has treated strong women.
It’s an incredible video and is a great example of storytelling at its finest. Let’s break it down here:
- Hook: “I am enlightened AF. It may not matter to you, but it matters to me.” At the beginning of the video, Lindsey makes a bold statement. She says she’s enlightened – but what is she enlightened about? Keep watching to find out.
- Conflict: The struggle is real. Throughout the video, Lindsey expresses the anger she feels toward society – toward the way things have become. She says things like “in a world I can’t make sense of, can’t get shit from” and “you repeatedly tried to write me out of the very history I gave birth to between my two thighs”. This raw emotion carries through the video and establishes empathy with the audience.
- Resolution: “Something cracked open – a light, a voice, a knowing.” This is the breakthrough moment. She wraps it up by saying “All because I got enlightened”. Wow. I want to get enlightened to – so I’d better buy tickets to this conference.
In her video, Lindsey channels her raw emotion through captivating storytelling. She uses powerful imagery both visually and verbally, calling bold women like her to action and bringing them together to establish a community of people who are – you guessed it – enlightened AF.
Medium: Website homepage
Athent is a professional athletes’ best friend. It’s an app that helps athletes manage their finances, investments, and personal brand – all at the tip of their fingers.
The app provides relief to athletes who suddenly come into large sums of money and don’t know how to manage it in order to make it last beyond their career. It’s an incredible solution to a problem in a niche most people don’t think about – unless you’re in that industry.
The story is told very well on the homepage of the website. Let’s break it down here:
- Hook: The hook is the heading: “Welcome to your personal enterprise.” The sub-header goes on to explain what the app does and hooks the reader into learning more about it.
- Conflict: The next section explains the the challenge Athent aims to solve. 60-78% of players file for bankruptcy within 5 years of retirement. That’s a lot of people who aren’t currently able to manage their finances & personal brand correctly!
- Resolution: The solution is this: get the app and get all the help you need to manage your activity and track your progress. The homepage even features their supporters – other athletes who have trusted the brand. The final call-to-action? Get involved.
Athent provides a solution in a very tight niche, but because it’s so specific and so large of a problem, it seems like the perfect fit. Their simple website says everything someone might want to know right off the bat and tells it in a clear and captivating way. You know exactly what the product is, who it’s for, and why you should get it.
Tell Your Own Brand Story
Of course, there are so many more examples of successful brand storytelling out there. Just google “brand storytelling examples” and you’ll see articles featuring classics like Apple, Google, and Airbnb who have dished out millions of dollars to tell their well-known stories.
The first step to telling a successful brand story is to figure out what it is. Download our free brand storytelling worksheet to get started.
The thing is, although every brand needs to tell a well-constructed story to get customers to fall in love with you, you don’t need to spend millions of dollars doing so.
In this blog post, we wanted to find a variety of examples at different scales to show how effective storytelling can come across, no matter what medium you’re using.
And, if you’d like to work with a professional brand strategist, we’re here to help. we offer a 60-minute brainstorming session for $150 or we can work closely with you to get your brand where it needs to be.