Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with a few particularly great brand stories. I’ve even shared some of my favorites right here on the blog.
But I’ve also seen my fair share of terrible ones as well.
How many times have you had to stop midway through reading a brand story that was nothing but fluff without any real substance? Or one that set off alarms?
Sadly, these aren’t the only two problems that I have seen as far as awful brand stories go. The thing is, brand stories are usually bad for a few of the same reasons. In fact, the following five mistakes are notorious for destroying what could have otherwise been a perfectly great story.
Don’t worry if your brand story is guilty of committing one (or more) of these offenses. I’ll show you how to fix things today.
Problem #1: They Don’t Respect the Reader’s Time
Let’s be clear on one thing: you’re not the only one who’s busy here. Your reader has a hectic life, too. You need to respect their time if you want to get anywhere with them.
I’ve come across brand stories that are too long, too wordy and simply don’t respect the reader’s time.
So, how long should your story be?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic number here. But I can say for certain that you should try to condense your story and refine it as much as possible.
Start by identifying the key points and messages you’d like to get across and move these items to the front of your story. This creates an impromptu outline on paper so you don’t get too deep before realizing you have way too much going on. Keeping your most important items near the top ensures that they won’t be cut if space runs out.
Your homework: Pare down your brand story by starting with an outline that contains only your most important points.
As you create your story, keep revising it to see what else you can remove without losing your main message. You’ll repeat this until your story is as short and to-the-point as possible.
If you find that you really want to include or elaborate on additional aspects of your story, do so on a separate page that links out from this one. This gives those readers who want to know more the option to do so, without overwhelming those who just want to learn the basics of your brand.
Problem #2: They’re SO Vague It’s Like They’re Hiding Something
If you’ve ever had to sift through resumes packed with tired, old phrases like “results-driven” and “goal-orientated”, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that I can’t stand vague responses.
Vague terms are not only overused, but they don’t provide the reader with any concrete information that defines the true nature of your brand and what it stands for. You never want the reader to be confused or bored about these crucial details.
On the other hand, stories with descriptive and imaginative language help capture the reader’s attention, which is exactly what you need.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you make up or use descriptive words just for the sake of doing so. Rather, I want you to get super specific.
Here’s an example of a vague mission statement for a company: Our goal is to help others live a natural life.
A better one would be: Our goal is to help children live a prescription-free lifestyle by utilizing natural remedies such as chiropractic care.
Your homework: Work on making that outline of yours ultra specific.
Brainstorm adjectives and descriptive phrases connected to your brand story and jot them down for now. You may or may not use everything that you come up with, which is okay. The point is to get it out of your head and onto paper. We can refine this later.
Be careful not to exaggerate here either. Everything you mention should be true.
So if you’ve already helped 100 children in your practice, mention that specifically instead of fluffing that number to “we’ve helped hundreds of children to date”. That vague term “hundreds” may sound impressive, but the more specific number of 100 is more authentic and customer-friendly.
Problem #3: They’re Too Focused on Accomplishments
We talked a bit about the humble brag in this article and this mistake is right along those lines.
It’s great that your brand has accomplished so much. It’s also something worth mentioning. But there’s a time and place to toot your own horn, and I caution you to tread lightly when you’re dealing with accomplishments within your brand story.
Whenever you’re mentioning successes in your story, try to get to the point as quickly as possible. Include a separate link that has the full title and a short description of what your brand has accomplished professionally.
On top of that, shift the attention from being all about your brand to how your brand helps others. You can do this by creating a relatable story that resonates with your target audience. (Don’t forget to sign up for my free brand storytelling bootcamp to learn how to do just that!)
Your homework: Try to weave your brand accomplishments into your story in a natural and organic way. Focus the attention on how your brand is just like its audience instead of more accomplished than they are.
Problem #4: The Technical Jargon is Too Much for Your Reader
Another problem I see all the time is brand stories stuffed with technical jargon.
Yes, you want to show that you’re an expert in your field, but you probably won’t be talking to other experts in most cases. Instead, you’ll be dealing with customers who need your help.
Since you’re the expert and your customers may not be on your technical level, so to speak, don’t alienate them by going over their head. Use simple and easily understandable language to show them that they can be successful just like you.
Your homework: Weed out all the technical jargon from your brand story.
To do this, print out or take a screenshot of your story and circle or highlight any points that an average reader wouldn’t understand. If they’d need to Google it, toss it.
Once you do that, try to unravel this jargon so you can put it back together using simpler terms your target audience will relate to.
By doing this, you’ll prove that you know exactly what you’re doing and how you can help your audience.
Problem #5: You’re Sending Mixed (or Too Many) Messages
The last problem many brand stories experience is sending so many messages that the customer has no clue what the brand really stands for.
Or worse, the messages are conflicting.
See why having a clear outline is so important?
Read your brand story and see if you can answer questions like:
- What are you really trying to share with your brand story?
- If readers could only take one point with them, what do you hope it would be?
- What is your brand’s simplified, core mission?
Work all of these thoughts out before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Your homework: On top of condensing your story, get crystal clear on what you stand for and what you want to share.
Your message should convey one central theme with a few supporting and key points to bring home your stance.
Again, it always pays to get super specific here.
Now that you know the most common brand story issues, be honest with yourself. How many of these mistakes have you made unknowingly?
It’s okay if you’ve committed a few errors. It’s not okay to leave them there. If you do, you’ll certainly turn more than a few customers off.
Spend time re-working your brand story and getting down to its most simplified version. You should never consider this time wasted as your brand story is how a good portion of your customers will determine if your brand aligns with their values.