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C-Suite Advisory

How to Craft the Origin Story of your Brand

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Throughout all eras and all cultures around the world, people have always told stories. Storytelling is a key part of what makes us human, and research suggests we tell stories to help foster cooperation, enforce social norms and build trust and empathy. This ingrained evolutionary need to hear a good tale is also why it’s so important to tell the story of your brand – and tell it well.

The origin story of your brand helps prospective clients, employees and collaborators to put a human face to your company and understand your values, and it helps build trust and understanding with them. Your brand’s story isn’t a sales pitch and it isn’t a marketing ploy. It’s the authentic narrative of how your company came to be, the trials you faced to get to where you are today, and where you hope to go next.

The story of your brand is something you should display proudly on your website, but you should also integrate it into how you talk about your company. Here’s how to craft it well:

Keep it simple…and entertaining

Your story must be truthful, but it doesn’t need every date and minor period of growth. It’s not a history lesson, and it shouldn’t be confusing. It should be short, entertaining, and easy for others to retell — maybe just a few short paragraphs.

At their core, all stories just need three things: a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s it. Think about this structure as you begin to craft the story:

Beginning: The problem you saw and wanted to solve — and the people you met that set the idea in motion.

Middle: How you set out to solve it

End: Success! The present…and looking towards the future.

For StickerYou, our story starts with a trip to LA the late aughts, where I was impressed by the ubiquitous sticker culture there and became curious about customized stickers. Upon returning to Toronto, Canada, I researched prices for customized stickers, and found that – at the time – they were prohibitively expensive, especially for small orders. I decided to create the ability for customers to order customized stickers online in any quantity for a reasonable price. Fast forward to today, and StickerYou is a successful, innovative e-commerce company that offers a range of customized sticky products, and is opening a physical retail store in Toronto in the summer of 2019.

Beginning, middle and end. This structure will help guide your narrative efforts.

Where it all began

Get out a pen and paper and jot down everything you can think about about how it all began. This will help your mind get into the specific, concrete details that make your company unique.

How it begins, of course, is with the founder or founders. Most importantly, what was the problem they were trying to solve, and why? But also jot down the kinds of details that will make a story come to life: Where were they? How did they meet? Think about the specifics — the places, the people, the stories. When you put the narrative together, these are the details that will make it come alive and pull your audience in.

Here are a couple examples of brands who put those initial details to great use in the openers to their origin stories:

The beverage dispenser company Beer Tubes:

“The Beer Tubes story starts in June of 2005 when, after a night of league bowling, we were enjoying a post-game beverage. It was a hot summer night and the once ice-cold draft beer was getting warm in the pitcher. Discussion quickly turned to ways for us to keep our beer colder, longer.”

The natural cosmetics company Burt’s Bees:

“It was the summer of ’84 and Maine artist Roxanne Quimby was thumbing a ride back home (back when you could still do that sort of thing). A yellow pick-up truck pulled over, and Roxanne recognised Burt Shavitz, a local fella whose beard was almost as well-known as his roadside honey stand. Burt and Roxanne hit it off and before long, Roxanne was making candles with unused wax from Burt’s beehives…”

Both of these help the reader create a scene in their mind, giving you a sense about the kind of people that built the company, and some idea of the philosophical underpinnings of the brand. These are elements that emotionally engage consumers, and engender a sense of trust and brand loyalty.

Middle: The solution and how you figured it out

Ok, so the founders met. They wanted to solve a problem. How did they go about doing it? Where did they do it? In a basement? In a tiny shop? How did they build it up from there? Jot that all down.

As you well know, building a company up from the beginning is hard – and it’s ok to show some of that. It helps your audience empathize with how tough it was and how you’ve persevered to get to where you are today.

End: Success!

Where you are now…and where you’re headed. This should state the kinds of successes you’ve now had and reiterate your commitment to the philosophy that got you here. The outdoor brand The North Face does a great job of this:

“Now, more than 50 Years after its humble grand opening, The North Face delivers an extensive line of performance apparel, equipment, and footwear…We remain deeply proud to be the first choice of the world’s most accomplished climbers, mountaineers, extreme skiers, snowboarders, endurance runners, and explorers.

There’s little telling what the next 50 years hold for us. However, there is one bedrock certainty: The North Face will maintain an unwavering commitment to pushing the limits of  innovation and design, so that you can push your limits outdoors. Never Stop Exploring.”

Now that’s an ending!

Remember, keep it simple, truthful and enjoyable to read, and your brand’s origin story will be a success.


Have you read?

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Andrew Witkin
As the founder and president of StickerYou, Andrew Witkin believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel. Andrew is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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