In a time when consumers expect transparency, brand stories and in-store experiences are crucial for capturing shopper attention and influencing their purchase behavior. Shoppers and decision makers are looking for the value you provide, not necessarily the price or discount. In a previous post, we touched on the fact that many brands aren’t harnessing storytelling in-store. However, the combination of these two elements can create a powerful impact on brand consideration and influence.
What Is a Brand Story and Why Does It Matter?
A brand story is a narrative that relies on the history of the company (e.g., who founded it, why they founded it, where the company fits in the world) to build an emotional connection between the shopper and the brand. In turn, this connection can establish a relationship that encourages them to engage with and become loyal to your company. However, a brand story will only be successful at creating connections if the story is authentic and resonates with target shoppers.
Storytelling can activate numerous areas of the brain, including the sensory cortex, and a process known as neural coupling, allowing listeners to digest stories and ideas as though they originated from their own experiences—they relate and empathize with the story. Businesses that build on this resonance can draw shoppers closer to their brand, building trust and preference in a way that ultimately influences shopper behavior.
Creating (or Focusing and Refreshing) Your Brand Story
Whether building the foundation or improving your current baseline, there are a number of core concepts necessary for crafting a successful brand story. Like novels need a beginning, middle, climax, and ending, your brand’s story will need each of the following components to be effective:
- Purpose: Start with why your company was created, especially if it was to solve a problem or meet a need that the market wasn’t yet meeting. Your purpose is your reason for being, and even though it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, it is important to clearly capture why your business began. With your purpose identified, your brand story is about more than a faceless corporate entity, and it can reflect your company culture and business reputation.
- Proposition value: Be sure your brand story addresses why your products and services matter to the shopper. A narrative can elevate a product that’s similar to many others and provide differentiation and value. Give your target shoppers a reason to rally behind your brand and feel good about their purchase.
- Voice: How you communicate with your audience is as important as what you’re communicating. Fully understand who your target shopper is, and then develop your brand’s character to speak directly to them and fully engage them. This is how you shape who your brand is for them, so consistency is key.
- Authenticity: Your brand story must feel genuine. Brand transparency has definitive influence on demand and loyalty, with more transparent brands gaining credibility and market share while shoppers are willing to pay extra for and switch to more honest, candid brands.
Telling Your Brand Story
Simply developing your brand story isn’t enough. It should be implemented across channels and present in every interaction your audience has with your brand. Sometimes this is easy, like with your company website, and sometimes it’s a process, as with building your brand on social media. But there is one area of retail that usually fails to bring brand stories to life: the in-store experience.
If brands could fully optimize their in-store storytelling, it would probably look a lot like the Burt’s Bees store in Asia, where they can control everything from the lighting to the colors on the wall to the store’s aroma. But grocery retailers have to juggle numerous brands as well as their own, and manufacturers that sell in those stores have to deal with a limited amount of shelf space and placement near their immediate competitors. Packaging can only hold so much information.
Manufacturers are also dependent on the retailer to follow through with displaying any storytelling references that extend beyond packaging. Meanwhile retailers have their own concerns with creating the best atmosphere to foster more purchases for higher values. Experiencing Burt’s Bees in that kind of store would be significantly different.
Pressure to stand out and connect with shoppers can tempt brands to create a more elaborate and compelling storyline than reality supports. Companies big and small have paid the price for misleading statements used to build a (presumably) stronger brand story. Settlements made in court don’t even speak to the impact on brand perception and trust, both of which have an effect on sales.
Effective In-Store Storytelling
Always be sure you’re conducting research. For instance, Tyson Foods identified the fact that emotion was needed to drive certain sales, rather than the quantitative, deal-based offer that was being used on in-store signage. Consumer research led them to explore messaging that taps into shoppers’ emotional benefits from sitting down to dinner with the family. Once you’ve developed your brand story, conducting similar research will allow you to share that story in a way that means the most to your target audience. In all likelihood, pieces of your narrative can be told across different in-store touchpoints.
The amount of storytelling you can achieve with a display may vary. For instance, in a store’s cosmetics section, there are small display spots that allow brands to express what they want their product to achieve for the shopper, be it a fresh, natural look or one that’s young and fun. Larger displays, like ones used for popular snack and beverage products ahead of the Super Bowl, allow brands to fully associate themselves with an idea and role they can play in the customer’s life. Various sizes could be used to showcase more of the process and ideology behind the products, like being locally sourced, organic, or free trade.
Other forms of collateral can support your positioning as well. Recipe cards, for example, can be placed for distribution next to the product on the shelf, providing the opportunity to cross-promote other products or elaborate on the brand story elsewhere on the card.
Digital helps take collateral to the next level. A QR code on the package or signage can direct shoppers to a landing page that details the ingredients, as well as your brand story. Similarly, augmented reality can provide even more opportunities to engage shoppers with meaningful information in an interactive format.
Experiencing the Brand
Reading a story can sometimes become abstract, but experiencing your brand and hearing about your brand story in person can make a powerful impression on shoppers. Try to extend beyond free samples offered in the aisles. The encounter should completely alter the way shoppers view your brand. Dr. Scholl’s Custom Fit Kiosk allows the brand to provide a valuable experience with personalized results, and improves customer satisfaction.
Storytelling is a critical part of marketing, and with consumer skepticism and demand for transparency, your brand story is more important than ever. Use our tips to be sure you’ve developed a strong story that can influence shoppers and draw them closer to your company, then ensure you’re leveraging all the opportunities available to you to tell it in-store.