Storytelling in the Post-Advertising Age

Branding is no longer about clever slogans or catchy jingles. It isn’t your logo and marketing materials. Gone are the days when companies could count on the advertising-as-interruption model to imprint their brand identities upon captive audiences. Advertising is dead–at least, advertising Don Draper style. Pundits have christened it the post-advertising era, a new age of marketing, the opt-in culture.

Whatever you call it, today’s consumers are buried in a smorgasbord of tweets, pop-up ads, and advertainment. Hammered with information, they sift through the messages, desensitized and corporate-weary. They want something meaningful. They are worried about social responsibility and sustainability. They aren’t just concerned with what they're buying; they want to know whom they are buying from and what the seller is all about.

They want to know your story.

Telling Your Brand

Your brand is your story. Telling your story has to begin with some serious soul-searching. You must define your identity, compose it, and repeat it…everywhere.

Defining Your Identity

Remember, the goal of branding is to create a relationship with customers. It’s about communicating your company’s personality, the essence of who you are and what you stand for.


Start with brainstorming. Don’t go it alone. Ask for help. Bring together your partners, employees, family, and friends. Poll your customers. Have everyone create a list of adjectives describing the personality of your business.

Points to Consider

As you explore your identity, consider the following:

  • What is your sense of humor like? Is it whimsical or witty?
  • What does your voice sound like?
  • What is your background and heritage?
  • What unique factors distinguish you from your competition?
  • What is your passion?
  • What are the personal histories of the company founders?
  • What is the story behind your product? What’s to love about it?

Check Out the Competition

Look around. Check out the “About Us” pages on your competitors websites. Look at the big dogs, and see how they describe themselves. As you observe, watch for ways to be different.

Focus on Inspiration

Consumers want to connect, to find common ground, and even be inspired. A successful brand will tell a story that inspires and invigorates. Everyone loves an underdog. Perhaps you have overcome great adversity. Or maybe your product or service can change the world in some little way!

Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin

However, as you craft your identity, you have to be comfortable with it. The worst thing you can do is define a personality that doesn’t fit, that isn’t you, that embarasses you. You won’t carry through with it, and your brand is doomed to fail. It’s better to tone it down if you feel uncomfortable. After all, you may be living your brand for a long time!

Compose Your Tale

Crafting your story requires time and effort. It’s somewhere between an art and a science. To be effective it must be relatable, repeatable, and memorable.

They Gotta Buy It

The whole point is to create real connections with your customers. You want to invoke emotion, but at the same time your story must be relatable, something that your customers feel drawn to. If it’s too over the top or not realistic, they won’t buy it and it’s game over. Be real. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Dig deep and let them know why you’re doing what you’re doing.


Storytelling is innate to humankind. It crosses all cultures, all belief systems. Good stories challenge us. Some even change us. Good stories get passed on.

Your story has to be worth telling, but it also must be clear, unified, and easily repeatable. The ultimate goal is to have people talk about you, to pass on your story.

It Has to Stick

In order to be heard, to stand out from the masses, you must attract attention with a story that your customers find memorable.

Repeat It

It isn't enough to have a good story: your story must be heard. From taglines and bios to web content and other marketing materials, tell your story! Then, tell it again. Inject your character into everything.

Your Name

Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of naming their company without considering their story. Names are tricky. Everyone has unique emotional associations. There is much to consider.

  • Listen to how it sounds. Avoid tongue twisters.
  • Be sure it’s available. Check out URLs, social media
  • Try to craft a name that is specific and communicates a unique benefit.
  • It should be memorable.
  • 2.0 sounds/spellings are out
  • Does it lend itself to its own language? Can it be used as a verb, like Google? Or to name employees, Rackspace’s Rackers?

Your Logo

Let your logo visually communicate your story.

Get it out there. Everywhere

Once you’ve crafted your story, spread it: everywhere, across all media and formats! Here are few places you don’t want to neglect:

  • Your website’s About Us page
  • Bios
  • A company blog
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Your place of business
  • Your print materials (business cards, letterhead, etc.)

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