True Story (Creating your brand story)

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Today, we’re all busy. Our attention spans are appalling, we’re more critical and discerning than ever and nothing seems to shock or impress us. So, if you’re a brand - how do you talk to people in a way they’ll actually listen? Tell them a story. Customers, clients, consumers – they’re not stupid. They see through outlandish claims and are less inclined to respond to hyperbole and superficialities of yesteryear advertising. In a world of manipulated images, constructed identities and exaggerations, people want true stories, genuine voices and authenticity. Problem is – that the most interesting parts to read in a story, are the struggles. A well-crafted story is full of dramas to negotiate and problems to overcome. No one is interested in listening to someone who has gone from success to success with nothing but a cold in the process. Adversity and honesty intrigues. It leaves an audience with enough curiousity that they feel compelled to stay to hear how it ends, whether that’s returning to keep purchasing or looking for more information – both perfect courses of action in the minds of brands today.

But talking about failure or showing any vulnerabilities is hard. Even more so for entrepreneurs and start-ups where competition makes it very tempting to hide your failures as deeply as you can. The problem is – the failures and drawbacks are the most exciting part. One great example of this is Innocent.

Innocent, a UK company, started making fruit smoothies and now do, well, loads of other delicious things. They’re a quirky, fresh brand – you’ve probably seen their clever design and packaging at your local supermarket and on their website they have a timeline history that is truly inspired. Here’s this company that is doing phenomenally well – they have a gorgeous product that people want – healthy, fresh drinks and food. The timeline on their website outlines every up and down the company has had since it started in 1998. From failed product ranges to faulty packaging, unsuccessful recipe books and near bankruptcy – it’s all up there, for anyone to see. The thing is, I don’t have less faith in their product reading through their almost bi-yearly failure reports, I have more. Because I believe in them and I can see that they’re human, prone to error, earnestly hoping to do better and overcoming challenges.

Their real accomplishments: incredible international growth, using 100% recycled plastic packaging (a world first at the time) and legions of die-hard juice-fiend fans, are not overshadowed by the potholes of their setbacks, they’re that much more impressive.

So what does that mean for other brands? It means that honesty goes a long way.

For brands today, especially those in the start-up world – there is real merit in being authentic. Of course, we’re not suggesting you go out there and start telling people, “I was fired, I’m living with my parents and I have no marketable skills.” Find a way to weave your brand values into your story with confidence. Did you start with a lot of funding or a little? Are you fast or slow growing? What would you say your biggest weakness is? What mistake have you learnt the most from in your business?

When we see SMEs and start-ups as the people behind them, more than just as the logos or Facebook pages they spend time populating with naff content – we empathise, we understand and we trust.

No one is born a marketing genius, brand guru or capital-raising wizard - but we are all born human with all the faults and funnies that entails. When we’re honest with each other, it’s not only interesting and engaging – it’s refreshing and at the end of the day, we’re more likely to trust one another with our dollars and our good sense.


Cruzanne and Ellie-Kate Macalister are sisters and founders of The Quick Word Company, an independent creative copywriting and content agency. They’re thesaurus-trapezing, syntax-seeking, tonality treasure-hunters who love words in all of their forms - especially fun words, like ‘ambidextrous’. Their copywriting experience has seen them put the poetry and power of great words back into the heart of brands.

For more information please contact Ellie-Kate Macalister