A brand or business origin story is a remarkably powerful piece of content, and its surprising to find that many brands don’t have an origin story, or the one they have is uninteresting or generic.
There is so much opportunity and function in an origin story, that its a must-have for any brand.
If your brand’s origin story is hazy, unremarkable, or downright MIA then it’s time to sit down and put pen to paper (literally or figuritively).
5 Steps to a Compelling Origin Story
- Identify the History
- Describe the Experience
- Pinpoint the Moment
- Define the Lessons Learned
- Present the Results
People love a good story, remember them, and share them with their own social circles. Just think about major brands, businesses, and personalities – we know their origin stories and we eagerly share them. We hold them up as examples to follow and learn from.
What is an origin story?
In the typical superhero definition, it’s the backstory, or the background narrative that determines the motivations and identity of the hero.
For a brand the origin story fills the same role: it gives context to the values and goals of the brand.
Not only does your audience want to know your history, they will better identify with and align with your brand, which creates loyalty and lifelong fans.
Your origin story also informs your marketing efforts. It will create a cohesion to the content and helps present a unified brand style and voice that builds trust in your audience.
Ultimately, an origin story is a story so it needs to fit a storytelling structure. Your brand’s history has a lot of twists and turns, and not every detail or tangent is important. We borrow from Freytag’s Pyramid for storytelling structure to give framework to constructing the story of your brand.
5 Steps to Telling Your Brand’s Origins
1. Identify the History
This is where you introduce information about where you or your brand was before it became the entity it is today. Consider adding eduation, experience, work history, or life events.
The key here is to only relate information that your audience will find relevant, and keep it simple.
For example, with our founder, he started out working on big-budget commercials in California and branched into fashion photography and started a couple of eCommerce fashion brands. Read more of our origin story here.
2. Describe the Experience
In this part, you need to describe the problem you were experiencing. Perhaps it was a community need, such as in the case of Bombas. The founders saw that there was a need for new sock donations at homeless shelters, and decided to build a company around that. For every pair of re-designed socks they sell, they donate a pair to charity.
Keep in mind, the problem doesn’t need to be dramatic or tragic – it could simply be how you identified an unfilled need in the market.
For example, the founder of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, describes how he was frustrated with social media tools when he was trying to schedule his Tweets. He got so annoyed he decided to make a tool that would get the job done and be easier to use.
The major point of this part of the origin story is that it allows your audience to identify personally with the experience. They will recognize that they themselves have experienced the same thoughts, questions, or concerns.
3. Pinpoint the Moment
At this stage, your audience knows that you or the brand have some knowledge and experience they can trust, and that you also encountered the same obstacles they have faced themselves.
Now you need to introduce the moment that caused you to take action. Its the catalyst, and it generally is regarded as a specific experience.
It’s important to note here that often the Moment blends seamlessly with the Experience. As with the examples in the previous step, the experience of frustration or concern was combined with the event that caused the founders to act. For Bombas, it was seeing a Facebook post about the need for donated socks which triggered the founders to decide to create a company that sells superior socks and donates socks to charity. For Buffer, the founder just got so fed up with the struggle to schedule his Tweets the way he wanted that he resolved to create a solution himself.
So, don’t feel that you need to seperate these two steps when crafting your origin story. They often are inextricably mixed.
On the other hand, the Moment really could be out-of-the-blue event. In the case of the GoBig Creative founder, he was involved in a brutal mountain biking accident that laid him up for three months, and the result was that he unexpectedly had a ton of time on his hands, and he decided to use it to solve the issues he was facing.
4. Define the Lessons Learned
This part of the story distills the lessons learned from all the History, Experience and the Moment. These lessons might be universal to the human race, but they were well-earned by the storyteller. Each origin story learns the lessons through trial and struggle, and how they arrive at the answers is unique to them.
It’s a very human, very vulnerable part of the origin story, and it needs to be honest. Your audience will again be able to identify with your story. However, if the lessons learned don’t really match the experience from earlier in the story then the origin story will come across as disjointed and unbelievable.
In the example of Bombas, the founders didn’t just want to sell any old socks. They wanted vastly superior socks and they ended up re-designing the construction of the sock. In an environment that told them that no one would care about socks or a sock brand, they proved all the naysayers wrong, even a Shark Tank investor.
5. Present the Results
Finally, this is where all the parts of the story come together:
- Your brand’s History means that you had the authority to make something awesome.
- Your brand’s Experience tells your audience that you know exactly how they feel, and gave you insight into the issue in an authentic way.
- Your brand’s Moment is the climax of the story, and the event that propelled you into creating a solution.
- What your brand Learned from the whole thing continues to pull the audience in, and shows them that there is a reason to trust and follow you and your brand.
Now, what did you and your brand create? This is the time where you can present the final product. Whether that’s a social media management tool that outperforms all others, socially-conscious socks that allow buyers to make an impact on their own communities, or a visually-centric digital marketing agency that uplevels revenue.
5 Steps to Crafting Your Brand’s Origin Story
An audience will see the connection between the pieces, and understand how your brand came from the beginning to where it is now. When the story makes sense, its easier to remember, and creates trust in your consumer.
Remember, be honest, know your audience and what they will resonate with, and continue to refine your origin story. Your brand will grow, develop, and experience new obstacles and struggles. Those can be incorporated to show your audience that there is a person behind the brand. After all, people follow people, not products.