Business Storytelling: How To Build Your Brand Around Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Back in the cave

Humans have dominated the world thanks to their cognitive abilities. Humans have bigger brains that allowed them to overcome adversity and thrive. Humans conquered the world thanks to their intellectual superiority.

Would you agree with these statements? I bet you would. Yet this is not the thesis of History’s Professor, Yuval Noah Harari, also the author of “Homo Sapiens,” and “Homo Deus.” In fact, as he explains in his Ted Talk, individually, humans are not that smarter or stronger or better than other animals, or mammals in particular. Humanity took over the world.

How is it possible then that humans dominated the world? The answer, according to Harari is ‘cooperation.’ Other animals cooperate as well! What makes us special? Are we more peaceful, compassionate or smarter than other mammals? Not really.

For instance, among our closest cousins, the bonobos, are way more peaceful and almost as much intelligence as we are. Then, again, what is unique about us?

The Rise of the Story-Listeners  

According to Harari, we are the only species on earth, which beliefs in stories, myths, and narratives. In short, if you ask a monkey to loan you a banana in exchange for a banana and a half in a year’s time; the monkey will not only eat it but also throw you a stone. Why? Because the monkey does not believe in the “interests’ myth.”

This ability to believe in stories, allowed us to form large and complex societies. In fact, our brains allow us to cooperate at the small-scale level.

This is because there is only a certain threshold of information that our minds can handle before plateauing. According to Harari, if we could not believe in stories, it would’ve been impossible to form groups of more than 150 individuals.

Therefore, this ability carried us forward. Yet, if we ask ourselves “are we happier, healthier, and more intelligent than we were when living in the Savannah?” Although there is no definitive proof, according to Harari, the answer may be a “big no-no.

Why? Often we are so compelled to believe in stories. Those narratives, bend our reality and make the world take a strange turn. In other words, when those stories became mere propaganda this can lead to significant troubles.

Therefore, each time we come up with a new “myth” we should also place a label on it, which says “handle with care,” to avoid troubles.

What does this have to do with the business world?

How Storytelling Moved from the Historical Stage to the Business Arena

So far we can say that among the most significant inventions of humankind there is not the wheel, the steam machine, or the space shuttle. Instead, the corporation, the state, and the church.

From Emperor Augustus to Steve Jobs; from Alexander the Great to Elon Musk; storytelling and the ability to “fabricate” new myths had played a massive role. For instance, Emperor Augustus understood that to keep the Roman Empire compact; he had to create the “Roman myth.”

How could he otherwise glue together the consciences of millions of individuals? He did so through a story, which became known as “The Aeneid,” written by the most excellent storyteller of that time, Virgil!

Successful people in business understood this concept and made it work in their favor. Would anyone love Apple if it didn’t believe in “Steve Jobs‘ Myth?” Would anyone trust Tesla or SpaceX if it didn’t believe in “Elon Mask’s Myth?

You may say, “well, these are persons, not myths.” Yet this is only in part true. Take Steve Jobs. Although he doesn’t have a physical existence anymore, he is still alive in the conscience of millions if not billions of individuals. We can say that in the “inter-subjective reality” (the stories shared by millions of heads) he is alive than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, both Apple and Tesla are great companies. A great contributor to their success was the ability of those companies to carry out the so-called “founder’s myth.

There is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, when the fabricated stories start to bend reality, by creating a massive gap between the “real world” and the “mythological world” things may get out of hand.

What would happen to Apple or Tesla if people suddenly stopped to believe in the founders’ myth?

An Ethical Code for Storytelling: The Art of Finding the Sweet Spot

We saw how important storytelling is to create a business that sticks in people’s minds. On the other hand, we also want to make sure to find the sweet spot. How? By answering three central questions:

Is your story authentic? 

Howard Schultz (Starbucks‘ Founder) tells the story of his father, which broke an ankle when he was only seven years old, and the whole family lived in New York City housing projects. Since his father had no health insurance, to pay for the expenses they were left with no income.

At the moment in which Howard Schultz told this story, he fabricated the corporate responsibility myth. In fact, companies are abstract entities. How can a company be responsible?

When people associate Starbucks with the responsibility, they think of Schultz’s story, and that is how the Starbucks brand grows into the imagination of millions of people around the world. The story works though because it is authentic!

Would people be enthusiastic about sharing your story?

When Blake Mycoskie explains how he founded TOMS SHOES people want to be part of it. Therefore, when you buy Tom’s shoes, you are not only purchasing cool shoes but rather the story behind it.

As Mycoskie recalls in his book “Start Something that Matters” people are so excited to share Tom’s story, that there is no need for marketing the product; it sells itself. Once again, Mycoskie is a story that compels people to share and spread the word. And once again the story is authentic.

Is the story in line with your business

When Elon Musk‘s story of how he founded his companies  spreads like a virus, his companies automatically acquire an aura of heroic entities, operating for the “greater good.

Therefore, even though Musk‘s companies get $4.9 billion in government support, none raises an eyebrow. Why? Because once again the story is authentic, compelling, and in line with Musk‘s business ventures.

Understanding business storytelling

Business storytelling is used to create compelling narratives for various forms of business communication such as presentations, reports, content marketing, and advertising.

As the name suggests, business storytelling utilizes the structure of a story to guide internal and external communication. The approach has many applications. It can be used as a persuasion tool or as a tool to sell to a prospective client. It can also define new marketing narratives and differentiate a brand with respect to the competition.

Business storytelling, like all forms of storytelling, is as much an art as it is a science. It requires a certain amount of skill, creativity, and patience. But when used correctly, it can empower individuals within a business environment to transcend corporate jargon, problem-solve more effectively, and enhance business practices. For the organization as a whole, business storytelling also encompasses stories that are used to support mission, vision, and purpose.

Integral components of business storytelling

Business storytelling is a process that endeavors to create an internal and external brand people can relate to. While the basic process should be adapted to suit the context, storytelling should always strive to express business communication, facts, and figures via the telling of a believable, engaging, and authentic story.

Here is a brief outline of the steps that are involved:

  1. Understand the audience – the crafting of a user persona is paramount before any work commences on the story itself. This will maximize the chances the story will be viewed, read, heard, and understood by the correct audience in the way it was intended.
  2. Create the core message – the nature of the core message is far less important than the presence of a core message in the first place.
  3. Craft the story – with the core message identified, a story must then be crafted to give it extra meaning and depth. Business stories should explain the success of a past initiative and how the same initiative could be beneficial to the user. Stories should also avoid excessive detail, contain practical solutions that are cost-effective, and incorporate human emotions, values, and situations.
  4. End with an outcome and a call to action – every story must conclude with a thought-provoking message that motivates the audience to take action. To that end, a call to action (CTA) may include asking a prospect to agree to terms or encouraging a customer to subscribe to an email list or purchase a product.

Benefits and implications of business storytelling

How can businesses benefit from telling stories? Below is a look at a few examples.

Employee efficiency and engagement

Companies only succeed when employees are motivated and driven. However, research firm Gallup found that 85% of worldwide employees and 65% of employees in the United States were not enthusiastic about their roles.

Business storytelling can be used to create a corporate culture that is conducive to satisfied and productive employees. It is important to share stories about the company, including how it came to be and the obstacles it had to overcome to succeed. Employees are instilled with a greater sense of purpose and meaning when leaders make an effort to include them in the future story of the company.


Stories also influence decision-making. In the same way that consumers look at stories in product reviews before deciding to purchase, businesses evaluate the stories of other businesses before deciding whether to enter into a relationship with them.

In essence, the quality of storytelling is used to determine whether someone should get involved with an organization. That someone may be a customer, stakeholder, or potential employee.

Purpose and profit

Storytelling provides the link between purpose and profit. Indeed, companies such as Apple and Google became successful because they were founded by visionaries whose story involved changing the world. If the business has a story that consumers can get behind, all the better.

Telling stories is also a useful way for the business to make its mission and vision statement less esoteric. The companies that display their humanity, personality, and imperfection will avoid the stigma of a faceless corporation and become the sort of business others will naturally become attracted to.

Key takeaways:

  • Business storytelling is used to create compelling narratives for various forms of business communication such as presentations, reports, content marketing, and advertising.
  • Business storytelling is a process that endeavors to create an internal and external brand people can relate to. This can be achieved by understanding the target audience, developing a core message, crafting a story, and ending with a call to action.
  • Business storytelling can be used to improve employee performance and profit potential. Stories are also considered by key stakeholders when deciding whether or not to become involved with an organization.

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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