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Telling a brand story with Ellen Mubwanda.

Ellen Mubwanda is a writer, and brand storyteller for business owners who want to leverage storytelling to deeply connect with their audience, create a captivating brand that sells, and grow their business with impact. She has created copy in various industries all over the world. Ellen graduated from Christ University in Bangalore, India and went on to edit film scripts before working full-time in advertising. Follow her story on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @E.Mubwanda

Anyone can tell a good story. 

Creating truly unforgettable stories, especially for brands is a craft. 

The thing about crafts, however? 

Anyone can master them. 

After years of working in the dating app industry, accounting, digital marketing agencies, luxury baby clothing (The Kardashians would look at website copy I’d written when buying for their cuties!) I learned a thing or two about creating brand stories. 

I’ll be honest, there’s not much of a handbook to writing brand stories. I’m kidding there are tons! Still and all, a step-by-step guide where you dig through a book till you shovel out a masterpiece doesn’t exist. 

This is where your legendary creativity comes in. But Ellen, what does a legendary brand story look like? 

Think, Apple. Consider Starbucks. Who else? Who else? Oh yeah, Coca Cola and of course Disney. If you’re thinking about how these brands already sell amazing products, think again. One sells gadgets, another coffee, the other a fizzy beverage and erm, toys. 

What makes all these brands compelling enough to give our money to them? Stories. 

But not just any stories. They sell experiences that consumers relate to and want to be associated with. That’s HOW you craft enchanting brand stories! That’s it. End of article. 

Is there no formula at least that these brands followed?

Sort of. You’d think that these companies are kicking-ass because they eloquently sell their products and aggressively push them forward but no. They kick ass for focusing on their customer stories. Let’s get into that first. 

Spotlight People, Not Products

No one cares about your struggles in your business. That stuff doesn’t convert clients. Your product and services are great. Brilliant even. But your clients only want to know how your products and services can help them. How your product came together will be thrilling for related field buffs and investors. This won’t work for your average customer. What you’re creating is a bit of descriptive product copy, not a brand story. Focus on the people that propelled the creation of the product and make that the soul of the story. 

Your Perfect Story Exists

It truly does. 

A common sentence that pops in meetings with business owners struggling to create their brand stories is, “Ellen, my business story is boring and straightforward”. That’s where the magic is. 

Your daily routine at work doesn’t have to look like a Silicon Valley success story movie. If anything, if your story is too exaggerated, people will lose touch with your brand. Think about it…what’s easier to relate with: an athlete that has never lost games and gets all the sponsorship they need without asking OR a woman who created a line of kitchen detergents that remove grease without ruining the paint?  

Figure out what challenge you’re solving for your clients and start your story there. Pick out situations and events that sparked your decision to get into your specific line of business. The timeline that you gather up till the current day becomes the history of your business. 

Figure Out Your Brand Voice

“Your brand’s voice reflects your company’s personality and mirrors your values in a way too.”

This is my favourite part of crafting brand stories. It’s also one to be handled delicately because this is the factor that makes your audience trust your brand. The voice is entirely up to you BUT once you’ve picked it out, you need to stay consistent. I like to say I harnessed this ability best, especially being the writer behind the last Zim Blog Awards Winning Corporate Blog. Your brand’s voice reflects your company’s personality and mirrors your values in a way too. Some brands prefer to be fun and colourful. A great example of this is Slack. They understand that they are dealing with stressed employees and employers so they make their copy easy (and fun) to read. The brand colours also spark positivity and apparently productivity. 

If your brand is more visual, invest in creative photography. A graphic designer can help you figure out what type of fonts and colours would work best for your brand voice. I recommend that you also work with a professional copywriter when figuring out your brand voice. They’ll identify your audience, what appeals best to them and an entertaining way to present it!

Where do you draw inspiration and information to craft a brand’s story?

From similar successful brands! If you have a brand that you idolize within the same industry, look at what they are doing well. How does their brand story make you feel? What can you do better? The information comes from the business owners view of their business and where they see the business in a couple of years. 

How do you make sure the story connects with consumers?

Psychology. Human beings are pretty predictable. If you’re great at audience watching, half the work is already done. 

  • Identify the audience
  • Identify where they hang out, what they listen to, what stimulates them?
  • Put a pin on the language they are comfortable with. Don’t sell Madea products to a Katy Perry fanbase. 

A business is an ongoing concern which means its brand story really doesn’t end, how do you know where to stop? 

This is an important one. When crafting a brand story, treat it like a TV series that will roll over into different episodes. This doesn’t mean you have to leave room to be dramatic. You just need to leave enough room to keep rediscovering the radical ‘why’. Keep in mind that it’s completely okay to outgrow your current ‘why’. Brands always disconnect from their initial why. Give the audience a peek into the future you envision for the business, then stop without giving too much away. 

An Exercise!

Still not sure where to start?

If you’re a business owner or copywriter, you can use this exercise to help you get the important bits of your brand story. Grab a pen and paper, or wherever you want to create this information.

What’s your business about? Are you a designer? A candy shop? A virtual assistant? Narrow it down to a term. Here’s my example:
What: A copywriter

Who’s your target audience? This refers to your ideal client. Single mothers? Business owners? Children? Feel free to add something more descriptive like “Single-parent who owns a business”
Who: Brands and freelancers

Do you offer your services/products online? Do you have a physical store that your patrons can show up to? 
Where: Online, anywhere

When do people seek out your services? At the end of their day? Special holidays? When a brand is revamping? 
When: Rebranding, marketing campaigns

How do you make your business or services easy to access or different from others? You can add your process on this part too. Maybe your services are available 24/7? Or perhaps you offer cute packaging options?
How: Seamlessly collaborating with a brands team to make the campaign a success

This is the fun one. This one is the reason why your business exists at all. Why should anyone care or decide to patronize you? 
Why: To tell brand stories authentically and develop them engagingly

If you’re trying to turn your business into a legacy, create a great brand story behind it. This is the soul of it all. It’ll also help you to keep up with your vision, values and everything that makes your brand important to you. 

If you find yourself struggling to craft your messaging articulately, consider hiring a copywriter who is a master at creating brand stories.

Tell The Tribe A Story (Our Challenge To You!)

This challenge is open to all creatives, whether you write, design, draw, animate, photograph, videography and everything else in between. Use any of the structures shared here to intentionally create a story with your skill. There’s no limit, just challenge your creative side with any of these. Post your work on a platform of your choice and share it with us on any of our social platforms, tagging us and using the hashtag #tribesmokesignal. Challenge runs till the end of March. Happy creating!

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