The Quest for a Core Narrative

“We need a new narrative” is not uncommon to hear at executive meetings. It’s no longer enough to say “we make great shoes”. Nowadays it’s too easy for a story to become generic or outdated. It must inspire, excite, attract, and engage. And it needs to be unique. To your brand alone. And so - in comes the core narrative. A strategic, and fundamental story that defines your brand.

The Foundation

First, let us tell you a story about how we got into this business of helping great brands tell their story on a more strategic level. That one story that summarizes everything a brand stands for, what it means, why it exists, and most importantly — why it does what it does.

A while ago, at a board meeting of a large multinational corporation, we were challenged that the brand strategy seemed a little bit too ambitious, too far from the current brand, and not relatable enough. Very hard words after six months of strategic branding efforts.

We addressed the challenge by developing a story — while we were in that very meeting. A story that had all the elements of the“difficult” brand strategy mixed with future ambitions, historical facts, and a very emotional conclusion. We chose to deliver this very story, as a short speech in this meeting. It was raw, unfinished, based on a defensive position, but it was real and tangible. And guess what happened. The brand strategy was approved.

The Creation

Creating a core narrative is not a simple task, the copy has to adhere to a few key elements and dimensions that in return — need to be in place within the organization. Obviously, and you guessed it, we are talking about the brand strategy. The core of your DNA, the brand essence of your endeavors.

Imagine you had to choose a story that reflects on your life, motivates people to become your friends, and generally creates trust and liking towards you as a human being. Add a few unique skills in the mix and certainly, you would want that narrative to be very very good. There is no difference for any brand — we all need stories we can believe in, identify ourselves with, and get motivated by. We also need them to rationalize our emotional behavior towards a brand, may that be an employer, a partner, or a product we are using.

The Content

Assuming you know your language, tone of voice, brand essence, and your internal and external target groups, a proper core narrative should contain:

Of course, narratives can change, they are just as brands today — liquid — they need to be able to flow, change when the company transforms when the market moves when cultures evolve. Not sure what liquid brands are? Read Marty Neumeier's Brand Flip.

However, establishing the core, the very center of your story, will create a compelling basis for your brand — and when it is done right, for a very long time.

Using the Core Narrative

Having a compelling core narrative will enable your organization and communication. When in place, it can be one of the strongest and most versatile assets of your brand.

Elements of the narrative are derived from the strategic brand platform and can be used in boiler platers, in general advertising, digital communications, and your overall strategy. Because of how it visualizes parts of your brand strategy, it can also be a useful tool for marketing and communication agencies to understand who you are. In short, your core story forms the base of your brand’s actions internally and externally.

Just make sure it’s yours alone.