The Importance of a Brand “Story” – Sarah Braud
Segmentify was beyond excited to host the Content Strategist of Braud Creative; Sarah Braud is in our seventh episode of season four of the eCommerce Growth Show. In this episode, Sarah told us about the importance of brand marketing, how brand marketing works and how to come up with an outstanding story.
Sarah Braud is the Content Strategist of Braud Creative. She has twelve years of experience, and She worked in international nonprofits as well. Sarah worked with eCommerce brands, and she also ghostwrote a book. She is writing for a production company called “Natus”, and Sarah worked with lots of brands about brand marketing such as Audi, Jennifer Lawrence Foundation and Gilda’s Club.
Valuable Learnings from the Podcast
The seventh episode of season four of the eCommerce Growth Show focused on Sarah’s experience in brand marketing. What is the best marketing strategy? What is the main thing you should use in brand marketing? How do you write a good story?
As Sarah mentioned in the episode, brand marketing and story consultancy are two things that go together. When you start with brand marketing, you need to know the story of the brand. For selling the products or services, the best marketing strategy is to develop a remarkable story. So, the brand message should start with the overall message as a brand and how the brand sells its individual products. Most of the time, companies struggle with telling their stories or being clear about their message.
How to write a story?
As Sarah mentioned in the episode, their main thing is storytelling. The basic template of writing a story has three main steps at the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. And this part can be defined as finding out the characters, the conflict, and the falling action. So first, brands really should know about their story arc.
On Your Way to Telling the Best Brand Story
Step 1 – Find Your Audience (The Hero)
The best way to start building your story is to find out about your target audience because, as Sarah mentioned, the target audience is the story’s hero. So, you should avoid making the mistake of making yourself the hero of the story. Why should you avoid this mistake? Most of the time, brands put themselves as the hero, and they miss the point of being the guidance to their audience. When brands become the hero, the audience sees the brand as a leader, not a guide who should help them solve their problem. So, brands should position themselves as guidance to help the clients solve their problems or help them achieve the client’s goals.
Step 2 – The Defining the Problem (The Conflict)
The conflict starts with finding out the problem. After you understand your target audience, the second thing is to find out your customers’ problems and how you can help them solve them. Defining the issue is about understanding what your customer needs? So, if you know what they need and want, you will start to understand the problems that are holding them back from achieving their goals and needs. When you manage to clarify the issue, you will begin to find a way that your product or service will help them solve it. After realising the problem, you can say how you will help them to overcome it.
Step 3 – The Solution (The End)
After clarifying the problem, you should tell them who you are and why the customer should choose you? What are you offering them, or what is your plan? These are the main questions that you should answer. The ideal way to answer is that you should be clear about your plan. Customers want to know the results of your solution. You should show your customers the results so they can see what they will gain after they use your product or service. Sometimes your product may not be what they really need, but they may really need to work with your brand. So, don’t just tell your customers fantasies; tell them the benefits and results of your solution. Proof of your solution is one of the best ways to end your story.
In the end, we learn about writing a really good story, and before the lovely chat ends, Sarah just summed up the storytelling steps and gave us a conclusion about it. She said, “If you can boil it down to those three points, you’ve got your dart, you’re well, on your way to telling the best brand story that you have. So that’s your one-liner.”. As we mentioned, most companies struggle in communication with their audience, so creating clarity, spark interaction and igniting the business is essential for giving a clear message.
The Podcast Transcript
Phill Kay: Hello and welcome to the eCommerce growth show. My name is Phill Kay. As I am sure you know, I run partnerships now for Segmentify, which is just a really exciting, great role where you are privileged to be in it. I love speaking to wonderful partners out there across the globe and bringing great best practices to the community in all the territories. Listening to them, I’ve got a special surprise for you.
A lady called Sarah Braud. Who is coming out of Tennessee? She can tell me exactly where she is, but near Nashville, in that area of the United States, which is great. So, she is one of our thought leaders, and I’m talking to her today, all about what you call a story consultancy, which I don’t know too much about.
So I’m really looking forward to talking to her about that. She’s. So about 12 years of experience, she’s worked in international nonprofits. So that’d be an interesting angle to pursue the eCommerce side of things, but I also had experience in health tech companies and has worked with eCommerce brands as well.
And I heard that she ghostwrote a book, which I also learned today that I didn’t know was something that existed. So very interesting. Anyway, hi Sarah. How are you doing?
Sarah Braud: Good. How are you Phill? Thanks for having me.
Phill Kay: I just heard that it’s snowing where you are, right?
Sarah Braud: It is. We don’t always get snow in the south, but when we do, it’s, you know, everything shuts down, and we all get excited.
Phill Kay: Absolutely like everyone, hopefully like becoming kids again. It’s great fun. It’s pretty cold, though. In general, right at the moment, I suppose we’re into the sort of early December now, so we’re pretty cold as well. No snow yet, but there might be some of the Hills.
So, you never know, we might be tracing up there with the kids in the, you know, what are those things called sages anyway. So as a bit of a starter, I thought I’d asked you about an Audi commercial. How did you manage to get to write a commercial for Audi? That’s pretty cool.
Sarah Braud: Yeah, it’s really neat. So, I’ve been writing for a production company called Natus films for about ten years. I’ve written pretty much all of their promotional videos, and I’ve written promos for, Jennifer Lawrence Foundation and Gilda’s Club, which is kind of a cancer support nonprofit and then some other, more local type nonprofits.
But they do both nonprofits and corporations. So, I’ve been able to write for them for quite some time. So then, when they got this Audi commercial, I was able to put in my script for it. And, so it’s like a video on an online commercial.
So it’s not on live TV. It’s out there, and it was super fun to do.
Phill Kay: Oh, I bet. That sounds really cool. Is that on YouTube or anything?
Sarah Braud: Yeah. It’s on YouTube. I’ll send you a link.
Phill Kay: Yeah, that would be cool. Well, we are moving on to our sort of topic for today, going back to what you do.
As your fee for your kind of consultancy, you mentioned to me that you’re a brand marketer and story consultant. Do you want to tell the guys in a nutshell what that is?
Sarah Braud: So, brand marketing and story consultancy really go together. I use words to help people sell their products or services, whatever that may be. The best marketing strategy revolves around telling a really good story. And so brand messaging starts with what is your overall message as a brand and then. How do you sell individual products? Those are separate tasks, but they all kind of really need to start from a place of the story because that is really how we engage and connect the best way.
So, I’m a big advocate for learning how to tell your story as a brand.
Phill Kay: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I completely get that. Even though every human wants to be able to connect with a story. I think the purpose is very much linked to a story, and even at the granular level, when you’re building influence with your relationships around you and all the rest of it, it’s always your story.
Isn’t there a connection with another human? I mean, we talked about frameworks and stuff at the beginning. Where do you start with doing this with, getting this done?
Sarah Braud: Well, the best way to start building your story is by understanding who your target audience is and that target audience or your buyer persona, or your ideal client avatar or whatever you want to call it.
That’s the hero of your story. The biggest mistakes brands make is that they make themselves the hero of the story. They just introduce themselves telling their own perspective and their own, like here’s who we are. Here’s what we’re about, which unfortunately puts you in direct competition with your audience because everybody that’s walking around thinks they’re the hero of the story.
So, if you position your brand more as the guide to the hero of the story, then your perfect client will start to see you as out of a thought leader or as the guide to help them get to where they’re going. So, walking around with certain goals of their own and helping them achieve their goals is really how you want to position it.
Phill Kay: Yeah. It makes sense. This plays out in humanity, right? Why I’m hearing here is actually basic empathy because if I walk around and go. I’m so amazed! I’m so great! Yeah. Look at me. Look at me. People don’t like me. I’m just arrogant. So, the next, the minute that I actually put the other person at the centre of my world and listen, so into them, encourage them, help them.
All of a sudden, that’s where the connection comes in. So really, what you’re doing is you’re transferring that paradigm if you like it and putting it into the product world, right?
Sarah Braud: Everybody knows your motives for telling a story, right? Like if you just tell a story at the dinner table, people know if you’re telling it because you’re trying to get glory or you’re telling it so that they can learn something from it or experience it or enjoy themselves.
We can read each other’s motives, and that’s the same for brands.
Phill Kay: Yeah. I know completely; it’s kind of an interesting concept, probably something for another time, certainly, like your sister or sister in Christ and all that. But, in terms of selfishness versus selflessness, it must be an interesting area there because ultimately, you know, you’re trying to sell something, you know, you’re trying to get things in front of people.
So, in a nutshell, is it an authentic thing or is it a prescribed thing?
Sarah Braud: It’s interesting because I am my personality. I had authenticity as number one for me. So, you know I’m honest to a fault. And so, marketing is often something that feels like lying a lot of times.
But really the authenticity comes in because you’re actually offering them if you believe in your product. If you think it’s a good product, you’re offering them a way to help them achieve their goals. So, if you really understand your client or your customer, and you understand that they have certain problems and obstacles that they’re trying to overcome, and your product will help them overcome it, then you’re really helping them.
And so transformation really needs to be what your story is about. And every good story is a transformative story.
Phill Kay: Yeah, it does. What am I doing? I work for Segmentify. We provide personalisation solutions. There’s a whole catalogue of reasons why we sell them to help people. If you say you believe the fact that it can deliver proof that it will deliver and you’re then helping the right people at the right time to engage with you. And the whole of that is authentic. The fact that you’re selling something is actually immaterial. Like you’ve just said, you connect with the heroes of your story so that they know they can make an informed decision to buy from you or not and at the end of the day, right?
Sarah Braud: Yeah. And understanding that sometimes your brand, the additional value that you bring with your brand, isn’t just the product, but everything else that goes with that brand. So even if you are attached to our brand, your status is improved. That it’s still meeting a need that they, that they are, that’s a perceived need that they have.
And so even at its most base, you know, brands can really be a way to serve your customers.
Phill Kay: Well, I think that is a subject that we could talk quite a lot about actually, and then how that interweaves with personal values. As I say, the sort of the whole idea of selflessness, and then, the kind of end of what you’re trying to do is sell and stuff quite in that area.
But anyway, going back to the beginning of this, so talk to us about frameworks ways in which to realise this because you mentioned frameworks earlier.
Sarah Braud: Well, there are definitely several frameworks out there for how to write a story. I was a creative writing major, and that’s what I got my degree in. There are all these kinds of templates out there for how to write a good story. You learn the basic one in grade school, right? It’s the story arc of the beginning, middle and end of a story. You know, you learn. That they’re setting and character, and then there’s conflict and rising action and a climax and falling action.
So all these are frameworks for writing a story. Basically, if you’re a brand that is trying to connect, you really need to know what your story arc is? Where on that grid are you falling? And what pieces to that story puzzle are you telling? Obviously, it starts with knowing who the hero of your story, or your main character, which your customer is.
And then, what they want, you know, everybody starts with a goal of what they want. And, this is where, you know, this is where it gets exciting for me, because then you bring in, you know, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the psychology of what people are trying to gain, what their base physical needs are and then what their emotional needs are. All the way to their philosophical and spiritual needs.
So, if you understand what it is that they want. And what it is that they need. Then you can begin to understand what problems that they face that are keeping them from achieving those needs. And so, if you can clarify and identify what those specific problems are, then you can say how your product will help them overcome those problems. And so oftentimes in sales and marketing, we call that pain points. You know, what are the pain points that you’re addressing, but really in a story, it’s just, what are the obstacles you’re facing that keep you from achieving your goals?
Phill Kay: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. So how does one apply this to eCommerce retail? I kind of get it with a brand-safe example of a fashion brand. What about where it’s a more commoditised brand or company even, say ao.com. In fact, they’re in America as well. Right? The AI world is like massive white goods. Electrical brand, we’ve got Ebuyer, one of our customers, where it’s a highly commoditised site in the sense that you’re selling things that like computer peripherals or gaming peripherals, joystick consoles, lots and lots of commoditised products.
Can you apply a proper framework to that environment as well as brands and stuff?
Sarah Braud: Can you send me a link to their site? Yeah. Is that what it is? ao.com.
Phill Kay: Yeah, probably. Look, if I can share.
Sarah Braud: Yes, it would. So, would you like me to do a bit of an audit? What would I normally do with one of my clients with this one? Or just, are you asking for a general?
Phill Kay: No. If I can get to ao.com there. I can probably share it.
Sarah Braud: On this page. They’re not really telling a big story except, you know, we do. Okay. So, the first thing that we see we look for is what it is you’re selling. So, that’s part of the story.
If we go back to talking about the framework, when you write your story, part of it is like knowing who your audience is and then understanding what they want and then clarifying their pain points. And then the next piece is bringing your authority. So, who are you, and why should we care about what you offer?
And then, what it is that you offer, what is your plan? Being very clear about what your plan is ideal. So, what I would say is it’s very clear what they’re selling, so it’s not a problem. Obviously, the tech products, and even with fancy or hundred pounds off, that’s clearly speaking to a British audience. I would immediately know that’s not necessarily for me because we don’t work in pounds, and we don’t say fancy things. Over here, in the same way.
Phill Kay: I want to say fancy site.
Sarah Braud: Yeah. I went, you know what, let’s look at the US.
Phill Kay: Well, I don’t know whether they’ve got one, but. Yeah, I got comments that they are pretty slick operations, but they are very price-driven. We’ve literally just all a fridge freezer, so that’s, I would say nothing, but I mean, it’s a pretty incredible price.
Sarah Braud: Okay, is that what they’ve known for?
Phill Kay: Yeah. Very cost-effective. Yeah.
Sarah Braud: So, I would say if you already have that brand concept, they’ve done a good job previously of building that brand identity and that brand story. So, I don’t want to tear up their current website. They’ve gone to the next level because their brand is so well then, they don’t have to speak as loudly with that.
But what I would say is there’s not a lot of stories that are happening here that tells me what their life is going to be like after they use their product. So, part of telling a good story is giving that, giving what your life will look like afterwards. So, I would say the one thing that they could have done on this page that would just really make things storified is as we’d call, it would be to have an image of a happy customer with their product, you know, so.
Instead of just taking a picture of the washing machine or the computer, you know, putting all these in a scene with happy person images really tells a lot of stories as well. That’s basically how I would go through, but I have like an audit that I usually go through and, they don’t have a lot of problems with where to click, you know, so exactly.
They’re asking you to do it, and they have a lot of great spaces where it’s telling you what you can do. So, the shop now button or the basket, the track order, the search, all those are leading me down a customer journey or the hero’s journey. To make a purchase, now it doesn’t really tell me what my life will be like after I make that purchase, which I think it lacks here.
Phill Kay: Yeah. I mean, that’s interesting that you mentioned that because obviously, we bang on about customer lifetime value every day of the week. You know, in our game, in terms of palletisation and how it’s all about getting, repeat a repeat customer retention win back, getting into the purchase, more often than they would have with a lesser time’s going between all contributing to an enhanced customer lifetime value.
So I think this is why I was talking about, you know when you’re in a highly commoditised world. I wonder if it’s quite difficult and, in a way, you know, when you’re ao.com or eBay buyer or whatever, you’ve got to make that immediate experience so powerful we are, whether it is price-driven or ease of finding the product. Are you leaning more heavily on those elements as opposed to creating a story? Or is there room like you’re saying to add that element in as well to create even more differentiation sounds like the answer is.
Sarah Braud: Yeah, absolutely. And if you look at like Walmart in the US you know, they’re, you know, they’re real price-driven model, but they have their tagline everywhere where, buy more for less or whatever tagline maybe and so in this, a lot of times with eCommerce people try to build a marketing plan, using lots of paid media and, you know, segmenting their audiences and things like that. But really the core is, is that website converting and what rate that website was converting at. And that is, if you look at your rate and it’s not higher than the average, then you have a lot of work to do before you get into that deeper strategy. And so, as a first-time person going to that AOC, yeah. I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know if these are good prices if this is like high-quality products for less because that’s meeting some really basic needs that I have, I just want to keep going with my life.
You know, I want to have the bar. I want to have my friends over, you know, teach my kids there, you know, help them with their homework at the kitchen table, all those things that I need to do to have a fulfilling life. It can be supported with the products of AO, but they’re not telling me that story.
They’re just showing me that they have products, and they are running a sale. So, I would say, really ramping up that concept of what does my life look like after I use your products? That’s what I feel is missing.
Phill Kay: Yeah, no, that’s really great. I mean, obviously, we can go into more detail if anybody out there wants to have a chat with Sarah about the framework or get an audit because like, do you, do you do a kind of like a, almost like a free teaser audit touchy?
Sarah Braud: Yeah. I actually use an audit form that I go through and just talk about clarifying your message and making sure your story is connecting with your audience and.
Phill Kay: That’s awesome. So, on that note then, I mean, if people, if people want to engage, if you have a quick chat, I mean, what’s the best way for them to get hold of you and have one of these ones?
Sarah Braud: So I’m at braudcreative.com, so it’s B R A U D creative.com. And, just on that front page, I have a, you can schedule a call with me, or you can get a free audit, get a free website review. So, you just click on that free website review and, and it’ll send you a link to my scheduler, and we can set up a time to talk.
Go through and even give you your, your site, a score, you know, clarity and connection score. That really is based on the storytelling framework.
Phill Kay: Yeah, no, it sounds quiet. I think it’s great that you can lean on, you know, the actual writing, you know, authorising ghostwriting. I mean, you are a writer, and you’ve transferred that skillset into business, into brand marketing.
So I think it’s quite a strong skill set to bring to the table. So, yeah, I’d be interested to see you. I really encourage people to have a chat with you because I think it could really make a difference. Edge there. They’re kind of waffling; a lot of that will go to market strategy, right? Yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting,
Sarah Braud: PG, I know you guys have products like PG tips and things like that. Like Proctor and gamble here use the same storytelling framework on their website and actually quadruple their sales. So. It can be used for eCommerce and real commoditised products.
Phill Kay: Oh, definitely. I mean, yeah. I mean, talk about PG tips. I mean, I can’t remember the guy’s name, but it’s a famous actor and a kind of a, a woman kind of character thing.
They grew kind of almost like a serialised story out of the advert. Similarly with like, all those days, all those years ago in the UK, maybe, I don’t know with you as well. In the US, the Nescafe adverts, where it was like a story that went from one to the other.
Do you know what I mean? But as a branding tool, I’m still talking about it now. So, it must’ve worked.
Sarah Braud: Yeah, absolutely. Is it that story? Storytelling really ignites emotions, and we buy through our emotions. We don’t necessarily buy the best products. We buy the products that we can connect with and, and they make it easy to get. And so, making, making you are that whole journey of buying an easy journey and super simple that’s really the key as well and telling a clear story makes sense.
Phill Kay: Totally, totally. Well, just as a sort of final question for you, not to put you on the spot again, cause obviously, we get ao.com on the spike did very, very well, though. I thought. But yeah, so Paul’s like out of the volts of Sarah. Sorry for saying the beginning is broken, right? Celebrate the volts of your life experience or business experience or writing skill, and give the listeners and viewers one golden nugget to take away from this amazing conversation we’ve had.
Sarah Braud: Well, I think your story can be boiled down into your elevator pitch or your one-liner. And so, I would say if you can tell the three parts of your story or your one-liner which is the problem yourself. The solution that you’re offering that problem or the products or services that you’re offering to solve that problem and the results of using your product. And if you can boil it down to those three points, you’ve got your dart, you’re well, on your way to telling the best brand story that you have. So that’s your one-liner, so. I help brands. Most companies really struggle to communicate their message clearly and in a compelling way, and I offer brand marketing and story consultancy so that brands can create clarity, spark interaction, and ignite their businesses. So that’s my one-liner. And that has all three of those elements.
Phill Kay: Cool. So, the three elements, again, you’ve got a problem. You’ve identified the problem, you know, the solution and, you know, the result of solving the solution.
Sarah Braud: That’s correct.
Phill Kay: Okay. Awesome. And obviously, the customer is the hero. So let’s not forget that.
Sarah Braud: Absolutely. That’s number one.
Phill Kay: Yeah. I love that. I love that. I’m going to take that away. I’m afraid. That’s a bit of consultancy for me.
Sarah Braud: Good. Good.
Phill Kay: I’m sure we’ll be in touch. Anyway. Absolutely. [00:27:00] Absolutely. So, guys, I hope you enjoyed that chat with Sarah. It just remains for me to say if you want to keep abreast of all the blogs and podcasts and stuff that we send that do go to segmentify.com.
If you haven’t done it already, you can sign up there. You can access everything that comes out, cleaning Sarah’s blog today. You know, if you want to be on the show or want to get in touch, we’ve got any questions or anything like that. Just give me a shout any time firstname.lastname@example.org.
But thank you, Sarah, so much again for the lovely chat.
Sarah Braud: Thank you for having me, Phill.
Phill Kay: Not at all. And we look forward to seeing you again soon.
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