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How to create a brand story that sticks

Creating a message that sticks in consumers’ minds is what every business wants but few achieve it.

That’s because the brand message is often garbled and the call-to-action is weak.

“What I notice a lot in brand storytelling, brand communication, brand messages is a lack of simplicity,” says Brynn Winegard Ph.D.

The type of content that sticks in people’s memories is a story that has one clear point.

Stories that are very succinct in terms of the moral, the principle or the end result, cause and effect [stories], those are the kinds of [stories] that people remember.

If you want a “sticky” brand message. You have to make it personal. Make the story resonate with the audience at an emotional and personal level.

“They really remember stories that are highly anecdotal.”

“If they weren’t personal to the person that’s receiving the story, they’re very personal to the person who was telling the story and the reason for that is because when they’re highly anecdotal, people feel as though they can relate with the person telling the story,” says Brynn.

This method strikes an emotional cord with an audience because people are social and want to connect with each other.

“It’s not just content but it’s also the actual delivery. The media in that case, is the person and so it’s both media and the message they can identify with at a personal or emotional level. Then that’s even better,” explains Brynn.

Listen to the podcast below or read on for more ways to make your content stick!

The other way to make your message stick with consumers is to make it less distracting.

Consumers can very quickly weed through whether or not it is an advertisement or a brand message and… they won’t listen to you…,” says Brynn.

The first step is to get your audience to “attend to your content by listening to you. Once you have their attention, you can aim for acquisition. Then comes saliency or recognition and relevance, which would hopefully lead to memory and recollection.”

“We hope that people really engage with our content, but they won’t engage with our content if they haven’t attended to it,” says Brynn.

A sticky message must also be an authentic message. When your content is genuine it’s more likely to be remembered.

But Brynn says one thing your content shouldn’t do is compete in a one-up kind of way with another brand. The reason is when you draw attention to what another brand doesn’t have and then compare it with what your brand has, you’re actually confusing your customers.

“The problem there is that [the brand] isn’t able to clearly or distinctly tell people what they do differently from their competition. They actually tell them, more often, what they do similar to the competition…,” explains Brynn.

How to create sticky messages

1. Keep your message simple.

Focus on ‘THE ONE THING”

Humans can remember 4 +/- 3 parcels of information, though in today’s world, most people only remember 1 thing you said, did, messaged, or intended. So focus on THE BIG THING you’d like to drive home.

2. Be authentic in your content

Consumers want authentic relationships with organizations/companies/brands/people. Make sure you’re actually giving that to them.

3. Don’t use “competitive orientation”

Truly communicating how your product/good/service is different from the lower-cost alternative. Brands spend way too much time focused on what their competition is doing and try to copy, mimic, or mirror it.

4. Use visuals to tell your story

Pair stories with visuals: Almost 1/4 of the human brain is dedicated to visual cortices – humans are highly visual learners, rememberers and knowers. Pair your story with complementary visuals for better attention, acquisition, memory, and recall.

5. Make sure you are actually telling a story

Stories have a special place in people’s brains and memories, like advertising jingles, so be sure to tell a story that has a beginning, middle, end/moral/key takeaway.


Learn more about Brynn Winegard

Brynn Winegard is a Canadian professor, consultant, speaker and writer. Dr. Winegard’s specialty is in combining insights from social cognitive neuroscience to business phenomena, including and especially marketing and retail operations. Brynn now runs her own consultancy, Winegard & Company, specializing in bringing brain sciences to business as a consultancy and research incubator. Brynn is currently writing a book about the intersection of social cognitive neuroscience and organizational theory. Prior to an academic life, Brynn spent over a decade in corporate marketing, working with such companies as Pfizer Inc., Nestle Inc., Bank of Montreal, ScotiaBank, CIBC and Johnson & Johnson Inc.