You’re telling a story whether you know it or not.

It’s been said time and time again that we are wired for stories. From cavemen drawing on walls to stories passed verbally from generation to generation, it’s simply in our genes. Our brains like to process information as a story – we recognise an intro, a climax, and a resolution. We look for context and narrative to explain things, make connections and fill in the gaps. And if our emotions are engaged, we get that release of good old dopamine that makes us feel good and cements the story in our memory.

With every bit of marketing, every customer interaction, from the layout of your website to the physical appearance of your shop or office – it’s all telling your story. And if you aren’t working on telling a good story, people are naturally making one for you anyway. You’re leaving a vacuum for clients to make up their own story about you.

Think about that. Would you let the general public design your ad campaign? Have control of your social media posts? Well don’t leave it up to just anyone to make up your story.

You don’t have to have a magnificent hero’s journey, or a unique origin story. Your story is the source of what comes to mind when someone hears your business name.

That’s the company who…

Started in a garage, with one person who wouldn’t give up and has grown the business into a hugely successful enterprise.

Had a complaint that was handled by the CEO personally making it right!

 OR…

Has such a terrible website that I tried to buy from them but couldn’t figure out HOW.

Has that moronic ad that’s always five times louder than everything else.

Hmmm. What’s your story saying? Are you sending a clear and consistent message that contributes to a cohesive story, or leaving a virtual vacuum for prospective customers to make one up?

Just to clarify, we’re talking vacuum as in empty space, devoid of matter. Not the Hoover you push around to suck up pet hair. Although when it comes to marketing your business, they are both equally as useful. A vast empty space containing whatever is in your customers’ heads (scary) or a bag full of dusty old furballs (gross)… well at least a furball is predictable.

Customers nowadays have more choice, more information at their fingertips, and a voice with a greater reach (thanks to social media) than ever before. Your customers tell a story about you no matter what. If your customers are telling a good story, harness that amazing power! Magnify it and use it for good! If they’re not, time to get to work.

You may be thinking, wait a minute – I can regulate the stories my customers tell? This sounds like mind control from a sci-fi movie – sign me up!

Ah, no. It doesn’t quite work like that.

To tell the truth, you can’t control what people say about you. What you can do is tell such a compelling story that it is retold and gains momentum. To start with, provide what you want people to hear. Drop little nuggets with their own gravitational pull into your vacuum. This means telling stories that will captivate your customers and increase in mass.

Here’s a couple of examples to clear things up.

Lego. A product known around the globe. What kind of story comes to mind when you think of Lego? Kids building things, using their imaginations. Which is a nice story in itself. A few years ago, Lego took it a step further by telling a story about a father and son enjoying time together building with Lego. It hit the emotional chords around spending time with your kids, nurturing creativity, and creating lasting memories and bonds. Aww. Suddenly the story expands from kids making things to families building things together. It becomes an integral part of the brand by customers sharing their #legofamily pics on social media.

The father-son time ads were the start to a story that’s still being retold over and over.

Another example of a globally renowned storytelling brand: Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has long been in the storytelling biz. Anyone remember the song “I’d like to teach the world to sing” for the Buy the World a Coke campaign? Would you believe the commercial came out in 1971? A more recent campaign is another example of building their brand story. The “Share a Coke” campaign put names on bottles of Coke, and customers started sharing their personalised Coke on Twitter. Coworkers started buying each other Cokes. Friends and loved ones bought each other Cokes. People who could never find anything with their name on it as a kid (Jaxson, Xander, Hermione) had their name on a Coke. This created moments of happiness and sharing, that were then shared globally through social media.

Now surely brands like Lego and Coca-Cola could easily sit back and ride the tails of their long-standing success. However, in these days of unlimited choice and opinion, they continually tell stories that touch people, that shape their brand, and keep it current in people’s minds. They continue to tell stories that drive customers to create and spread desirable stories about their brand.

There is a story behind everything you do – communicate that and build it into the backbone of your brand, instead of just giving the facts. Along the way there will be lessons learned, opportunity for imagination, exciting journeys ahead. Think about it: Coke has been around since 1886. Lego since 1932. That’s a whole lot of stories.

Everything you do tells a story. Make sure you’re telling the right one that will engage your customers. Don’t leave them in a vacuum. With or without the fur balls.