Starbucks stirs the heart: Strength in the Brand Story

Seth Godin reminds us, “Great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes [them] feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”


Back in September, Starbucks rolled out its first global brand campaign via YouTube called “Meet Me at Starbucks”. An ongoing brand narrative stitching together real life stories of people meeting together at Starbucks in 28 countries shot in just 24 hours. It created a powerful story of convergence where shared commonality, memories, new ideas, business meetings, and romantic moments are interwoven to tell the human story within one common meeting place. They aligned this with their campaign slogan, “Inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” This isn’t the first campaign of its kind for Starbucks, but it is the first time they have done it to this scale.

One of the toughest things for companies to learn with regards to delivering digital narrative is that when you first launch it, it is simply the beginning of the journey. As with driving SEO, a consistent stream of relevant and engaging  content is essential towards building credibility with your audience. One of the great hallmarks of Starbucks success is in how they build their brand around both themselves and their audience’s stories. Taking cues from their success, here are 3 elements to an online presence that incorporates storytelling:

1. Tell true stories

Try telling your brand story through your audience’s real life conversations. Whether it’s featuring video testimonials on your site or blogging about an event you hosted for loyal clients, your audience will find empathy and trust in the faces of your customers. Retelling these narratives can provide a human element that engages your online audiences.

2. Your brand is only as strong as the stories people tell about you

Two common responses you’ll hear about online retailer experiences are, “I bought it online” and “I bought it on Amazon”. To use the company name as opposed to the vehicle of purchase implies a good example of brand loyalty. One of your goals should be providing an online experience that is both effective and memorable.

3. Every storyteller has a brand and every brand has a story

A storyteller can’t be separated from her story. If you Google yourself, you’ll see that you already have a virtual branded identity, whether or not you created it consciously. Companies need to ask if there’s anything memorable about the stories people are telling about them. People remember stories more than they remember names. Take a careful look at the stories being told about you online. Do they reflect the story you wanted or expected?

In order to help propel the brand story you envision, here are 3 questions that can help you focus your brand narrative:

Am I Relevant?

Do you have a target audience in mind? As in the Starbucks brand campaigns, are you making your audience the hero of the story? How are you serving, supporting, and empowering your audience to overcome their obstacles?

It’s important to shape your audience’s holistic user experience in a way that effectively connects their personal needs to the value of your brand and services.

What is my Origin?

Every memorable brand has a great origin story. The quality of that narrative can be established in any number of creative ways. The unique basis of your manufacturing process. How and why you got your company name. Where and why you use the ingredients that you do. One of the best ways to legitimize your brand is by anchoring it in the past.

One step would be to have a robust, creative, or innovative “about us” section, for example a car part distribution owner blogging about their first exotic vehicle purchase coupled by a single point of measurable engagement that links the origin to their audience such as, “When I was kid, my dream vehicle was…?”

Is it Authentic?

There is an age old marketing adage that “content is king” but that is only part of the truth. If content is King than trust is the empress. If you can’t answer the question why your audience should trust you, than you should reconsider your approach. How are you making yourself real, accessible, approachable, and so on?

Remember this…

A memorable story helps you get beyond the numbers to breathe life and meaning into the value of your audience. To do that, you need to create an effective online experience that incorporates elements of humanity and empathy. Now is the time to get personal! People forget facts, but they never forget a great story.

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