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Building a Story Brand

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    Carlos Baraza
    I write software and other philosophical stuff.

This article is a book summary of "Building a Story Brand" by Donald Miller.

Stories are very powerful. They have been the one of the key ways of passing down information through generations. I recently attended a course on Roman history, and stories are one of the key elements that made the Roman empire and its culture. Even the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus was a memorable story to every Roman citizen during the entire history of the empire.

The book "Building a Story Brand" focuses on the idea of applying the general shape of a story to a brand. This can completely transform the emotional reaction from customers towards a brand.

What is the prototypical story?

The character desires something, but that something is hard to get. That’s the problem. When the character is on the verge of giving up, a guide appears. This guide provides a plan and calls the character to take action. The character then avoids failure and manages to get that something s/he initially desired.

A story has multiple parts

  • Hero
  • Problem or Villain
  • Guide
  • Plan
  • Calls to action
  • Failure
  • Success


  • Customers are the heroes of the story. The customer is always right, and the customer is always the hero of the story.
  • Concentrate in one desire.

Hero, bad example

A luxury resort website shows pictures of the front desk, restaurant and the story of the resort.

Hero, good example

The luxury resort discovers that relaxation is what customers want. The page text is mostly removed and pictures of people relaxing and getting massages are added to the page. This focuses on the hero, the customer, which desire is to relax in the luxurious resort.

Problem or Villain

  • Just mentioning the customer problems, they will engage more. People feel understood. Communicating awareness of the difficulties communicates understanding.
  • Internal or external.
  • External problem: house needs painting.
  • Internal problem: shame for having an ugly house.
  • Internal problems are very powerful. E.g. A house painter focuses on the embarrassment someone would owning the ugliest house in the block.
  • External products sell better when couples with solutions to internal problems.

Problem. Bad example:

Time management app focuses on features and look and feel of the app.

Problem. Good Example:

Time management app would display distractions as a villain.


At some point in every story, the hero gets into trouble and when it is about to give up, a guide shows up. For example, Yoda to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars or Gandalf to Frodo in Lord of the Rings.

  • The brand is the guide. The customer is the hero in trouble.
  • Display empathy and authority.
  • Empathy is crucial. It displays understanding of the frustration and it is the founding element of a trusting relationship. Without a trusted relationship, the advice will not be taken seriously.

Guide Example

A brand states that 125000 users are satisfied with the service. It displays awards it received.


Now, your company is stablished as a guide and the customer trust you and your authoritative judgement. However, buying and committing is risky, and a good plan of action can influence positively.

Process plan

Show customers what to do. Show customers how to buy a product and how to use it, decreasing risk and confusion.

Process plan. Bad Example:

Online shop selling garage storage system doesn't give indications on dimensions or how to know if the storage system will fit in your garage. The customer finds it risky because they might buy something that would not work for him.

Process plan. Good Example:

Online shop selling garage storage system clearly indicates the process to follow. First, measure your space. Then, order parts that match your space. Finally, install the system with basic tools in a few minutes.

Agreement plan

Offer customers an agreement that removes their fear of buying the product. An example would be a used-card dealer that promises that no customer would leave with a bad car or fooled.

Calls to action

Once you have convinced customers to buy, you need a bold clear call to action: "Get It Now", "Register" or "Purchase".

  • Be bold and direct
  • Repeat the call to action multiple times
  • Ideally, one call to action per page


Further motivate customers reminding them what they will lose if the don't.

Failure. Example:

A financial advisor would like to show how unlike other financial-service providers, you will always meet clients personally. You will also not hit them with hidden fees.


Show your customers how your product will transform their lives by sharing a vision.

Success Example:

For instance, Nike doesn’t simply sell quality footwear and athletic gear. It promises an entire lifestyle – one filled with inspiration and drive and glory.


The book is great and showcases the importance of thinking about the brand as part of the life of it's customers. A customer centric approach to branding, and a powerful one because it fits the brand in a story structure, which has induced emotions and captivated people through out history.