What is storytelling and how to apply it to your brand?

Image by Rui Ferreira Text by Belén Zuazo

From an early age, we interpret the world around us through stories. We grow up listening to fairy tales, and we observe the world through them, hoping for the happy ending.

As we move into adulthood, the scenario is not much different: we still believe in stories, but we also have the power to make decisions. This makes us especially susceptible to narratives that promise us the happy ending we are looking for, and so impulses tend to have a big weight in our choices.

Telling stories to influence others

Storytelling is about telling stories in order to influence the lives and decisions of others. And the quality of the influence can be very diverse: simply to be read or heard, to motivate a purchase decision, to generate support for our political ideas, or to mobilize people for an event, among others.

And if the goal is to be influential, then storytelling needs to have a strategy – more or less conscious, more or less planned, more or less congruent. There are some narrative strategies that serve that purpose, such as hierarchical organization (from the insignificant to the essential and vice versa), chronological organization and cause-effect relationship are just some of them. But all strategies must be in the service of telling the seed story well.

The seed story

Every post, every blog entry, every page on your site are micro-stories that only make sense in terms of a larger story: that of your brand. This means that your entire production is part of a bigger, more significative puzzle. But what should that macro-story look like?

The story of a brand is similar to the story of an individual: it includes its origins, its trajectory and the values that guided its choices. Clearly explaining how a brand came about, what it was created for, and its future prospects not only helps to position itself in the market, but also to connect emotionally with its audience. Faced with an overabundance of stimuli, users are more drawn to brands with which they can connect: committed, human and authentic.

What makes storytelling effective

There are no bad stories, only poorly told ones. Once the content is defined, it is important to review the how. A good storytelling strategy is one that puts the reader at the centre, seeking to create a face-to-face communicative experience. There are some tools that can help you to build a brand closer to the reader:

  • Appeal to the reader: use pronouns, vocative and rhetorical questions.
  • Use simple vocabulary: make the message understandable and easy to read.
  • Use a colloquial register: get the textual register closer to the oral one.
  • Choose common cultural symbols: create affinity by introducing common references.
  • Focus on details: specific situations can humanize and add credibility to your text.
  • Create contrast to highlight emotion: introduce nuances in your text.

A few examples

Here are some examples of effective brand storytelling from Portuguese SMEs.

Retrosaria Rosa Pomar

Retrosaria Rosa Pomar is a Portuguese haberdashery that sells non-industrialized wool from Portuguese sheep breeds. Its brand storytelling emphasizes sustainable, small-scale and cruelty-free production, while valuing Portuguese traditional culture.

“Badana is a yarn born from a will to use and promote the wool of an endangered native breed, the Churra Badana sheep from the Bragança region (northeast Portugal). Badana wool was once used locally for weaving blankets and other textiles, but presently there is almost no demand for it, and it becomes a source of expense and trouble for the farmers.” Badana yarn product description.

Quinta de Santiago

Quinta de Santiago is a family winery located in an old farm dedicated to the cultivation of the Alvarinho varietal. Its history is strongly marked by a character: Grandmother "Mariazinha" who decided to revitalize the farm by transforming it into a winery capable of gathering the whole family together.

It was the grandma’s entrepreneurial ability, a woman who lived all her life devoted to vineyards and wine, that was at the project’s genesis by challenging the family to stop selling grapes and to start their own wine project. Determined woman, of fixed ideas, she soon demanded that the brand to create should take the family name and that the sharing of her legacy be followed by the return to the roots of the whole family. We, who lived in the city with frantic careers, whose passion for wine, for vineyards and for rurality grew in her company, so we did it strongly embracing her challenge.Our story page


FeelViana is a hotel located in the coastal area of Viana do Castelo, where water sports, cycling, skateboarding and yoga are practised. The brand's raison d'être is very clear: to provide a space to practice a healthy lifestyle in contact with nature.

“FeelViana's story begins in Cabedelo and cannot be told without mentioning the person who envisioned it as we see it today, some years ago, while his kite crossed the windy skies of the Cabedelo sea. It was still a kind of dream, a wish: to see the birth of a hotel on the beach where action and nature lovers could practice their favourite sports, well installed in a comfortable and relaxing environment, in the company of their friends, families and children.” Translated from Our story page

Compelling stories, strong brands

In times when people are eager for emotional connection and a sense of community, brands with effective storytelling tend to have greater impact. New generations of consumers are no longer simply looking for quality products or services, but for principles, values and practices with which they can identify. A culturally engaging storytelling provides brands with intangible value that makes them stand out regardless of their size.