Home » Blog » Book of the month March 2019 ‘Building A Story Brand’ by Donald Miller

“Thousands of companies close their doors every year because they were not able to clarify their message of how they help their clients.” Donald Miller

Without doubt the best book I have read to date on ‘Branding’ in fact I have already recommended it to several clients who put some of the concepts to work straight after reading it.

Donald Miller debunks a lot of the myths around branding and focuses on the most important aspect of branding and marketing which is EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATING WHAT PROBLEM YOU SOLVE (for who and why)!

The STORY you tell is everything! As you may have gathered from the title of the book the premise is that a brand that engages all the stakeholders of a business is built on a powerful story. 

The author explains that you must have a ‘clear, compelling and heroic story’ where the customer (Not you or your business) is the hero!

Miller points out that the customer usually wants services that equated to them ‘hiring a guide’ or to purchase products that equate to ‘enabling them to be a hero’.

In this book Miller outlines the foundational components of the brand story such as the characters like ‘the hero’ and ‘the guide’ and then he breaks down the story into 7 key elements / stages of the journey.

The idea is that if you can create your story with these 7 key elements you be able to tell the most compelling stories that explain in simple language at both a practical and an emotional level what you do for your clients making your brand story will be a winner.

When I work with my own clients to explain ‘what it is their business does for it’s clients’ I tell them if your explanation should be able to both engage and be understood by an 11-year old child. I often test such messages out on my own 9-year old son.

Whilst Miller does not specifically mention the concept known as ‘the hero’s journey’ uncovered in the 1960’s by Joseph Campbell (Author of best-selling book ‘Journey of a Thousand Faces’). Miller does significantly reference several hero’s journey stories including Star Wars.

You might ask ‘what on earth does the Star Wars story have to do with people wanting to buy the products and services of my business?’. The short answer is ‘quite a lot’!  The key components of Miller’s brand story framework fit in with the stages of Campbell’s hero’s journey. Not surprisingly, George Lucas the creator of Star Wars was great friends with Joseph Campbell and used the hero’s journey framework to conceive the Star Wars story (Which is why Campbell is credited as a consultant on the first 3 Star Wars films made).

Luke Skywalker (the hero) represents your customer and you and your business are one of Luke’s guides Yoda or Obe Wan Kenobi.

Story Gaps

To fully engage a client (hero) when you describe what your business does, it is essential that the story you tell ‘opens a gap’, a gap which you can clearly explain that your business­­­­­­­ product or service can help them close.­­

Your customer / potential customer ‘the hero’ must have ‘an open story gap’ (problem). As ‘the guide’ you must demonstrate empathy, understanding and authority.  As the guide you must have the ability to convey that you can help the hero (client) in their desire and ambition to close this gap. ‘Luke the Empire needs you, you have the force’ Obi Wan Kenobi (Gap opened).  Luke wants what all heroes / customers want ‘survival, status, to accumulate resources (the force) and be generous to help others’ in their survival. The hero wants to be wanted and yearns to find a higher purpose (more meaning) this usually involves being part of a cause and ‘defeating a villain’. With all these factors wants and choses to go with his guides Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda to learn ‘what the force is’. 

The 7 stages of Donald Miller’s Story Brand that map across to “The hero’s journey” are something like this:

  1. The Character ‘The Hero’ – Your customer should be ‘the hero’, like ‘Luke Skywalker’ and you should be ‘the guide’ like ‘Yoda’ (or Obi Wan Kenobi).  To effectively guide ‘the hero’ you must first understand the hero. Defining who the hero / your customer is and what customer wants is the key starting point.  
  2. The hero is challenged by a problem – Describing the problem your customer faces in their language (the internal problem rather than their external and philosophical problems). 
  • The guide appears with a solution – Describing the solution you provide your customer in their language. You must help to resolve their internal problem as well as their external problem, don’t make the mistake of only solving their internal problem!
  • The guide provides a PLAN! Heroes trust guides who have a simple plan of action. 
  • The hero is CALLED TO ACTION by the guide (or another person or event). At this stage the hero choses to trust the guide and ‘take the plunge’ It’s a no-brainer for the customer to place his order. In the hero’s journey language this is known as ‘accepting the call’!
  • As their guide you help them avoid failure (a tragic ending). The ‘the consequences of failure’ are clearly spelt out. The hero assisted by the guide battles the problem (the dark-side). In doing so the bond between you (the guide) and your customer (the hero) strengthens. 
  •  The vision – ‘What success looks like!’. In the hero’s journey this equates to their ‘revelation’ and their ‘land of plenty’. This is metaphorically when Luke Skywalker with a single shot brings down the Death Star, proving that he is worthy, removing any doubts that he had in himself, saving the day and confirming that ‘he is the hero’!

Whilst Donald Miller promotes his own website Storybrand.com, I believe most people will feel he earns the right to do so because of the quality of information he provides, in fact this is simply Miller ‘practicing what he is preaching’.

In this book, Miller gives a framework for you to map out your business’ story brand and gives you numerous insights about what to include and not include in your story.

My recommendation is … read this book, make notes and then follow the framework and the rules set out as you write the story of your business, with the primary outcome being that you create an even clearer and more compelling story for your customer.

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