5 Ways to Create Your Brand Story With "Backstories"

Everybody loves a good story: stories are a critical component in content marketing. Children clamor for them and gossipy folks thrive on them. Stories are the currency of shared legacy.

In ancient history, people sat around the fire to hear their shaman or wise woman tell a story about the origins of the tribe.

Stories are the way we transmit information from generation to generation. They predate language, they endure. They contain essential elements that each person can relate to. They teach us about ourselves. It is no different today.

As a purveyor of food, beverages, and comestibles, you can build on this. You can position your product's brand on a significant story, myth or personal tale that allows you to convey the brands' features, benefits, and attributes. Doing so links essential iconic elements from the story, myth or tale to the product.

Does My Brand Have a Story?

Every brand must have one. Witness the extension of the local food movement towards "heritage" breeds of domestic farm animals and heritage seeds. By "harkening back" to days gone by, this movement has implied that these breeds and seeds are more authentic, more nutritious, or tastier. We see more and more brands carefully articulating their "backstory" and building it into their brand.

What Is a Backstory?

Merriam-Webster's defines it as:

"A history or background created for a fictional character in a motion picture or television program.

Similar background information about a real person or thing that promotes a fuller understanding of it."

Here are 5 ways to help you articulate and write your story and examples of entrepreneurs who have used their stories to craft their brands.

Trace Your Origins in Your Story

Studio shot of almonds
Daniel Grill/Getty Images

Pull the thread back to the earliest glimmer of where and when you began to think of the nugget of an idea that brought you the idea for this product.

When David and Deborah Meniane realized that they had a unique product that the market would love, they reached into their family tree and picked the persona of their company straight from its branches. Victoria's Kitchen, which produces Almond Water, is based on David's French grandmother, who made Almond Water for her family. Her image adorns the labels and her recipes are the foundation of the product. Deborah said, "Whenever we would serve Almond Water to our friends during barbecues or birthday parties, people would always fall in love with it. Our friends often asked us if we could make some for them to take home. This is when we realized we really had something special."

Have Your Story Visualize Where You Were

Beer being poured against a dark background
Jack Andersen/Getty Images

In theater, it's called mise-en-scène, literally meaning to set the stage. As you "see where you were", what were the elements that "put you in that place?" What did they speak to you that is important to convey? Was there a significant person, place or spark? If you find these essential elements, you've found your touchstone.

For their table tap cold beverage system, David Stein and Jason Drum turned to the moment of inspiration that drove their Beer Tubes creation. "After a night of league bowling, two friends, David Stein and Jason Drum, were enjoying a post-game beverage. They told us, "It was a hot summer night and the once ice-cold draft beer was getting warm in the pitcher. Since we're always looking to solve the world's problems, our discussion quickly turned to ways we could keep beer cold for longer periods of time.

We'd seen a beverage 'tube-like' concept (draft beer served in large vessels) and realized these tubes if properly insulated could keep the beer cold from beginning to end. From here, we arrived on the idea of a self-serve table tap by improving on the design and putting the tube in a Bowling Ball base." 

They literally took their experience of where they were, and what they were doing to help design their product and their company logo.

Feel the Feelings and Write About Emotions

Pouring red wine
AngiePhotos/Getty Images

Communication is about emotion. Find the emotion just as a method actor finds their motivation for the scene. Emotion is the cornerstone of Aspirational Marketing and your brand's story.

For their first collaboratively produced wine, Peter Deutsch of ​Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits,​who have been distributors and importers of wine for more than 30 years, and Jim Nantz, Emmy Award-winning sports commentator known for calling everything from the Masters Tournament, to the Final Four and the Super Bowl for the CBS Television Network since 1985, tapped their passion for wine.

Deutsch explains, "Serendipity brought us together one night at a restaurant in Connecticut where we both happened to be dining. I had recently finished reading Jim's best-selling book, "Always By My Side", and went over to introduce myself. Jim happened to mention his long-standing desire to enter into the wine business. We soon discovered that we shared a passion for wine and a deep respect for our fathers, both of whom served as our personal mentors. Through time, and many brainstorming sessions, we decided it was a calling at this stage in our lives to try something new.

"We realized we could team up and build something special. Our shared virtues bonded us as business partners," said Deutsch. "This is the first time the Deutsch name will be on a wine label as a producer. For us to make this historic first step for our family company, the situation had to be just right. This was the perfect confluence. We are thrilled to be presenting The Calling."

The core message for their jointly produced wine, The Calling, is based on emotion. The wine's message, 'Unlock your calling in life. - Pursue your passion' is central to the wine's origin in a chance meeting and decision to take the next step in each of their professional lives.

Create Your Stories With Symbols

Times Square at dusk
Mitchell Funk/Getty Images

Symbols were the first form of written language. Symbols connect and communicate with us more powerfully than words. When you have identified your touchstone and the emotions, find the one element that connects them.

For David and Deborah Meniane, it is the image of David's Grandmother Victoria. For David Stein and Jason Drum, it is the bowling ball base for their tabletop. And for Peter Deutch and Jim Nantz, it is an escutcheon plate surrounding a keyhole, symbolizing the moment when you fit the key into the lock and open to your life's calling. In each of these instances, these symbols have a universal appeal because of their iconic presence. Everyone responds to a kindly grandmother. Many remember the joy of league bowling and all of us recognize the opportunity to slip a key into a lock and open the door to opportunity.

As Deborah Meniane tells us, people "want to feel like they are a part of something more. By sharing your story with them, you allow them to enter your world and be a part of whatever you introduce them to. By having Victoria and her picture on our logo, we let people into our lives. They know we are not only selling them a great product but an atmosphere."

Now Write Your Story

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. label carries the almost unedited family story
Jack Rudy Cocktail Company

Without editing, censoring or deletion, transcribe your story, describing where you were, the emotions and symbols that help someone visualize and feel the roots of your brand. Then read what you've written, selecting the adjectives and nouns. These should link directly to your products features, benefits and attributes and give you the basis of your backstory.

This backstory can be the message on your label. For Brooks Reitz, of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and producer of a concentrated tonic syrup, his label carries the almost unedited family story of his grandfather, Jack Rudy. The characteristics of Rudy's life drove the product's intensity.

When you've done these five things, you have captured the essence of your story, the core of your message just as these entrepreneurs have done. And just as these entrepreneurs have done, use them as the building blocks for your brand.