Ahhhh, the wise Origin Story. The story that came before the business. It’s the story so many businesses fail to tell well.
To me, that’s a very sad thing because the Origin Story holds all the nutrients of a brand story. That’s where all the real, authentic goodness comes from.
It’s the story that keeps us founders and leaders true to who we are. It’s the story that reconnects us with the things we care about and how far we’ve come.
I honestly believe the Origin Story is the most important story businesses can tell their customers. In short, it makes brands real and relatable.
Your Origin Story is your human story. If you’re a founder, it starts with you. It’s the backstory to why you do the work you do. It’s the story about the experience you had that made you feel something and want to do something to make change happen. If it was anger, you turned that into something. You turned your anger into change.
Your Origin Story reminds people of the people behind the brand too. It reminds people that you’ve been on a journey to this point and you’re inviting them to be a part of it. It’s emotional. It’s deep. It’s the story that belongs to you and only you. Only you can own it. Remember this: Originality doesn’t exist. But YOU do.
Ready to get into your Origin Story?
I’m excited. Let’s go.
Your Origin Story starts with care. It starts with the things you care about. Sounds simple right? Well, it is. (Kind of.) I mean, when do we ever sit down and ask ourselves, “what do I care about?” My guess is NEVER. That, my friend, is about to change.
Here’s the thing: answering this question is REALLY HARD. It’s hard because the things we care about are connected to our life experiences. And we need space to reflect on them and sit with them.
The things we care about come from an emotion. It’s the emotion we feel after something happens to us. Something we experience, see or hear that makes us feel things like: “This ain’t right.” “That ain’t cool.” “There’s gotta be a better way to do this.”
How to create your brand’s Origin Story
Take it way back to the beginning. This is the zone you need to be in.
Start by answering these three questions:
- What inspired you to start your business?
- What happened that made you determined to make a difference?
- How did you feel about the problem you identified?
Top tip: Start with the emotions you felt when you first started. It’s likely you’ll have a few. Did your experience make you feel angry, sad or hurt?
List them out. Here’s the Wheel of Emotions, created by Robert Plutchik, to help you identify your specific feelings.
Susan David is an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist and her recent podcast with Brené Brown on Emotional Agility is a MUST LISTEN.
She talks about emotions being signposts for the things we care about. She says, “Once you’ve identified those emotions, spend some time thinking about why you felt them”. This is what I want you to do. Is anything coming up for you when you? If it is, write that down. Say hello to your Origin Story.
The things you care about have made you build something for people. That right there is something really, really special.
A few examples of an Origin Story showing up in different ways
If you keep telling the same story, people will wonder why progress hasn’t been made. Your Origin Story is all about the journey. Where you started and where you are now. What’s changed? What progress have you made? All of that good stuff in between — the lessons, learnings, discoveries, milestones — all of that.
Your Origin Story is all about saying, “This is why we started and this is how far we’ve come. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re moving.” Yes! Bang that drum!
Have you heard of Oddbox? I’m a big fan! They’re on a mission to reduce food waste and they’re a fantastic example of a brand owning their Origin Story. They do a few simple things we can all learn from.
The first thing they do well is they share a video in the highlights of their Instagram from their founders. It’s real and honest talk. They admit straight away that they’re not fruit and veg experts. They’re brutally real with their audience and that vulnerability is so attractive to human beings like you and me.
Founder facetime feels nice, too. It feels personable and friendly. A simple video like this speaks volumes. It says: “We started this because we care. If you care too, join us on this mission. We’d love to have you onboard. We can’t do this alone.”
The second thing they do brilliantly is they visually show their customers the positive impact they’re making. They’re saying, “Look, this is working. We’re getting closer to our vision.” And this makes their customer feel a part of something bigger. It reminds them that they’re making a difference with every Oddbox purchase.
And last but not least, we love how Oddbox’s founder, Deepak, shares his personal story in a LinkedIn article. Deepak shares his truth so beautifully. He gets real. He gets raw. He gets personal. He talks about his need for more purpose in his work. He paints a picture of his “successful life” back then and what he realised about the meaning of success. He openly shares the journey he went on physically and mentally leading up to the birth of Oddbox. This is a story only he can own. What’s yours?
How to apply your Origin Story to your everyday marketing
Practically-speaking, here are some examples of how your Origin Story can show up in your everyday marketing efforts:
- Organic social media content: The best Origin Stories have versatility and create content for days. Weeks, even. Once you’ve written your Origin Story, turn each sentence into a strong social media post that’s bold, clear and taps into the heart of why you’re here. Here’s an example from Fussy — ‘because…’ statements can work wonders in bringing you closer to your customers. The more they see you care about the same things, the stronger your relationship will become.
- Honest social media videos: It’s no secret that everyone loves a good backstory. What’s yours? And how can you share it an honest, relatable way across your social media? Remember: everyone has that one business idea they’ve considered starting — and you actually did it! People want to hear about that. Share the struggle, get anecdotal and have fun with it. Pro tip: record one video and then edit them down to several smaller videos that answer one question each. Videos that are 60 seconds or less tend to do best. Also, think about the kind of questions you’d like to ask your fellow founders and answer those questions. “So, how did it get started?” “What did the beginning look like exactly?” “What’s been the hardest part so far?” are all great examples. Bonus points for a rapid-fire question round for extra punchiness and engagement.
- A conversational ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Story’ page: Many brands have ‘About Us’ pages. Few brands make you feel like they’re speaking directly to you. An amazing example of this is HANX’s ‘About Us’ page. There’s so much about it that works — the way they open with a conversational sentence: ‘A gynecology doctor and an investment banker walk into a bar…’, the way they describe themselves as BFFs… all of these small details go a long way. No ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Story’ page is complete without your Origin Story. Imagine someone asked you how your business started in the pub. The way you’d answer that question in conversation is the beginning of your next ‘About Us’ page. Trust me.
Your Origin Story matters SO MUCH more than you think.
For those of you second-guessing or doubting your story:
We need to hear you. We need you to tell us who you are and why you’re here. Your customer needs to hear that you started your business from the heart, not the head. They need to know that you, as a founder, have been through something they can relate to too.
When you share your story you give your customers the permission to share theirs too. Getting to know you means getting to know ourselves more too.
Thank you for being here. I hope you enjoyed reading this piece.
Here’s a little bit about me…
I’m the co-founder of Make Us Care — a strategic creative partner for businesses doing good in the world. I work closely with founders, leaders and marketing teams to build brands people care about. My magic sauce is a communications framework I created called the 5 Stories.
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