In 1977, the world met Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, two of the most memorable movie characters ever. As they did battle over the course of the first two Star Wars films, there was a secret about their relationship that would not be revealed to the audience until the end of the second movie.
That secret was part of their backstory.
In the movies, the backstory is what happens to the characters before the events depicted in the film take place. It’s an important tool screen writers use to shape use to shape the story and give the characters depth and complexity so the audience can connect with them.
Companies also have backstories. Every company has one.
Establishing and understanding your company’s backstory is extremely helpful as you shape your marketing communications. It can help you humanize your brand, make your messaging more relevant, and help you connect with your customers.
A company’s backstory should capture the story of what makes it different. How was the company founded, why, where, and by whom? What are its values? How does it serve the needs of its customers? How does it develop its products and treat its employees?
Anything that was important in the founding and growth of the company belongs in the backstory.
If the company’s founders are still in the picture, creating the backstory should be fairly easy. All you need to do is sit down with them for an hour and let them wax nostalgic about how the company was started.
But don’t let them just tell you the dates and feed you the corporate line about how the company is “dedicated to innovation and outstanding customer service,” or whatever is in your mission statement. Those are words that any company can use (and many do), and they have no meaning.
Get the story behind the story. Why was the company started? Did the founder have a bright idea in the shower? Did she risk her life savings and not draw a salary for five years? Did he leave a lucrative career as a lawyer to follow his dreams?
If the founders are no longer with the company, or long since passed on, do your best to get the story. Look through the archives. Talk to the employees who have been around the longest. You might even need to get creative to fill in the gaps.
Whatever your sources, make sure the backstory is as rich and specific as possible. That’s the stuff that great stories are made of, and it’s what will resonate with your customers. Not the corporate legalease.
It’s important to note that your company backstory will be an internal document. Just like a movie’s backstory, the audience will never see it. Not in its entirety. Instead, you can use it as a guide to craft your brand messaging. To communicate to your customers in an authentic, believable way.
To tell stories about your brand, products and services in ways that are memorable and compelling.
Maybe not as memorable as (spoiler alert) Darth Vader being Luke’s father, but still pretty memorable.