What is a brand story?

In short: It's a wayfinding device that informs, aligns, and strengthens how you write and talk about your company. It's the first thing you should write and fall in love with when you start any messaging effort. It's short—at most 300 words—and it's meant for internal use only.

Your brand story digs into the deepest reasons why your project/business exists: Why did your founders make this big commitment in the first place? Why are you the right people to get the job done? It delves into the future you want to see for your industry and the key people you're trying to help. A brand story encompasses all the feelings, ambitions, beliefs, and expertise of the people you've started with and brought onboard.

Part of this narrative is how your company got to where it is today, but it's far more than a history or timeline. It should be informed by your market, your ideal user, and your product as it exists today, but also be agnostic enough to adapt to pivots, sudden changes in the market, or features that don't pan out.

Most importantly, a brand story makes you feel. It's emotionally charged. Ambitious, visionary, and often quite audacious. When you read your organization's brand story, you should feel like you've recommitted to your role in a larger movement you believe in, like getting a pep talk when trying to build up the confidence to do something scary. A brand story is there when you need to commit.

Where a brand story fits alongside positioning, go-to-market, and messaging

Positioning is high-level guidance about what your product is, who it's for, and how you will monetize it—it's your go-to-market (GTM) strategy. In open source and cloud native, that includes both your open source project and commercial product.

You should develop a brand story only after you understand your positioning and GTM strategy, but before you begin on external messaging, which is the fleshed-out written framework that details how you communicate what you do, who you help, and why you exist at all.

Why? Your brand story informs every single line of your messaging framework, from your website copy and GitHub README, all the way down to transactional emails you send to a user on sign-up. It's your wayfinding device, a resource that helps you ask: Am I being honest to our core narrative? Is this messaging aligned with the emotions and ambitions we've weaved through our story?

Your brand story constantly informs, aligns, and strengthens everything you do. And if you don't create one yourself, the ecosystem you operate in certainly will—doubly true in open source and cloud native, where your projects and products are under constant and intense scrutiny.

If you know your GTM strategy and have confidence in your product—maybe you've even secured VC funding based on the strength of your founders' pitch and product vision—now is the time to craft a wayfinding device of your own.

You'll thank yourself next time you need that extra confidence boost before committing to your next big decision.