What brand stories immediately come to mind? Here are some.
 You know him as Mark, Mark Z, or simply as Zuck. But we all suspect that we know the story (thanks to the movie, The Social Network). Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard so that he could dedicate himself 24/7 to the creation of a networking website. The website now known as Facebook has revolutionized how we connect with friends, family, and others – and has become an international phenomenon with over 1 billion users. According to ZDNet, users log in for 12 and-a-half minutes every day. And according to ComScore, U.S. desktop users spend 6 hours a month on Facebook, while mobile users spend an average of 11 hours on the site.
 Most people attribute the automobile to Henry Ford. But in actuality, he developed and manufactured the first auto that many middle-class Americans could afford. He was also instrumental in the development of the assembly line and a franchise system of dealerships throughout the United States and on six continents. One famous statement of his was, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Thank goodness, the Ford vehicles started the auto industry, or we’d all be riding horses.
 While Susan Komen for the Cure has been in the news recently, the main reason that the charity was created is a compelling story. The founder (Nancy G. Brinker) launched the charity to honor the memory of her sister (Susan G. Komen) who died of breast cancer and to raise money to eliminate the disease. Despite all the current negative press, the color pink will forever represent that charity and breast cancer awareness.
 While the publishing industry is undergoing a transition from print to digital, there is one newspaper that embodies its city, The New York Times. While you may not know the newspaper began in the mid-1800’s, there is no doubt that you have heard of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Art and Theater, Op-Ed section, and the Opinion section. Whenever someone wants to be heard, he or she comments in The New York Times. The newspaper’s motto was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but on its website, the motto was changed to, “All the News That’s Fit to Click.”
 According to Southwest Airlines Chairman/President and CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest was conceived on a cocktail napkin when San Antonio businessman Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met at the St. Anthony Club and etched out what would become the “Texas Triangle,” charting a path for low-fare travel between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The vision was simple: offer business people a faster, more efficient way to travel at a lower cost and do it with warm, personable service and a smile.” Kelleher knew that in order for his employees to do a good job, they had to have fun. So Southwest allowed flight attendants to wear shorts instead of uncomfortable uniforms and tell silly jokes to passengers over the intercom. The airline continues to provide peanuts, soft drinks, and juice – when competitors charge or don’t offer any food or drinks. Southwest also invites passengers to travel with their baggage without charging, because according to their ads, “Bags fly free.”
So, as you contemplate the importance of storytelling for your brand, consider these questions. How do you decide on a compelling story? What elements do you include and which do you leave out? What is an appropriate length for your story? Do you feature a person (for example, your founder) in your story? But above all, what is the key take-away from your brand’s story, and is it easy to grasp or embrace?
If you cannot easily answer these questions, you need to go back to the brand drawing board and rewrite your brand story, or you’re going to lose customers. What’s YOUR favorite brand story?
Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon with this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at http://tomfishburne.com.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.