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Building a StoryBrand Summary

“Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller is a guide to crafting a clear and compelling brand message that resonates with customers. He argues that most businesses confuse themselves as the hero of their story when they should be positioning the customer as the hero. 

Miller introduces the StoryBrand framework, a simple 7-part structure rooted in universal storytelling principles. This framework helps businesses clarify their purpose, streamline their messaging, and connect with customers on a deeper emotional level, leading to increased engagement and success.


The Problem

In “Building a StoryBrand”, Donald Miller argues that the primary problem most businesses face isn’t poor products or services, but confusing and ineffective messaging. 

Customers are bombarded with information from all angles, and their attention is a precious resource. Brands that fail to communicate clearly and quickly lose their audience.

The Solution: The StoryBrand Framework

Miller’s solution is the StoryBrand Framework, a seven-part process modeled after the classic structure of compelling stories. 

The key principle is to shift the focus from the company to the customer. Instead of the company being the hero of its own story, the customer becomes the hero, and the company plays the role of the guide.

The 7-Part StoryBrand Framework

1. A Character

The customer is the hero of the story, not your brand. Define your customers’ core desires.

  • The Crucial Shift: The most common pitfall in business messaging is positioning the company as the hero. This self-focused approach fails to connect with the audience. The StoryBrand Framework insists on making the customer the center of attention.
  • Defining your Ideal Customer: Understanding your customer’s desires is paramount. This goes beyond demographics. Consider:
    • Goals: What does success look like for them? This could be career advancement, better health, or a strong sense of community.
    • Motivations: What drives their actions, and what creates a sense of urgency for them?
    • Pain Points: What tangible challenges do they face daily? What frustrations are they trying to overcome?

2. Has a Problem

Outline your customers’ external, internal, and philosophical problems – what keeps them up at night?

  • The Power of Problems: Problems, obstacles, and frustrations are the fuel that drives a compelling story. Miller outlines three key types of problems your customer faces:
    • External: These are tangible, practical problems – a leaky roof, inefficient work processes, a lack of a specific product.
    • Internal: These encompass the customer’s emotions, doubts, and anxieties – feeling stressed, disorganized, or uncertain about the future.
    • Philosophical: These touch on broader worldviews or beliefs – a sense that something in “the system” is wrong or that their life lacks deeper meaning.
  • The Trap of Oversimplification: Don’t underestimate the complex web of problems your customers may be grappling with. Tap into their frustrations deeply to offer a truly transformative solution.

3. And Meets a Guide

Your brand enters the story as the guide, equipped with empathy and authority.

  • The Role of the Guide: Just as no story hero sets out alone, your customer needs a trustworthy guide. Your brand plays this role. It’s essential to project these two key qualities:
    • Empathy: Show that you genuinely understand the customer’s struggle. Speak their language and demonstrate that you “get” them. Avoid generic platitudes that fail to connect.
    • Authority: Exhibit competence and expertise in solving the problem at hand. This builds trust; your customers need to believe that you have the knowledge and solutions to lead them toward success.
  • The Yoda Analogy: Think of your brand as the Yoda to your customer’s Luke Skywalker. Provide wisdom, guidance, and demonstrate a path to overcome the obstacles they face.

4. Who Gives Them a Plan

Present a simple plan to help the customer resolve their problem. Don’t overcomplicate this.

  • Clarity Trumps Cleverness: Customers crave a pathway toward resolving their problems. Overly complex plans will overwhelm and increase skepticism.
  • The Power of Process: Break your solution into clear steps (ideally 3-4). This makes the journey seem more manageable and boosts the customer’s confidence in reaching their end goal.
  • Agreement Plans vs. Process Plans: If your solution is simple, use an agreement plan (e.g., “We’ll help you find the perfect outfit”). For more complex problems, a process plan is needed (e.g., Step 1: Consultation, Step 2: Treatment, Step 3: Follow-up).

5. And Calls Them to Action

Offer a clear call to action – a direct invitation to purchase or engage.

  • Don’t Assume They Know What to Do! Leaving calls to action vague or implied leads to missed opportunities. Be explicit in directing your customer toward the next step.
  • Two Types of Calls to Action:
    • Direct: Asking for the purchase directly (“Buy Now”, “Schedule Your Appointment”).
    • Transitional: A softer initial step for commitment-phobic customers (“Get Our Free Guide”, “Join Our Email List”).
  • Reduce Risk Perception: Minimize the customer’s perceived risk by offering guarantees, testimonials, or easy ways to try your product/service before fully committing.

6. That Ends in Success

Help your customers envision the positive transformation that would occur if they use your product/service.

  • Paint a Vivid Picture of Success: Don’t just list benefits; guide your customer to imagine what their life will look and feel like after their problem is solved. Use sensory details and emotional language.
  • Success is Relative: Don’t create an unrealistic portrayal of success. Tailor it to the customer’s core desires and focus on what they will truly value.
  • Tap into Aspirational Identity: Help your customers see themselves as the type of person who achieves this successful outcome.

7. And Helps Them Avoid Failure

Highlight the potential negative consequences or risks of inaction.

  • The Force of Loss Aversion: People are often more motivated by avoiding loss than by seeking gains. Subtly outline what could go wrong if they don’t solve their problem.
  • Consequences Matter: These can be practical (losing money, missing deadlines) or reflect how inaction impacts their identity (feeling unfulfilled, incompetent, or left behind).
  • Don’t Exploit Fear: It’s about striking a balance. Create urgency without resorting to manipulative fear-mongering.

The StoryBrand BrandScript

Building on the 7-part framework, Miller provides the StoryBrand BrandScript. This serves as a template for your company’s core messaging, including:

1. One-Liner

A concise tagline of what you offer and the problem you solve.

  • Purpose: This is your ultra-distilled brand message, designed to grab attention and convey your value proposition immediately.
  • Conciseness is Key: Aim for a sentence or two at most. Force yourself to be ruthless about what’s truly essential.
  • Clarity over Clever: Ditch wordplay and abstract jargon. Focus on clearly communicating what you do and the problem you solve for your customer.
  • Example: “We help overwhelmed small business owners streamline their bookkeeping so they can focus on growth.”

2. Elevator Pitch

A short summary focusing on the problem, solution, and outcomes.

  • Purpose: This is your chance to expand slightly on your one-liner, offering more context while still being brief enough to deliver in an elevator ride.
  • Structure: Consider following this template:
    • Problem: Outline the customer’s pain point.
    • Solution: Simply state how you solve the problem.
    • Outcomes: Paint a picture of the results the customer can expect.
  • Example: “Many small business owners feel buried in paperwork and uncertain about their finances. We provide simple bookkeeping systems and expert guidance. This gives owners clarity, saves them time, and helps them make smarter business decisions.”

3. Website Elements

Guidance on website sections like the hero statement, lead generators, and call to action.

  • Hero Statement: This is the first thing visitors see on your website. It needs to immediately communicate that you understand the customer’s problem and have the solution. Think of it as an expanded version of your one-liner.
  • Lead Generators: Create valuable offers that entice visitors to share their email in exchange for something useful. This could be:
    • Downloadable Guides
    • Free Webinars or Consultations
    • Exclusive Content or Discounts
  • Calls to Action: These need to be prominent and clear throughout your website. Use direct language and create a sense of urgency. Examples:
    • “Book Your Free Consultation”
    • “Start Your Trial Today”
    • “Join Our Community”

Why It Matters

The StoryBrand framework’s power lies in its deep resonance with how the human brain processes information. 

We’ve evolved to respond to stories – it’s how we find meaning, connect emotionally, and make decisions. When businesses try to communicate through lists of features or dry facts, they fail to create a narrative hook in the customer’s mind. 

This often leads to messages either being ignored altogether or quickly forgotten in the deluge of competing information. 

The StoryBrand method taps into the timeless principles of storytelling, creating focus, cultivating emotional investment, and making your brand message unforgettable. By aligning with how customers think and make choices, the framework provides a pathway to cut through the noise and stand out.


  • Beyond Products: While most easily visualized with physical products, the StoryBrand framework applies equally well to services, consultancies, and non-profit organizations. The core principle remains: understand your audience’s problems and guide them to a successful resolution.
  • B2B vs. B2C: The StoryBrand Framework works for both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) models. Even in B2B contexts where decisions seem purely logical, individuals within a company are still driven by personal needs like achieving career success, improving efficiency, and minimizing risk.
  • Large vs. Small Enterprises: Big corporations and small businesses alike benefit from clarified messaging. The StoryBrand framework provides structure and focus regardless of company size.
  • Internal Communication: The StoryBrand principles aren’t just for external customers. They also help to align team members around a core vision, articulate organizational goals, and create a shared sense of purpose.

Examples of Applications:

  • Healthcare Provider: Focusing on patient anxieties (internal problem) and the potential for restored health and well-being (successful outcome), rather than a mere listing of medical services.
  • Software Company: Framing complex solutions as tools to streamline workflow (problem), resulting in increased productivity and job satisfaction (success).
  • Non-profit Organization: Highlighting the societal problem being addressed (philosophical), the vision for a better future (success), and how individual donors can be part of the solution (call to action).
  • Personal Branding: Individuals can use the framework to craft compelling resumes, elevator pitches, or social media profiles, positioning themselves as the guide to solving a potential employer or client’s problem.

Why the StoryBrand Framework’s Versatility Matters?

The Noise Problem is Universal

In today’s digital landscape, businesses across every industry are facing an overwhelming challenge: cutting through the never-ending barrage of content, advertisements, and offers vying for consumer attention. 

The StoryBrand framework provides a structured approach to do just that. 

By shifting the focus away from self-promotion and directly onto the customer’s core problems and desires, it allows a brand’s message to stand out. 

The framework offers a recipe for clarity amidst the chaos, providing a focused pathway for customers to quickly understand how the business can directly address their needs.

Empathy as a Differentiator

Most company messaging tends to be inherently self-focused, touting features, awards, and unique selling points. 

While these are important, the StoryBrand framework boldly prioritizes empathy and understanding. By placing the customer’s problems, frustrations, and aspirations at the center of their messaging, businesses demonstrate a genuine connection that resonates deeply with their audience. 

This focus on empathy builds trust and sets a company apart from the legions of those who simply “talk at” their potential customers.

Foundation for Future Growth

Clarified brand messaging powered by the StoryBrand framework has ripple effects throughout an organization. 

This clarity extends beyond marketing materials. 

When the team understands the core problems they solve and the ideal customer they serve, it leads to smarter sales strategies, more effective product development, and more streamlined operations. 

Each component of the business can align around a shared sense of purpose, leading to better decision-making, increased efficiency, and ultimately, sustained growth.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, “Building a StoryBrand” provides the tools for companies to stop wasting time and money on ineffective messaging and instead to create a clear, compelling narrative that attracts and retains loyal customers. This clarity ultimately translates into growth and success.

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