Writing a Storybrand Brandscript: 7 Elements

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Building a Storybrand" by Donald Miller. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a brandscript? How can writing a brandcsript help you build a storybrand for your company?

A brandscript is how you tell the story of your brand. Creating a script complete with a story, characters, and a conflict can help you determine your marketing strategy.

Keep reading to find out how to create a brandscript.

Create Your Storybrand Brandscript

In Part 1, we learned that the best way to transmit a message is via story. There are many different ways to write stories—just think about how many books and movies there are out there—but there’s one tried-and-true formula that’s been tested throughout thousands of years of human history. 

The author, who founded a company called StoryBrand, has streamlined this formula into a process called the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework (SB7). Using this framework, you’ll follow a step-by-step process to create a brandscript, which is a document similar to the grids or storyboards that storytellers use to create movies or books. Once you’ve created your brandscript, you’ll be able to draw on its ideas to write copy and create content you can use in your marketing materials. 

The brandscript is universal and will work for any size of company anywhere in the world. For example, after implementing the framework, in just four years, the author’s company doubled its revenue.

You can create multiple brandscripts for your company at the overall, divisional, and product levels, and/or for different customer segments.

Storybrand Brandscript Elements

There are 7 major elements in the storybrand brandscript. You should incorporate all the elements into your brand, and think about how they fit into a larger narrative, similar to a book or story.

Element #1: The Hero (Customer) Wants Something

The first of the seven story elements is a hero who wants something. In a narrative, the hero is the main character and the center of attention.

In branding, the hero is the customer (not your brand) and you need to come up with something she wants that’s survival-related and associated with your product. (Shortform example: If you sell hand soap, you can suggest the customer wants clean hands, which is related to survival because clean hands help prevent illness.)

First, we’ll discuss why wants are so compelling and how to choose them. Then, we’ll discuss how to write these wants into your brandscript.

Element #2: A Problem

The second of the seven story elements is the problem. In narrative, a problem is something that stands in the way of the hero getting what she wants. Problems engage the audience, maintain interest in the story, and make the audience more likely to trust the storyteller because they feel understood. (Shortform example: In the book The Paper Bag Princess, the dragon is the problem—the dragon burns all the princess’s possessions and kidnaps the prince she wants to marry.) 

In branding, a problem is something the customer is frustrated by that your product or service can fix. (Shortform example: If you sell hand soap, the customer’s problem is that her hands are dirty, which creates a feeling of disgust.)

Problems are important to maintaining interest—without conflict, stories are boring. No one would keep watching. (Shortform example: Imagine that in the movie The Wizard of Oz, the wicked witch offered to give Dorothy a ride home after the first half-hour.)

First, we’ll explore how to create a villain strong enough to mobilize customers. Then, we’ll discuss the three problems your product or service should address, and how to write these problems (and their solutions) into your brandscript.

Element #3: The Guide (Your Brand)

The third of the seven story elements is the guide. In a narrative, the guide is a character who helps the hero solve her problem. (Shortform example: In The Karate Kid, the guide is Mr. Miyagi, a karate master who teaches hero Daniel how to fight.)  

In branding, the guide is your brand, which will help the customer solve her problems and get what she wants. (Shortform example: if you sell hand soap, your brand offers customers the tools to get their hands clean.)

First, we’ll discuss the dynamic between the hero and guide. Then, we’ll discuss the two characteristics you should demonstrate as a guide, and how to write evidence of these characteristics into your brandscript.

Element #4: The Plan 

The fourth of the seven story elements is the plan. In a narrative, the plan is a method the guide gives the hero to alleviate her fears, help her get what she wants, and solve her problems. For example, in Moneyball, guide Peter Brand tells hero Billy Beane (general manager of a baseball team) to use algorithms instead of anecdotes to choose his players.

(Shortform note: To see the seven story elements of Moneyball in action, read our summary of the book.) 

In branding, the plan is step-by-step instructions that the brand gives the customer. The instructions explain how to buy or use the product or service, or alleviate fears about spending money on the product or service. (Shortform example: If you sell hand soap, you might assure customers that your salespeople don’t work on commission—no one will pressure them to buy a scent they’re not sure about.)

The first three steps of the SB7 Framework were primarily about establishing characters and setting the scene. Step four is the first in which the customer has to start doing something. She’s unlikely to do so unless you tell her exactly what to do next and how it’s going to play out. 

First, we’ll look at two different types of plans. Then, we’ll discuss how to write and title them, and how to add them to your brandscript.

Element #5: Call to Action

The fifth of the seven story elements is to act. In a narrative, the guide pushes the hero to act. (Shortform example: In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells Frodo to take the ring to Mordor to destroy it.)

In branding, the brand calls the customer to action by providing a button on their website that allows the customer to buy or get more information about the brand’s products or services. (Shortform example: if you sell hand soap, you might create a button linking to a document called “How to Wash Your Hands Properly” that customers can download from your website for free.)

First, we’ll discuss the importance of using calls to action and learn about the two different types. Then, we’ll discuss how to employ them, and how to add them to your brandscript.

Element #6: Negative Stakes

There are only two motivations in life: 1) get something good or 2) avoid something bad, and the last two elements of the SB7 Framework address these motivations.

The sixth of the seven story elements is the negative stakes—what happens if the character fails to act, fails to solve the problem, and fails to get what she wants? In narrative, the possibility of loss—and the terrible consequences loss comes with—creates suspense and motivates the audience to stay engaged with the story. (Shortform example: In Harry Potter, if hero Harry doesn’t defeat villain Voldemort, Voldemort will take over the wizarding world and torture or murder people.)

In branding, the possibility of loss—the bad things that will happen to your customer if she doesn’t buy your product—motivates your customer to continue looking for a solution to the problem and a happy ending to her story. (Shortform example: if you sell hand soap and your customer doesn’t buy it, her hands will be filthy and could infect her with diseases.)

Stakes are important because every moviegoer and customer, when confronted with a story, is always subconsciously asking, “Why should I care?” and “Where can this take me?” If there’s nothing at stake, the story is boring, and people tune out. 

First, we’ll discuss the power of negative stakes. Then, we’ll discuss how to employ them, and how to add them to your brandscript.

Element #7: Positive Stakes

The last of the seven story elements is positive stakes—what happens if the character successfully acts, solves the problem, and gets what she wants? In narrative, the possibility of gain—and the happy ending it comes with—motivates the audience to stay invested in the story. (Shortform example: In Harry Potter, if hero Harry does defeat villain Voldemort, the wizarding world will be safe, and Harry can have a normal life and start a family, something he’s wanted since Voldemort killed his parents.) 

In branding, the possibility of gain—and the positive stakes it comes with—motivates the customer to buy your product. (Shortform example: if you sell hand soap, and people buy it and use it, they’ll be clean and healthy.)

The goal of this element is to close the gap between the hero/customer and what she wants. First, we’ll discuss the requirements of happy endings and three popular story endings that we can draw inspiration from. Then, we’ll discuss how to share the happy endings with customers, and how to add them to your brandscript.

Writing a Storybrand Brandscript: 7 Elements

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Donald Miller's "Building a Storybrand" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Building a Storybrand summary:

  • How storytelling enhances brand marketing
  • Why you should make the consumer the hero of your brand's story
  • The 7 elements that make marketing work

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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