Every brand needs to tell a story. People love a great story, and the best storytellers have an uncanny ability to forge a personal, emotional bond with their audience. The experience of enjoying a good story is a powerful one that pulls in all of our senses and immerses us so that we feel as if we ourselves are actually living the story.Many brand practitioners say they focus on branding the experience of using a service or product. Experience is the best way to appreciate something; the experience is usually the most memorable aspect of each thing we buy.Scott Bedbury, in his book A New Brand World, points out a fundamental paradox of branding: as competing products in a category become more alike in their design and basic functions, all that differentiates them is the superficial attributes that are trivial to the object’s purpose. These are, in fact, the stories that tie us emotionally to the brand.When you rent a car, you can be confident that you will know how to drive it, even though you’ve never sat at the wheel of that make or model in your life. All cars are designed to be familiar; all the controls sit more or less in the same place and work the same way. So what distinguishes one car brand from another? Style, luxury, little extras—things that make little difference to the function of getting from A to B.Few of the decisions we make in life are strictly the result of rationally weighing up the pros and cons. More often—whether or not we are aware of it or admit it—emotions drive our behavior, including our buying.Bernd Schmidt, one of the first advocates of the concept of “experiential marketing,” says all our purchase decisions are essentially made in order to engage in a certain experience. The best brands, according to Schmidt, are those that communicate their promise of a unique experience in a clear and compelling way.Why does all the “soft stuff”—stories, emotions, and experience—matter? The left half of our brain is the rational half. It adds up facts, compares prices, and dutifully ranks the pros and cons. The right half of our brain is the intuitive half: it desires something because it’s fun, because our friends have one, because it’ll look terrific. Nowadays, successful brands use every means available to create-an emotional, story-based experience: retail environments, web experience, brand ambassadors, word-of-mouth campaigns. These work for the simple reason that they appeal to our right brain.Sometimes the culprit is a small detail, almost an afterthought. Since brands with a long tradition seem to generate greater loyalty, many brands pretend they’ve been around—and loved—for years in their place of origin. Stella Artois was first brewed in 1926, but its label says “Anno 1366” in small letters. Sounds impressive, but in reality, the only thing dating that far back is a deed on a certain house in Leuven, Belgium, which later happened to hold a brewery. There is nothing of Stella Artois that dates back to the fourteenth century.Likewise, the restaurant chain Red Lobster, which originated in Florida, decided to strengthen its brand by telling customers it originated in Maine, which is well known for its many lobsters. However, there isn’t a Red Lobster restaurant within several hundred miles of Maine.Sometimes, the “lie” is a big one. When Bailey’s cream liqueur was created in the early 1970s, its producers fabricated an image of Irish tradition, despite the fact that the product is not from Ireland and had no tradition whatsoever. After the drink caught on, the brand story was refined to give it a sexier appeal.What each of these and many other brand stories—truthful or not—have in common is that they are credible, and they somehow make the brand more attractive. Customers accept them as part of the bargain: I’ll pay more for your brand, and you’ll let me take part in a tale.