Creating a StoryBrand One-Liner

Joel Woolley

When introducing yourself to someone for the first time, a typical follow-on question is “So what do you do?”

After taking time to explain yourself, you can usually expect a couple of different reactions.

You might get a nod or a smile if there’s interest in what you’re saying. They’ll look engaged. Maybe with eyes wide open, wanting to know more.

Or you may get the dreaded blank stare. A puzzled look of confusion when they’re really not getting it.

And that’s understandable. Because maybe you don’t really get it either.

Explaining what you do in a clear and concise way can be one of the hardest things to do.

What you need is a StoryBrand One-Liner. A straightforward description of what you do that leaves people interested and wanting to know more. A One-Liner that gives you clarity about what you do, wrapped up in a formula that is repeatable and simple.

Let’s dive into what a One-Liner is, why it works so well and how you can create a One-Liner of your own.

What is a StoryBrand One-Liner?

The One-Liner is a tool found in Donald Miller and Dr JJ Peterson’s book Marketing Made Simple. They didn’t necessarily create the concept. It actually came from Hollywood.

When you’re pitching a movie idea to a film company, you need to be able to explain the film’s plot in one or two sentences. So Don and Dr JJ took this concept and applied it to marketing.

The One-Liner is one or two sentences that follow this structure:

  1. What is the problem you solve?
  2. What is your solution? (Here’s a hint: it’s your brand, product or service)
  3. What will success look like?

If you think about it, these questions are almost like a short story. The story starts when someone has a problem, and then your brand comes in with the solution. Once people have engaged with your brand, we then see what success looks like for them.

Here’s the One-Liner we use at My Brand Story:

Most businesses struggle to stand out in the marketplace. At My Brand Story, we help you create a brand message that sets you apart and grows your business.

You want your One-Liner to be memorable and capture people’s interest. But this is only possible if you use the right words to answer these questions well. Your One-Liner is only as powerful as the words you use to create it.

Next let’s look at some common mistakes you can avoid when creating your own One-Liner.

What are some common One-Liner mistakes?

Mistake #1: Too much jargon

A great One-Liner is clear and uses language that people use everyday. It’s a high-level statement about the problem you solve, the solution you provide, and the success people experience when they engage in your business.

It's not a space for big words and inside jargon that only a few people can understand.

You may be concerned that the One-Liner doesn’t state the detailed services and complexities that your brand offers. But here’s where you need to remember the purpose of the One-Liner: to capture interest and make your brand memorable.

You can’t do this when you’re distracting your listeners and readers with big words they won’t remember.

As people begin to interact with your brand, you’ll have time to educate through blog posts, longer sections of your website and other resources.

Mistake #2: You’re solving more than one problem

When you’re telling people about how you can help them, it’s important to just pick one problem to solve. Your brand may have multiple solutions to multiple problems, but sharing all of them will just overwhelm your audience.

A great One-Liner is concise and focuses on one central problem, allowing people to follow you easily.

Here’s a tip if you’re struggling. Get a piece of paper or open up a Google Doc and write out all the different problems your brand solves. See if any common themes pop up between them. If you find one, then create a single problem around that theme.

Mistake #3: There’s not enough visual language

Most people would agree that it’s easier to understand something when you can imagine it in your mind. To be a brand that stands out, you need your audience to clearly see what it is that you do, and exactly how you can help them. Using visual language in your One-Liner is a great way to lock this image in the minds of your audience.

When someone reads or hears about the problem you solve, they should see a mini-movie of themselves experiencing that problem.

When I’m struggling to write visually, a phrase I find works is, “you know when…”

You know when you’ve lost your car keys, and you can’t remember where you put them last? At Tile, we’ve created a device you can clip to your key ring so you can use your phone to find it. Now you’ll never lose your keys again.

I’m sure after reading this you were able to visualise a time when you lost your car keys.

This is the kind of visual language you need in a One-Liner, to help people imagine your company solving a problem that they struggle to overcome.

Mistake #4: It just doesn’t flow well

I’m sure you can agree that it’s an uncomfortable feeling when you’re watching a movie and the story ends without clear resolution to a conflict. In fact it can be darn right annoying!

Audience’s shouldn’t be left hanging!

If you’re going to introduce a conflict or a problem, you need to have a clear solution and resolve the issue you’re bringing up.

This principle applies when you’re writing your One-Liner. Once you’ve introduced the problem, it should flow nicely into a solution. They should both line up.

Here’s an example using the Tile statements earlier.

If we said the problem was “losing your car keys “, and the solution was “we created a guide to getting more out of your workplace”, you can imagine how puzzled your customer’s would be.

This example may be exaggerated a bit. But it’s amazing how many companies do this with their One-Liner. You need to make sure your problem statement is then resolved with the solution statement so you can achieve a nice flow in your One-Liner.

Mistake #5: It’s not repeated the same way

Once you’ve done the hard work of creating your One-Liner, you now need to commit it to memory. This is so it can be repeated exactly the same way every time.

The whole purpose of a One-Liner is for your brand to be memorable and relevant, so your One-Liner shouldn’t change depending on who you’re talking to. You want your brand to be imprinted in your audience’s mind, and a foolproof way to do this is to repeat your One-Liner over and over.

Don Miller points out that “marketing is an exercise in memorisation.” This is based on the Marketing Rule of 7, where a person needs to have seven interactions with your brand before they purchase.

If your audience is repeatedly getting the same message from you, it’ll start to stick. Each time they interact with your brand and layer up with more of the same message, you’re making that stick even stronger. It’s just a matter of time before they become a customer.

Don’t fall into the trap thinking you need to frequently change your One-Liner. Stick with it and don’t forget to repeat, repeat, repeat. Over and over and over. It will certainly pay off!

What are some StoryBrand One-Liner examples?

Over the years we’ve helped create quite a few One-Liners. Here are a few examples we’ve collected from different industries.

Most people start stressing when a lawyer gets involved. At Best Law, our Lawyers will make the legal process simple so you can stop stressing and keep moving forward.
Many public speakers struggle to prepare for their next talk. Michael Philpott will give you coaching to improve your script and delivery so you can confidently face your next talk and inspire your audience to take action.
Kids grow up so fast and before you know it they’ve left home. At Photoworthy Images, we photograph your child’s growing up years so you can relive those precious moments forever.
Many business owners hate tacky uniforms. At Robert Embroideries, we help you find the perfect uniform so your brand can make a first impression that lasts.

Are you looking for more StoryBrand One-Liner examples?

At the top of this post you’ll find a video of Donald Miller taking a group of business owners through the One-Liner exercise. Here you may gather some more ideas as he workshops with some of the attendee’s on the spot.

Who knows, after watching his process it may help you with your own!

Where should I use my One-Liner?

Everywhere! Remember that the purpose of the One-Liner is to attract attention and become memorable in the minds of your viewer or reader. To do this you need to repeat yourself everywhere.

Here are some ideas for where to use your One-Liner:

  • In your social media bio
  • In the footer of your website
  • In your email signature
  • On the wall of your office space
  • On the outro of your videos
  • On your product packaging

Another good idea is to teach your team the One-Liner and make sure they know it word-for-word. So whether they’re at meetings with potential customers or simply connecting at a small family BBQ, they’re able to roll this statement right off their tongues.

Almost transforming them into an extension of your marketing department!

How can I refine my One-Liner?

When you’re busy running your business, it can be challenging to find the right words for your One-Liner. When you’re so close to your business, it can be hard to get that perspective.

It may be useful to get an employee or sales team to help with your One-Liner, especially as you attempt to translate what you do into normal everyday language. Next, try using it in sales and networking meetings, and start gathering some feedback. It’s worth a shot!

As you commit yourself to the process of creating your One-Liner, you may still have some questions or doubts:

…how do I know I’m getting this right?

…what if I’m wasting my time?

…will creating a One-Liner really be effective in capturing attention?

And honestly there aren’t any simple answers.

In order to make sure you’re creating something of value and not wasting precious time, you need an expert’s perspective. Someone to guide you along the way.

I know that you want your effort and energy going into something that you’re 100% confident you’re going to get right.

So why not book a call with me? As a StoryBrand Guide, I’ve been trained by Donald Miller and the StoryBrand team to create effective One-Liners. Statements that stand out and make your brand more memorable in the mind of your audience.

I can talk you through your questions and get your One-Liner set up as part of our Brand Story Starter kit. It’s as simple as booking a call with me today.

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