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Book Review - Building a StoryBrand

 ·  ☕ 3 min read

Note: I originally read this book & wrote this review in May 2023, and then it sat in my drafts folder for a year.


Title: Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Author: Donald Miller

How I learned about it: It was recommended to me in the #copywriting channel of the /r/marketing Discord server (that’s two separate links)

Would I recommend: YES, this was so much better than either of the two books that I read linked from the /r/marketing website.

General comments

Building a StoryBrand is the copywriting book I was looking for. It’s the answer to the question: How do you construct a marketing narrative? The answer is…with narrative. I want this blog post to serve as some notes for “future me” so I’m going to spoil the ending for you and include an outline of roughly what this narrative looks like in the next section.

The one downside of this book is that the author cannot cease marketing himself for one second. At one point he spends an entire page wheedling you to keep reading so that he can keep marketing himself to you. “How many people read the first twenty pages of a book and then stop reading?” he asks on page 41 in a desperate plea to get you to continue after he’s summarized all of the book’s content, terrified you’ll now put the book down. I’m curious if this part is perhaps the last page of the Kindle sample (I read a physical copy).

Some notes

This is summarized on page 20, and then there’s more detail starting on page 29. The rest of the book then goes into a lot more detail, this is just a quick overview.

  1. The HERO (your customer!)
  2. Has a PROBLEM (caused by a villain)
    1. There will be a Philosophical part
    2. and an Internal part
    3. and an External part1
  3. Finds a GUIDE (that’s you!)
    1. The guide should be authoritative
    2. The guide should be empathetic
  4. Who gives them a PLAN
  5. And calls them to ACTION
  6. Helping them avoid FAILURE
    1. They are vulnerable to a threat (this is called “fear appeal”)
    2. Action is necessary
    3. Let them know about a specific CTA
    4. Challenge them to that CTA
  7. And end in SUCCESS

Finally, all stories end in some kind of transformation. The hero is better off after having used the service, or product, or experience.


There’s a lot more detail covered than just that outline in this book, and I don’t think it’s possible to fully appreciate what he talks about without reading examples and case studies. I highly recommend this book if you’re in a position where you need to write any marketing copy at all. I would still probably say that Microcopy is the first copywriting book to read, just because building a brand identity is SO important, but this is a very close second.

  1. In the book, these are written as External, Internal, Philosophical. But I reversed the order so that they acronym as PIE, just like the Principle of Inclusion/Exclusion and Proto-Indo-European↩︎

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River is a developer most at home in MediaWiki and known for building Leaguepedia. She likes cats.

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