Once upon a time… The rise of storytelling in marketing

Once upon a time… The rise of storytelling in marketing 

Storytelling in Marketing

Once upon a time, there was a marketing technique that changed the future of branding.

Today’s decision-makers and consumers are becoming increasingly less interested in standard banner advertisements and old-fashioned sales promises. In today’s highly-competitive business space, you need to invest in a lot more than just a shiny billboard or television ad if you want to get your customer’s attention.

The modern consumer is investing heavily in the brand “narrative”. That’s more than just your sales pitch or your USP – It’s your identity, your background, and your brand voice. It’s the way you communicate with your audience and your internal team, and it’s revealed in everything you do.

The colours and typography of your company logo highlight a chapter of your brand story, just as the words and images on your website unveil even more of your unique tale. In the marketing world, storytelling can even be the key to earning trust and engagement from a disinterested and otherwise apathetic audience.

In fact, storytelling in marketing could be the key to business success in 2018 and the years ahead. LinkedIn suggests that there are 570,000 storytellers in the promotional world as of 2017. If you can use storytelling in your marketing collateral effectively, you could increase the value of your product or service by more than 20 times!

So, what’s the story of effective marketing?

Storytelling in Marketing

The science of stories in marketing: Why storytelling works


Before we start offering tricks and tips on how to use storytelling in marketing, let’s begin by figuring out why this technique is so effective in the first place.

Throughout the decades, countless studies have proven that the human brain responds more positively to a story than a collection of cold, hard facts. When we’re reading nothing but data, we only engage the language part of our brains to decode the message we’re being given. However, when we read a story, we engage other aspects of the brain that would typically be engaged if we were experiencing whatever we’re reading about.

In other words, from a neurological perspective, storytelling in marketing allows you to help your customers see things from your perspective. Stories are also far easier to remember than facts and statistics because our brains blend the tales that we read in with our own memories.

If that wasn’t enough, the human brain is just naturally greedy for stories. We spend our lives searching for them, whether we’re daydreaming about what we’re going to do on the weekend, or thinking about how we’re going to get to work in the morning. Our minds are constantly searching for distractions, and the only time we can focus, is when we have a story in front of us.

The power of storytelling in marketing hasn’t just emerged of course. Brands like Coca Cola, Marks and Spencer, BrewDog, and many others have been using the art and science of stories to their advantage for years now. The reason is that while the average person consumes more than 100,000 digital words each day, 92% of consumers would prefer to get those words in the form of a story.

Use storytelling in marketing correctly, and you can:

Ultimately, whether you’re trying to convince an entire generation that they can’t live without your new app, or you’re showing retirees that your financial services can help them make the most out of their pension, it’s the way you tell your story that will really make an impact on your customers. Discover your story, and you find your sales narrative.

Storytelling in Marketing

Telling your brand story: The benefits of storytelling


The good news for brands who are thinking of using storytelling in marketing is that the process doesn’t have to be as challenging as you might think. The truth is that we’re all-natural storytellers – whether we’re gossiping about our favourite products, or talking about the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

We tell stories because they make it easier for other people to understand us – giving context to the facts and information that we reveal. If you can use your natural storytelling ability as a human being in your marketing materials, then you can enjoy some of the following benefits…

1. Storytelling in marketing motivates customers


Think back to some of the best advertisements you’ve seen over the years. Maybe you saw an M&S advert that compelled you to visit an M&S Food Hall, or a John Lewis message caused you to start feeling festive. The chances are that each of the advertisements you remember had a story behind them.

When it comes to using storytelling in marketing, the experts know how to draw their customers in with a captivating tale, before they introduce their call to action. That way, by the time your favourite brand is asking you to do something, they’ve already built an emotional connection with you, that leaves you feeling more motivated and inspired to act.

2. Storytelling in marketing makes you memorable


There are plenty of marketing elements that can make you more memorable to your customers. A fantastic video, an amazing headline, or even some professional brand photographs all improve your sticking power. However, nothing is quite as memorable as a great story.

As humans, from the time we’re very young, we’re taught to remember stories. Nursery rhymes and fables teach us life lessons that are designed to help us grow into better people, and the stories that we learn from throughout the years continue to have an impact as we get older. While you might not remember every detail of all the tales you hear over the years, your brain holds onto narratives more easily than facts.

Storytelling in Marketing

3. Storytelling in marketing strengthens relationships


Most companies know that when it comes to improving sales and enhancing brand loyalty, relationships are key. Individuals who are connected to your brand in some way are more likely to become repeat customers, and even recommend your business to other people in their network when the right circumstances arise.

The easiest way to make sure that you’re using storytelling in marketing to seduce and captivate your audience is to create a detailed map of user personas for your company. These guidelines will help you to understand the needs of your audience at a deeper level, so you can begin to really speak their language.

Knowing your audience is one of the many factors that can turn a good story into a great story – the kind that keeps your customer coming back for more.

4. Storytelling in marketing makes your content more exciting


One of the best things about storytelling is that you can use it regardless of how “boring” you might consider your industry to be. If you can find the right angle for your content with a little bit of great narrative, then you can transform even the blandest topics into tales that leave your customers hanging on every word you have to say.

Storytelling is a powerful content strategy and a great opportunity for you to start building on your brand voice and making your personality more obvious. With storytelling, you can begin to show off some of the more authentic sides of what makes your company special, and demonstrate to your customers that you’re on the same wavelength.

5. Storytelling in marketing creates neuro-associations


Finally, we already mentioned that storytelling in your advertising efforts could help to make your brand more memorable, but it could also give a more tangible element to the brand values that you’re trying to showcase. Good stories leave traces in our memories. For instance, most people remember the Coke Christmas advert with Santa delivering presents in a brightly-lit branded truck.

Over the years, the joy and excitement of Christmastime have become so intrinsically linked with that big red truck and the Coca Cola company, that many people now consider the two things to be powerfully connected. In fact, in the UK, a lot of people feel as though the holidays haven’t truly begun until they’ve seen the Coca Cola truck on television.

If you can use your story to create similar associations, then you could transform yourself from just another business, into a household name.

Storytelling in Marketing

How to tell your brand story: How and where to share your tale


The power of storytelling in marketing might not be much of a revolutionary idea, but it’s one that’s growing more popular by the day. People have been using stories to impart wisdom to their followers since the dawn of humanity – ever since we were scrawling pictures in the dirt with sticks.

The reason that storytelling has grown as a digital marketing technique, is that there are now more avenues for sharing narratives than there were before. In the past, we only had television ads, print, and in-person marketing. Now, we have social media, brand videos and podcasts, digital audio, and more. Opportunities are everywhere.

The question is, how do you get started when you want to use storytelling as a marketing tool?

1. Start with a brilliant brand narrative


Whether you’re creating marketing messages to support your existing brand identity, or you’re working to reposition a brand that’s struggled to capture the attention of customers in the past, you’ll need to anchor your storytelling strategy to a cohesive over-arching narrative. This is your opportunity to highlight the essence of who you are, and why you exist.

Remember, people in today’s marketplace aren’t buying what you do, they’re investing in why you do it. Your narrative as a brand will serve alongside your manifesto as a framework for all your internal and external communications.

2. Tell your customer’s stories too


Storytelling in marketing doesn’t have to be made up of articles and content written entirely by you. Instead, you could also consider including messages from satisfied consumers in your network, with the aim of converting potential prospects into more satisfied customers for your brand.

Just remember that some testimonials can be more compelling than others. Look for examples of how people have overcome common problems using your services or products, and find ways that you can share those tales with your community. You can use this strategy in your marketing materials, your content, and even your social media campaigns.

Storytelling in Marketing

3. Make your story shine on social media


Remember, storytelling in marketing doesn’t have to involve a recorded or written story with a middle, beginning, and end. Instead, you can use your social media campaigns to create an ongoing story of the lifestyles and people your company exists to support.

A good example of this might involve using Instagram to share pictures of real people who have been affected by your brand. The goal isn’t necessarily to sell your service or product but to help people envision themselves within the lifestyle that your company promotes.

4. Use storytelling to give life to your blogs


Potentially the easiest way to make sure that you’re getting the most out of storytelling in marketing is to simply tell as many stories as you can on your blog and website. This might mean telling tales about how you’ve decided to come up with a new product or service for your customers to enjoy, or sharing tales about a recent accomplishment that you achieved.

You might even find that your storytelling in marketing becomes more compelling when you invite your employees and co-workers to share their stories too, about what attracted them to your brand, or what their favourite part of the job is.

Storytelling in Marketing

Storytime: Brand examples to inspire your creative side


If you’ve ever tried to write a story before, either for a school project or because you were responsible for creating new content for your customers online, you’ll know that sometimes the biggest challenge can be simply getting started.

When it comes to storytelling in marketing, we all know the big-name brands like Coca Cola, Lego, and Google that have earned a reputation in the industry for their incredibly narrative campaigns. However, the truth is that even these companies probably struggled to find inspiration at first, but were able to pull in specialist branding and advertising agencies to help.

Sometimes, the first step to boosting brand recognition and awareness with your storytelling strategy is finding a muse in your competition. Here are just a few brand examples of storytelling in marketing to help get you started.

1. Zendesk Alternative


Makers of customer support software, Zendesk, recently created one of the most ingenious marketing campaigns around with the help of a good storytelling strategy. The campaign around “Zendesk Alternative” helped to make the brand instantly more likeable. After all, without a good personality, it’s hard for customers to resonate with a “SaaS” technology provider.

The Zendesk Alternative video introduces us to the story of an indie rock band who are unhappy about the fact that Zendesk “stole” their name. However, they admit that they also need the software company to keep their careers on track. There’s even a fun jingle about the value of customer service.

2. Nike “Equality”


Nike is one of the many major brands in the marketplace today that excels at storytelling in marketing. While there are plenty of campaigns that we could mention to draw focus to their successes, one of the best examples of their storytelling strategy comes in the form of their “Equality” video.

The Nike “Equality” campaign makes a strong statement about the company’s desire to offer something special to athletes around the world. Here, the brand has used storytelling to connect with their audience and ask them to join a bigger community, devoted to making the world a better place through health and fitness.

3. Marriott #AtTheMoxy


The “Moxy” is the new boutique hotel brand created by Marriott International and designed to cater specifically to millennial travellers. In their storytelling strategy, the business has been careful to present the brand as something that can easily be associated with fun, and luxury. The entertaining video series on YouTube “Do Not Disturb” is a great way for the organisation to showcase their incredible sub-brand.

Storytelling in Marketing

The video collection not only highlights the beauty of the hotel rooms that have been carefully designed to suit their new target audience but also provides plenty of emotional storytelling power intended to help customers from a different demographic connect with the brand.

Tips for telling your story: Improving your storytelling strategy


While new digital marketing trends may come and go, the truth is that storytelling in marketing will always be one of the easiest and most effective ways for you to connect with your target audience.

Businesses who use storytelling to enhance their content, inbound marketing, and brand awareness campaigns naturally attract customers at a far higher rate than those who rely on facts and statistics alone. The question is, “how do you make sure that you’re telling the story your customer wants to hear?”

Here are a few tips that might be able to help.

1. Create stories with a specific market in mind


The first step to an exceptional storytelling strategy is knowing your audience. Having an idea of who you’re speaking to will not only make your content more relevant, but you’ll find that it’s easier to imagine the right stories too. Remember, generic stories aren’t the ones that go viral on social media. The more targeted your tales are, the more likely you are to capture the hearts and minds of your customers.

2. Choose headlines with care


Headlines, titles, and taglines are an important element when you’re using storytelling in marketing. After all, you need to convince your customers that your story is worth reading if you want your content to have an impact on your bottom line. Try to avoid clickbait titles and come up with something that’s more emotionally relevant to your target market.

Storytelling in Marketing

3. Evoke “VAK”


Therapist and psychologists use “VAK” or visual, audio, and kinesthetic concepts to immerse their clients in a state of mind. When the mind moves through these sensory experiences, it makes content more memorable. You can use descriptive words to access these cues and connect with your audience on a deeper level with your storytelling strategy.

4. Be authentic


While you’re telling a story, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be making everything up. If you want your storytelling campaigns to have a lasting impact on the relationships that customers have with your brand, then you need to use your marketing to tell your audience something real about your business. Ultimately, all your stories should link back to authentic elements that define your brand, such as your company purpose, or promise.

5. Make your personality obvious


As part of your overall branding strategy, any stories that you tell in your marketing efforts should be infused with your specific brand persona. This means thinking carefully about how you want your customers to perceive your brand before you start writing, recording, or developing sets for a new video. Boring old stories won’t attract attention in your marketplace, but tales that are brimming with your unique personality could last a lifetime.

6. Use data to improve your impact


By 2019, experts predict that the content marketing industry will be worth over $300 billion dollars. This is simply because people prefer to engage with content than traditional marketing messages. However, if you want the storytelling in your content marketing efforts to have an impact, then you need to make sure you know what you’re talking about. Infuse your stories with accurate information, and make sure that you research your statements before you say them. Reliability still goes a long way in the business world.

Storytelling in Marketing

Your story starts here


If you were asked to come up with a list of companies who have used storytelling in marketing to their advantage in the past, the chances are some big names would come to mind. Facebook, Etsy, eBay and countless others have built up new levels of success for their brand, simply because they know how to connect with their customers through the right story.

Since around 45% of your brand image links back to what you say, and how you say it, it makes sense that storytelling would be an integral part of any marketing strategy. With a strong narrative, you can inspire your customers, bring your identity to life, and make it more likely that you’ll be able to keep on attracting new leads for your business year-in, year-out.

Great marketing stories might not change the world, but they will give your company the power it needs to engage with your target market in a way that’s emotional, memorable, and effective. Simply put, your story tells your customers why you’re worth their time and money.

If you don’t already have a strong narrative for your next marketing campaign, now might be the time to start your storyboard.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

— Neuroscience marketing: Your brain and branding

— Finding your type: Font psychology and typography

— The psychology of colour in branding and design

— A passion for the past: Nostalgia marketing

About the author...

Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated online marketing professional and writer. With experience in the world of entrepreneurial development, business growth, communication and collaboration, and even health and fitness, Rebekah is constantly looking for ways to expand her expertise, and share her knowledge with the digital world.

More by Rebekah Carter...

    2 Comments

  1. I remember one client that I dealt with that really struggled to grasp the concept of a brand persona. To him, his brand was just that: a brand. He didn’t see any more levels to it. I think articles like this help to get the message across that companies now need to think a bit harder and create a more holistic brand strategy. This is especially important in the age of social media where content is able to be running at a constant drip feed to customers all the time.

    • By Amber Field |
    • 23 December 2017
    • Reply
  2. Some great suggestions in this article! Human beings have such an affinity for storytelling, it used to be the main method early humans used to pass knowledge on from one generation to the next, all sat around the fire at night. In that sense, it almost feels like we’ve come full circle with modern companies finally understanding the power of storytelling to get their brand messaging across.

    I think Nike’s ‘Equality’ campaign has been particularly powerful in trying to create a narrative that encourages people no matter their background to get into sport.

    • By James Sales |
    • 23 December 2017
    • Reply

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