Marketing has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. Digital marketing channels have revolutionized the work of professional marketers. However, one thing has remained unchanged – the success of any marketing campaign still hinges on the story you have to tell.
In fact, digital marketing channels have made it even more important for brands to use storytelling marketing. Stories create stronger connections between brands and people than a list of product features could. Here is a closer look at storytelling marketing and how to use it to benefit your business.
The Storytelling Marketing Difference
Picture a group of kids gathered on a floor, listening to someone reading them a story. They are not making a sound, and their faces are spellbound.
But that is not all. The story has a deeper impact on its audience which may not be immediately visible. As the kids listen, they start to recreate the world of the story in their minds, breathing life into characters and committing the plot to memory. The audience forms a deep, emotional connection with the story. Chances are the kids will remember that story for years to come.
This deep connection differentiates storytelling marketing from a more traditional approach. Stories trigger emotions that facts simply can’t match. These emotions are the key to a successful customer relationship.
This is where we’ll tell you a secret: customers buy things because of how they make them feel. Product features and capabilities are, at best secondary to their purchase decision.
What Stories Do That Facts Can’t
For centuries, people have used stories to pass on messages about shared values and beliefs. Even historic market sellers used stories to offer their wares and inspire customers to make a purchase. Those sellers knew the importance of stirring feelings and emotions to encourage purchases.
Apart from triggering an emotional response, stories have several other advantages over purely factual digital marketing messages.
1. Stories Bring Abstract Ideas to Life
There is nothing quite like a story to help people understand an abstract or complicated idea. Imagine sharing survey results as part of a marketing campaign or explaining a new technology. Listing numbers or presenting specifications only will quickly lose your audience’s interest, whereas a story draws them in.
Stories illustrate abstract ideas and make them relatable. This has never been more important than in this age of digital marketing, where consumers tend to have a shorter attention span. Consider digital marketing channels like Instagram, for example. Reels and images need to draw enough attention to the brand for users to want to read the caption.
A story can achieve that, even for a tricky concept like storytelling marketing. A factsheet would struggle. A bonafide marketing presentation would be equally misplaced. Another advantage of stories is that they can take any length. Storytelling marketing allows you to make a compelling point in less than 280 characters, if necessary.
At the same time, you can spin this story into different versions for different channels. A core story at the heart of your marketing is like the trunk of a tree. It’s a solid foundation from which substories can branch off. Like branches that complete the tree, these substories form chapters of your brand story.
2. Stories Create Connections
Humans have used storytelling for thousands of years to create connections with others. Brands and business owners can use storytelling marketing in the same way.
Sharing your company’s story, its ups and downs from inception (perhaps at the much-quoted kitchen table?) to its current stage, brings the brand to life. Don’t be tempted to cast aside the challenging parts of the story. Those challenges and how you overcame them make the brand more relatable and increase its credibility among the audience.
The same is true for founders and business owners. Essentially, people buy from other people rather than companies. Sharing a business founder’s story allows your audience to feel like they know the people behind the brand. Rather than simply buying a product because they need it, customers are forming a much stronger connection with the brand.
This connection can help establish a long-term customer relationship that’s based on loyalty. With that kind of strong customer relationship, brands can turn customers into ambassadors. Having a strong customer connection will also help in case there are problems with the company’s products or services.
3. Stories Inspire Others
Storytelling marketing is inspiring. Consider a campaign like the personal care brand Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”, for example. When the brand started using real users for its advertising, the impact went beyond attracting customers. The campaign told the story of a company encouraging women to accept their bodies as they are. Today, countless brands use the concept of body positivity, especially when marketing to women.
The stories of business founders can inspire others in the same position or those considering starting their own enterprise. But they are just as likely to generate an emotional response from users or potential product or service buyers.
How to Use Storytelling Marketing for Your Brand
How can you get started with storytelling marketing? Like all traditional and digital marketing activities, storytelling marketing benefits from a strategic approach.
Think about the stories your brand has to tell and through which channels they are best told. Most businesses have at least two storylines – the brand and its founder(s).
Characters, Conflict, and Resolution
Whilst you can tell a brand’s story without sharing the story of its founders, your story will be stronger when it is based on strong characters. Those strong characters can be the company’s founders, early supporters such as angel investors, or even your first customer or a game-changing order.
The best stories have a conflict at their center. It’s often the conflict that triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. The conflict keeps the audience glued to their seats and makes them root for the characters. That’s why sharing the challenges of starting and building a business is so important.
Of course, no story would be complete without an ending. Happy or not, the ending is the resolution of the conflict. For example, it tells your audience how the company’s founders resolved their early challenges. The ending wraps up the story and is also a great place for a call to action, encouraging potential customers to inquire or make a purchase.
More Story Components
- Entertainment value
As we’ve mentioned above, great stories follow a storyline, including conflict and resolution. Without a clear structure, stories quickly lose their audience. Whether you’re tweeting or writing a long-form eBook, develop a clear structure before you start.
Great stories are authentic and believable. Tell your brand’s story and stick to the truth when you’re doing it. Life tells the best stories, and authentic storytelling marketing resonates most deeply with the audience. Making something up runs the risk of you being caught in a lie later, which could destroy your brand’s trust and credibility.
Storytelling marketing makes brands, businesses, and their founders relatable. Stories breathe life into businesses and make audiences feel like they know the company and its founders personally. Sharing challenges is essential when it comes to being relatable.
Great stories entertain. Think of your favorite movies: they keep you glued to your seat and make you watch them repeatedly. You’re trying to achieve the same result when you share your founder’s and your company’s story. Keep it light-hearted when that’s appropriate, but don’t be afraid to use suspense in your storytelling marketing.
Great stories are unforgettable. They are being passed from one generation to the next without losing any of their relevance, relatability, or authenticity. When it comes to digital marketing, great stories are those that go viral. They move from the intended audience to a much wider audience. As a result, a small, local brand could easily go global.
Storytelling marketing allows a brand to create deeper connections with its audiences, build trust, and increase brand credibility. By using one of the oldest mediums in the world, brands, and their founders can transform their digital marketing, increasing its impact and reach. Storytelling marketing makes a brand unforgettable.
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