When it comes to the content that your brand produces, it’s likely that you’ve considered storytelling as a part of your overall content marketing strategy. Storytelling has been around forever, but in the past couple of years we’ve begun to hear it more and more in connection to brands. The power of a story is something that we can all attest to, but is it really useful in marketing and if so, why?
According to Marketing Week, “storytelling is a broad concept that means different things to different marketers.” So whilst one brand may want to gradually develop their brand story over time and fairly subtly, another may take a different approach and ‘bake’ their story into their content to give an overall sense of their brand values through tone, style and content. Others again might want to make the story a literal one with characters and an ongoing narrative – in digital storytelling there doesn’t appear to be any hard and fast rules as to what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
Connecting Emotionally to Your Audience
The most successful marketers that use storytelling are those that understand how to evoke emotion in the reader. This is a prerequisite of any story as any writer will tell you. Without an emotional hook, there’s nothing to draw the reader in and allow them to identify with the protagonist. There are also different archetypes which can be adapted and utilised which are tried and tested when it comes to how people respond.
- Boy meets girl
- Rags to riches
- The quest
You’ll no doubt recognise these as being common stories found in your favourite books. A great example of this is the recent rise to fame of Irish UFC fighter Connor McGregor. Whilst he had been fighting since 2008, it’s only really in the last two years that he’s become noticed and then gone on to make a real name for himself, becoming the first UFC fighter to be able to command millions for a well-publicised fight. I’m not a fan, but my husband is and when told his story I remarked upon the fact that it’s a great rags to riches tale.
Love him or hate him, his story and the way that he takes to the media to tell it is powerful and currently earning him huge sums of money when only a few short years ago he was out of work.
In journalism it’s known as a human interest story.
So telling a real story and one which the audience can fully relate to is a very powerful means of connecting with them. Creating a character which uses one of the common archetypes is too, so long as the audience can fully relate to the main character.
Stories in TV Advertising
TV and video is of course a very effective means of advertising which uses storytelling extensively. Often, a brand will adopt characters and present them in an ad in order to show them telling the story of how they are using a brand’s products. In the UK, one of the most famous long-running commercials centred around a family, especially the mum, to sell OXO stock cubes. The mum – actress Lynda Bellingham – recently died following a battle with cancer and this led to an outpouring of sympathy and eventually, to a re-airing of the first commercial that was aired in 1984 on prime time Christmas Day TV last year.
This is a very good example of the power of storytelling – viewers connected with the character as she was perceived to be an ordinary mum who was doing the best for her family. This encouraged people to buy the product over that of its competitors and enjoy the story as it continued to unfold over many years.
There are similar tales to be found across TV ads when it comes to how we relate and they key is to create characters who viewers can identify and sympathise with.
Brand Transparency and Narrative
According to Lush Digital: “Brands need to carefully consider what it is about their purpose, journey and actions that will empathise with customers’ needs from their product category. Then, they must articulate a compelling, honest narrative born out of the brand’s value set and not a diatribe of corporate technobabble bearing little relation to customers’ actual challenges.”
In business we know that people buy products, or read content, based upon what need it fulfils or problem it solves. So your storytelling should also be constructed in this manner – it should also be transparent and preferably, human. Think about how you can really speak to the emotions of your customers without coming across as false or patronising. Remember too that it’s far from essential to tell overt stories, as discussed earlier, your brand story can be subtle and conveyed through the tone that your writing takes.
Your brand story should, ideally, be created even before you’ve had your logos, website and social media profile images designed. This will allow you to fully bake the narrative into the business from the start. You can of course rebrand if you’re an existing brand and you should also create a house style and tone of voice document, as well as your brand persona, for all of your written content.
Image: A Better Lemonade Stand
Your brand persona may take some working out and should include your mission, your core values which make up the essence of the brand and products (and how you’re going to present these in your story), what you promise your customers and brand pillars. The latter are simply a few key words or phrases that strongly resonate with the brand.
Brand Promise = We promise to Verb (how) + Target (who) + Outcome (what)
You should also think about what colours you’ll use in all of your online and print marketing. All of this will, in the long term, work together to help you to tell stories and strengthen your brand.
Getting it Right
Probably the very best example of brand storytelling at its best is the Lego Movie. Whilst we’ve not all got massive budgets to make Hollywood blockbusters with, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from those that do.
“Lego doesn’t sell “blocks” at all, it sells (sic) possibilities.”
And it does this by telling a story very effectively – after all, nobody went to the cinema because they wanted to watch someone building great Lego products.