Storytelling in marketing: how to use it in order to strengthen your brand
Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing methods and the main challenge for content designers. The leading advertising agencies in the world emphasize the enormous role played by storytelling in the creation of brand image.
And although much has already been said on this issue, many companies still do not exactly know how to use storytelling.
Today we will answer a few important questions. Why is it worth to invest in this tool? What are the benefits for your brand? And how did it happen that certain stories can affect huge crowds of people?
Storytelling is one of the marketing tools that allows you to draw attention on a product, engages the customers and attaches them to a brand, and has a greater impact than classic advertising campaigns – the customers are already bored with them, and advertising is no longer as effective as it used to be.
In reality, storytelling is the oldest form of transfer of knowledge and experience. Although the term „storytelling” itself became popular in Poland only recently (mostly in the circles of people associated with the marketing industry), it has, after all, been known since the dawn of time. Our brains crave stories. We spend almost one-third of our life dreaming (also while awake). We escape into the world of imagination, we recall stories from the past, when we turn our attention away from the task on which we are currently focusing. We dream at night, creating fantastic scenarios in our sleep.
No two stories are equal. Why do we forget some stories immediately, while other stories keep us captivated?
You are looking for inspiration, and you feel that there is nothing of this sort to be found in your industry? Stories are everywhere. Tell us why your brand was created – what was your path that brought you to this place, or why you do what you do. Let others hear your voice, and let yourself hear the stories of others. You can learn a lot from them.
How to get started?
It’s best to start with the basics, i.e. the determination of the strategy. This is important because as with any message you send, you have to remember who are you sending the message to, what for, and why. What effects will be desirable for you and your company.
In order to tell good stories, you have to first learn to listen. Learn about the needs of your customers, their desires, their expectations towards the brand. Use their language, and communicate through the media that they use most often. Any medium can be used in storytelling. Regardless of whether it is a film, an article on the company blog, or content on the social media channels – your story can meet the marketing expectations. The key to success is knowing what message should be conveyed through the given medium (because each of them is governed by its own laws). Communicate in the language that is best suited for your audience. Consider whether video, image or text communication will be more appropriate for them.
OK, so we already know who we are telling a story to. But why are we telling a story? Think more broadly and define the main objective of marketing in your company. Is it supposed to sell products? Sure! Everyone wants to earn money on their business, and it would be hypocritical to claim otherwise. Let us therefore use storytelling as a means to achieve this objective. But how to sell effectively? What messages will reach your potential customers? How to construct content in such a way that it is not intrusive, excessively sales-oriented and that it refers to positive emotions?
Here we move to the most important question in this piece: how to tell stories effectively? For starters, remember that a story cannot be an advertisement (after all, storytelling is an answer to the declining significance of traditional advertising).
Every story must consist in three components. The introduction, the main body of the story, and the conclusion. That’s easy, we’ve all learned about this at school. But in business a good story must have one additional very important factor, i.e. a device prompting the recipients to act, or – to use the language of marketing – an effective call to action.
Neither the facts, nor raw data or numbers are able to speak to the recipient as powerfully as a well constructed story. It is a story that will set you apart from the competition, because, after all, every story is unique. Well-told stories are passed on further – thanks to social media channels they can reach hundreds of thousands of recipients. Note the broad coverage of the most popular ones – such an effect could not be achieved with classic advertising.
Emphasize the personality of your brand. Storytelling is a brilliant tool that will enable your company to shine and gain value in the eyes of the customers. Not through sales, but through the stories told. Remember that you create a consistent brand identity (and enhance its value) by sharing stories with the customers, which not only engage them, but also allow for unique experiences.
Keep your customers coming back for more. Make sure that your stories are brilliant, innovative and well-told. So that your audience keeps asking for more. We consume hundreds of thousands of digital words per day, and our story simply has to be unique. Don’t bore them with numbers. They are almost always immediately forgotten, do not make a text more engaging and do not encourage people to act.
Do you think that anyone can tell good stories? Nothing could be further from the truth – think about how many of the stories told by various brands can you really recall. The reality is brutal – all your effort put into building a story will be wasted if only a handful of people remember it.
What should you talk about?
We rely on emotions and we refer to them. Take note of what types of stories are popular. These are mostly simple stories based on the most sensitive human emotions – being moved by something, feeling compassion or longing, etc. Do you remember Allegro’s Christmas advertisement about learning English? You certainly do, we all remember it. That advertising film was masterfully executed and was captivating in its simplicity. It didn’t focus on the product, but on the role that it plays and how it functions in the life of the user. Instead of being literal – there was a subtle reference to the brand.
What do readers like? Stories about how it all started. I’m sure we all know the origins of Harry Potter. Joanne K. Rowling, who was at a turning point in her life back then, was sitting alone in an English cafe and began writing a story about a boy with a scar on his forehead on paper napkins. How did it end? We all know, and Rowling herself became one of the richest women in the world. It’s hard to tell how much of this story is true – but even if it’s just an urban legend picked up by British magazines, it became the basis for the creation of a story in a true American style – from rags to riches.
Do you want a story from the tech industry? Here you go: The founder of Dropbox Drew Houston planned to work on outstanding projects during a five-hour flight from Boston to New York, but he forgot the USB memory stick with his files. At that moment he came up with the idea to create a platform on which the transfer and storage of data would be as easy and as quick as possible. And he implemented this idea into practice.
There are many examples like that. There are many companies that were founded in garages (literally and figuratively), and can boast a similar success story. From start-ups run by several people they grew to huge companies, which are often major players in the industry. These stories are always inspirational and memorable. Do you remember how good of a speaker Steve Jobs was? After all, Apple’s whole success is based on storytelling! Think about it. What story lies behind your brand? What values are important to you? If you want your customers to develop a strong attachment to the brand, your story must be authentic, creative and inspiring.
Stay out of the spotlight
Good storytelling cannot be focused only on you. You can talk about yourself, but do not place yourself in the center of the story. If, for example, your company donates packages of clothes, toys and food to a local orphanage, build your story based on why the children need these gifts, and how they can benefit. Focus on them, and not on yourself. Any possible recognition of your efforts should come from the comments, and never from yourself. The main character in your story has to be the recipient, and all the others (you, your company, your employees) only play supporting roles. Give your customers a role to play in your story, and they will quickly feel a part of your brand.
When is storytelling the best solution for you?
When you want to stand out. If you work in an industry where the competition is high and the products that you sell are plentiful on the market. You are no longer able to sell yogurt easily just by saying that it has lots of vitamins and whole fruits (everyone knows that this is a hog wash anyway). In order not to be marginalized by your competitors, you have to reach new heights of creativity. Tell a story associated with the brand. Branding which is based on emotions has a high potential for attaching customers to the brand, increasing sales volumes and the investment return rate. It also has an enormous impact on whether the customer will return to your store or buy your products.
Budgets. Everyone in this industry loves them, right? Unfortunately, they are almost never as high as we’d like them to be. But storytelling does not have to be expensive. Choose tools that will optimize the costs associated with this marketing activity. Add storytelling to your presentation at a conference. No one is impressed with slides anymore, and by telling stories you invite people to engage with you. A conversation is more efficient than a presentation of data on charts. That is why it is worth including storytelling in your marketing strategy now, and see how you can use a well told story to attach customers to your brand for many years.
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