Written by: John Tarzia. A
The concept of storytelling in brands is gaining momentum in the world of marketing, and with good reason. Most successful businesses today are built on effective brand stories.
As human beings, we love to see, read, or hear stories because it creates a connection based on empathy. And for a known fact, stories do stimulate brain activity. When a person reads or hears plot points, their neurons start firing and not just in the part of the brain that controls the language center.
Effective marketers in the world leverage the power of storytelling to improve branding, lead generation, and conversion rates. Why does storytelling matter in marketing? You may ask, well, people recall stories 22x more than facts and figures alone and, thus, storytelling can boost conversion rates by a significant 30%.
According to Neil Patel, 62% of B2B marketers rated storytelling as an effective content marketing tactic.
Even with this growing trend, there is still a lot of confusion around the idea of brand storytelling. It’s becoming a term that is getting thrown around a lot like content marketing but several agencies, businesses, and thought leaders don’t agree on a definition. So, let’s solve that. Let’s start from the basics, shall we?
What is brand storytelling?
We can define a story as an “account of imaginary or real people or events told for entertainment,” and this makes storytelling the art of sharing a message in the form of a story.
Therefore, brand storytelling is the art of using a narrative to connect the brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers. This definition can further be broken down as follows;
By narrative, it refers to the storytelling elements. A good story includes the characters, setting, conflict, rising action, climax, and dénouement. Creating these points allows your audience to easily follow along with a story, and most importantly, remember it. It is key to note that the main character in your brand story is not you, it’s your customer. Your customer has to be the hero to make this work. Your brand is merely the guide.
By what you stand for, we are referring to the essence of your brand. It’s not the product or service you sell, and it is definitely not to make money. It is the driving force behind the business and differentiates it from the competition. It is WHY you exist. Take an example of these famous brands, Nike represents athletic excellence, not sneakers or sports equipment. Apple stands for revolution and change, not their tech gadgets.
The values are character traits of your company that define it. Most companies randomly say their values are words like integrity, excellence, etc., but they choose these words because they sound nice, not because they truly reflect WHO they are!
So, why is brand storytelling very important?
The market arena is now more crowded than ever and competing for attention is more difficult than it was even a decade ago. Combine that with a customer’s user journey in which they are in control of the path to purchase; buying is now social, self-directed, trust-based, and transparent.
The most effective way to reach a customer who’s deciding what and when they will buy is to stop pushing your products or services so hard and focus more on why the business exists at all. When you narrate this story and explain your values you will engage with customers who share your values. And when you find such people who share your values, there’s a much better chance they’ will stay loyal to you (though we know that even brand loyalty has changed). Let me emphasis this with this quote
“You may have a great product, but a compelling story puts the company into motion. If you don’t have a great story it’s hard to get people motivated to join you, to work on the product, and to get people to invest in the product.” ~ Ben Horowitz
Figuring out why your business or company exists, and telling that story to your prospective customers through marketing messages from social media posts, to your blog, to advertisements and videos, is the overall goal of brand storytelling.
Consumers today aren’t just passively buying from brands. They see a purchase as extensions of their identity and values. What this means for marketers and brand strategists is that effective marketing can not just be about promoting a product for its sole use or benefits anymore. A successful marketing strategy needs to be able to create a purpose, a community, and a culture that consumers can share and be a part of.
That is why brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Adidas are turning to purpose to better connect and engage their consumers.
So, what makes some businesses so successful while others fail?
The difference lies in how they tell their brand story. You can not activate or reinforce purpose without storytelling. As a business, you need to be able to connect your own personal values and drives to your brand’s purpose and articulate that story to your target audience. This kind of narrative is needed for consumers to listen to you and be inspired to join in on your brand’s purpose.
By keeping your content honest, it equates to authentic storytelling. Always strive to provide your customers with an opportunity to feel like they are part of a larger group. People have a basic psychological need to feel and be closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior.
However, the biggest question several companies and businesses continue to struggle with is: how do we use stories to influence and nurture customer relationships?
The simple answer is, it comes down to listening, learning, and engaging with your customers. Leave out the assumptions and guide your target audience along an experience without selling or pushing them. Discover ways of connecting with your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. Ask yourself questions like: do you give them peace of mind? Do you make life easier for them? Use these trigger points to strengthen your relationship and foster loyalty.
In all this journey, staying genuine and authentic will increase your brand awareness, return higher engagement rates, and ultimately, convert more qualified leads.
Brand storytelling is the future of marketing and should be deployed for every business. If data and stories are used together, they are able to move your audience both intellectually and emotionally. Storytelling is one of the most powerful mediums to convey your message because it is remembered much longer than facts and figures, and people are more likely to be persuaded.