The Importance of Storytelling for Brands
People are inundated with content these days. A constant stream of news, advertisements, and social media feeds have led to information overload, and fairly few messages are able to stick. Brands need to find ways to cut through the noise to generate awareness, engage their audience, and encourage them to take action. This is where storytelling for brands comes into play.
Storytelling isn’t just about telling customers why your product or service is the best. Stories can move people. Stories can humanize, inform, and inspire. Telling an authentic story can be the difference between a customer choosing your brand or your competitor’s. Not sure how to harness your inner Shakespeare to build your business? Try these storytelling marketing tips from the pros.
Elements of Storytelling
Think of the stories you used to read as a kid (or as an adult). They probably all had a few things in common. There was a person (or people) who had a problem to solve, and they went on some type of journey to solve that problem. Those stories you read probably also used this simple formula in a way that appealed to your emotions and kept you engaged from start to finish. Brand storytelling draws upon these general elements of storytelling and puts them in the context of your company’s story. To start your own story, break it down into three main parts:
Who Are The Main Characters?
In storytelling for brands, you should put a face to the name. Rather than tell the story of “ABC Company,” talk about the founder, or the employees, or the customers you serve, or the population you help through your products and services. This is especially helpful for new brands, or brands with entrepreneurs who have a strong personal brand. Humanizing your brand is the first step in telling brand stories.
What Are Their Actions and Motivations (In Other Words, What Problem Are They Trying to Solve)?
Once you’ve established the people behind the brand, tell your audience what they do and why they do it. Why was the company founded in the first place? What problem is the brand hoping to solve? What are the stakes if the problem isn’t solved? By showing that a problem exists and your company offers an effective solution, the audience will feel invested in the payoff and want to see it through to the end.
What Is the Result?
A good story needs a resolution. How does the brand solve the problem presented? What proof of success can the brand provide when telling its story? Use metrics and anecdotes in your story marketing to give your brand credibility and provide a “happily ever after.”
Examples of Brand Stories
Storytelling works for companies ranging from startups to organizations that have been around for centuries. There are many brands that have harnessed storytelling to their advantage, especially when they tug at the heartstrings. Here are a few well-known examples of brand stories.
A New Brand: Toms Shoes
Brands with a social impact mission lend themselves well to story marketing. For example, Toms Shoes shares The Toms Story on its website, which describes how founder Blake Mycoskie (the “Who” in the story) traveled to Argentina in 2006 and “witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes.” To help solve this problem (the “action and motivation”), he created the company Toms Shoes, an ecommerce store that donates a new pair of shoes for a child in need with every purchase that a customer makes. To date (the “result”), Toms has donated more than 60 million pairs of shoes and provided other services like clean water and healthcare for expectant mothers.
An Established Brand: Disney
While a lot of newer brands like Toms have harnessed the elements of brand storytelling, more established brands with a storied history should also use storytelling. For example, the entertainment company Disney was established in 1923, after several previous failed iterations by its now-famous founder, Walt Disney (“Who”). The company’s purpose was creating cartoon animation for a rapidly growing film industry (“action and motivation”). Over the past nine decades, the company has pioneered animation techniques and become a global conglomerate with multiple entertainment franchises, merchandise, and theme parks (“result”). Since storytelling is inherent important to Disney’s products, it makes sense to harness the same power when talking about its brand.
Story Marketing Techniques
Your brand has its unique set of stories, too. Once you have determined which story to tell, you need to figure out the best vehicle for telling the story. Here are a few popular options:
Rather than tell potential customers your story, have existing customers tell it for you! Consider that 74% of consumers consider word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions, and real testimonials can build trustworthiness. Share testimonials about how your brand had a positive impact on a customer’s life. To glean a good story, ask questions like: How did your product help their business? How did using your service or product improve their quality of life? And let them take it from there.
Behind the Scenes at the Company
Maybe you want to share how your company is influencing others, or what a day in the life of an employee is like. For example, General Electric’s “In the Wild” YouTube series collaborates with “Tested” host Adam Savage and “Innovation Nation” correspondent Alie Ward to explore industrial innovation behind the scenes of GE facilities. Videos, especially social media like YouTube, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live, offer fully immersive experiences in storytelling for brands.
The Company’s Founding
Was there a clear moment that indicated why this company was needed, like with Toms Shoes? Or has your story evolved over time, like Disney? Give the chronology of your brand or tell the story of its genesis. This is an especially effective strategy if your brand can draw upon common human experiences, like overcoming a challenge, helping others, or persevering after a failure.
Types of Digital Storytelling Marketing Content
Brand stories are effective through a variety of media. You can use written content like blog posts and whitepapers for lead generation or to increase traffic to your website. In addition, visual storytelling marketing can make use of videos, infographics, and images. Infographics are particularly helpful for illustrating large quantities of data or statistics. Videos and images are best for testimonials, historical stories, or a behind the scenes look at a company.
Share Your Digital Story Through Mobile and SMS
It’s not enough to just publish your content on your website or social media channels. People are consuming more and more content on the go, so it’s critical to optimize content for mobile. A digital story on video should be mobile-responsive, and so should any blog posts, infographics, or images meant for viewing on a web browser.
Furthermore, you should always incorporate SMS marketing into your brand storytelling strategy. We’ve covered before how business SMS is one of the most effective marketing channels when measured by open rates and engagement. OnSpot Social offers an automated text message feature, which can be used to collect leads and then deliver a digital story to those leads instantly through text. You can use OnSpot Social to send brand stories while at events, in retail locations, after sales calls, or remotely to a contact list. Best of all, you can upload your content to OnSpot Social in advance, type in your contact’s number, select the story to share, and then click “send.” OnSpot Social can share written stories, videos, or other media.