Read this handy guide to find out how brand storytelling can level up your marketing material to boost engagement, build familiarity and accelerate your sales.
We live in a world full of marketing noise. Everywhere we go, and everywhere we look, we are blasted by marketing messages and the message to BUY NOW, BUY NOW. Unsurprisingly, we are increasingly switching off to this kind of messaging and are installing ever more powerful ad blockers to defend ourselves from the onslaught while online.
In this world, what we really crave is a human connection, something that can cut through the noise and deliver a message that really packs a punch.
Enter brand storytelling.
Brand storytelling is simply a pithy way of describing a narrative that has been built to foster an emotional connection between a brand and its customers.
It isn’t to be confused with a brand story (although that’s easily done!). A brand story is simply a description of your organisation’s history. Brand storytelling goes further – it sparks and curates the emotions of its audience to build a connection with them. Usually, but not always, it does this by presenting a character with a problem who is then helped by the brand.
This storytelling can be delivered in writing, in images, in video or orally – it simply depends on your audience and how they prefer content to be delivered. That said, visual forms of brand storytelling are particularly impactful and can deliver your message much more quickly than other formats.
The key essence of brand storytelling is that it isn’t focused on the features of your business’ product or service – it isn’t about the ‘what’. Instead, the focus is shifted to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what you do. This changes the angle of your messaging, allowing you to display your brand’s values, motivations and the benefits of your products and services.
The end result is a brand that is more humanised, memorable and noticeable.
Brand storytelling is important because it can be the difference between your brand standing out and being lost in the mire.
In today’s world, we are saturated with content. Every day, 400 million tweets are posted, 144,000 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded and 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook.
But brand storytelling gives you a more unique voice and a message that will last longer than it takes for someone to doom scroll their social feed.
This is because it plays upon a very powerful thing: emotion.
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”Robert McKee
Many of us probably like to think that we make rational, fact-based decisions when it comes to doing something. Wrong. Facts and statistics can certainly help to inform our decisions, but they do not drive the decision itself. Instead, we turn to our experiences.
The science behind this is pretty interesting stuff. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, psychologists have found that people tend to use personal feelings and experiences when it comes to evaluating brands. Research has also revealed that a product or service that is associated with happiness and a good experience results in more purchases over time.
This is because these experiences create an emotional thread, which consumers come back to every time they purchase that product or service. If your customer associates happy experiences with your brand, they’re going to feel that way every time they buy from you.
It is also interesting to note that our grey cells do not distinguish between reading, watching or hearing a story and experiencing it in real life. In fact, the exact same neurological regions are activated. By showing or telling someone about the experience they could have with your brand, you are therefore effectively planting this emotional thread inside their heads, which can influence them to replicate the behaviour they have seen.
Emotions are, in fact, so persuasive that they can even change behaviour after just one exposure to a piece of storytelling content. For instance, one study found that the emotions elicited from a single piece of written communication about participants’ favourite sports team was an essential motivator when it came to their information processing and subsequent behaviour.
Emotion is also powerful because it can really make someone sit up and pay attention. Emotion creates a physiological response, heightening our alertness, which makes someone more receptive to hearing and – crucially – remembering your message. Indeed, it has been reported that stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone for this reason.
Brand storytelling can be deployed in many different ways depending on the message you want to convey.
It could be focused on your mission, vision for the future, employees, customers, community or the benefits of your product or service (not to be confused with its features).
One of the most famous examples of brand storytelling in action is John Lewis’ Christmas adverts. Released every year, these adverts generate a festive feeling with a touching and sweet story that gives you that feel-good Christmas experience. Note that any branding in the film is very subtle and only becomes front and centre right at the end.
Not all characters within brand storytelling have to be fictional, either. Airbnb demonstrated excellent use of customer-focused brand storytelling with its series Stories from the Airbnb community, in which short videos show us the hosts behind the properties.
Of course, not all brand stories have to be told via video. We love this article on Patagonia’s website, which explores our relationship with nature. It also touches on the brand’s strong stance on ethics and sustainability to create really powerful storytelling.
No matter what the message, the crucial thing is to elicit an emotion using relatable, authentic characters (fictional or real). To create an effective arc, it is also a good idea to build up to some sort of climax, which is then followed by a resolution.
One of the most common ways to create a brand story is to identify your customers’ problems and then show how your brand can solve them.
Amazon has done this particularly well over the years.
Remember, a brand story must have some kind of heart to it – it shouldn’t be a logical sequence of facts.
If this article has inspired you to tell your brand’s story in a different way, you can get in touch with us to find out how we could help you to forge a stronger emotional connection with your customers. Simply drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0330 0430736.
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