When was the last time a marketing campaign moved you? Did it inspire you to act? Bring you to tears? In today’s article, we will be discussing the fundamentals of brand storytelling, and the powerful effect it can have on the relationship your business has with its customers. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive right in!
The “what” and the “whys”
What is storytelling, and why should you use it? Let’s start with the basics. According to Cambridge Dictionary, a story is “a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events.” Storytelling is one of the prime privileges of humanity--without storytelling, we wouldn’t have history, culture, or entertainment! Starting from a simple oration, storytelling evolved into writing and illustration, and nowadays we even have mediums such as videos and audio clips.
Storytelling is an essential part of the human experience. And that is why it is so important to connect with your customers in a way that something like a sales pitch or push marketing cannot do. A marketer is as much of a storyteller as an author is. Marketers are just telling different stories for different purposes. Personal stories make up about 65% of people’s conversations, so a solid story is nothing but needed to start a dialogue about your product or service. So, what is a story made up of?
Character, conflict, and resolution
Ever hear of the hero’s journey? If you’ve ever read Harry Potter or watched Star Wars, you’ve seen it in action. Those are just two of countless examples; the hero’s journey is one of the most prolific storytelling frameworks in existence. Now, a brand is not going to tell a narrative as extensive and detailed as something like The Lord of the Rings, but the important takeaway here is that there are three major stages to the hero’s journey: the departure, the initiation, and the return. In other words, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Seems obvious, doesn't it? But what you want to focus on is that the beginning is where you will introduce your characters, the middle is where they experience the main conflict of the story, and the end is the resolution to the said conflict.
When outlining your story, you want to be sure of who your characters are. The most important part of building a character is that they are someone your customers can relate to. Which begs the question: who are your customers? If you don’t know the answer, you must identify your buyers’ persona. By this, I mean, creating a profile of what your typical customer may look like. What age group are they in? What are their hobbies? What is their family structure? What does a typical day look like for them? These are just some of the questions you want to answer by creating a buyer profile. You want to use various analytics tools and monitor your social media accounts and customer interactions to narrow down the persona. Once you have put together your buyer profile, you should be ready to write your character.
The conflict of the story is what drives customer interest. A story without conflict is hardly a story at all! Conflict is what makes any story interesting, and it also is where the story’s main lesson starts to be introduced. This is the core message and the catalyst for the character’s growth throughout the story. So, for instance, let’s say you’re putting together a commercial and the main character is a single parent struggling to support their family. That said, your product is affordable children’s clothing. Your conflict might be something like a parent not having enough money to buy their child an outfit for a special occasion.
Your resolution comes when your company supplies a solution to the conflict. A resolution could be something like another parent talking to the main character and telling them about your affordable clothing. Then the character buys their child the outfit and they happily go to the event. The resolution, aside from being the end of the problem, is also where you want to insert your call to action (CTA).
Call to action
Your CTA may be at the end of your story, but it is one of the most essential parts. Your CTA is what you want to inspire potential customers to do at the end of your story. Do you want them to go to your website? Purchase a product? Sign up for an email list? You want your CTA to stand out and be effective but also personal. Going back to the earlier example, your CTA, in that case, might be to tell customers to come to your store. You might emphasize the discounts and deals that make your clothing so affordable. You may even end your CTA with the main character saying how grateful they were that they could find a quality outfit for such a price. Just make sure not to oversell your product. Remember, you are appealing to people’s emotions.
Appealing to empathy
Empathy is a universal concept. Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is both the action and capability to understand and feel the emotions of other people. People may think of marketing as a very number-driven, money-focused, and manipulative practice. And this may be true for bad marketers. But any good marketer should know that being empathetic and appealing to people’s empathy is the most effective marketing strategy there is. And what better way to appeal to people’s emotions than by telling a story?
The whole point of figuring out your customer profile is to know who you’re marketing to, right? These are the people who you are going to empathize with, and who will empathize with you. As per the prior example, a single parent watching the commercial with a spouse who cannot afford expensive clothing will empathize with the protagonist. When he sees your CTA, he might be inspired to buy from you. This is because you have positioned yourself as a business that serves families that are struggling with finances. By being empathetic to your customers, not only will you draw them in, but you will be a better business for doing it.
Share your values
What, exactly, does your company stand for? If you want your customers to empathize with you, you need to show them who you are. Did you know that 71% of customers buy more often from businesses that share their values? When marketing, you want to make sure that your values are front and center--and intertwined with everything you do. Are you committed to sustainability and going green? Show them! How about supplying books for children to read? Let them know. In the example used before, the business showing the commercial was committed to providing families with affordable clothing. So, ask yourself what you stand for and let your customers know!
Authenticity and transparency are universally available commodities today. 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands, they like and support. And 94% of customers will be loyal to a transparent brand. So, when you share your values, make sure that they are what you stand for.
In conclusion, you want to make sure your story follows a basic structure, appeals to your audience, and reflects your business accurately. Calling people to action, appealing to their emotions, and being transparent about who you are and what you stand for are the basics of what you should be aiming for when crafting a brand story. You could just tell them how your product benefits them and give them a bunch of numbers, but what’s the fun in that? You want to humanize your brand, and you want people to associate positive feelings with it. And that, my friends, is why you want to tell a story.