What will it take for a brand to stand out from the competition in today’s overcrowded market?
In this increasingly connected, digitized, and automated world, it’s becoming more difficult to make sense of all the disparate information bombarding us in our daily lives. Did you know that around 2.5 quintillion bytes are produced daily? There’s just too much white noise out there. No wonder why 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising.
If you want your target audience to sit up and take notice, you can do better than talk endlessly about your products and services. The better approach is to tell them stories.
Why brands must tell stories
For one thing, we see everything through the lens of stories. It satisfies our innate desire to ascribe meaning to everything that’s going on around us.
Social psychologist and best-selling author Jonathan Haidt would agree. In his groundbreaking book The Righteous Mind, he writes: “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”
In fact, anthropologists will tell you that storytelling is central to human existence.
That’s not just “kumbaya” talk. It applies to business and marketing as well.
In other words, you don’t sell the pen by telling your audience it has gold fittings, a silver-plated cap, and a pocket clip. You sell the pen by showing them how it highlights their individuality and elegant personality, or how it establishes them as a man (or woman) of letters.
That way, you get to hold your audience in rapt attention. Stories, after all, have a way of reeling us in. They build tension and trigger our emotions until the surprising, satisfying conclusion. It’s much more involved and immersive.
Is it any wonder why 41% of B2B content creators want to become better storytellers?
To bring home the point further, research shows that content that’s delivered as stories are 22 times more memorable than when it’s presented as facts.
What is brand storytelling?
To say that brand storytelling is the process of delivering your company’s content through a narrative structure would be correct, but it would be incomplete.
Other than to impart content, the goal of storytelling is to convey intention, emotion, and meaning. Whether it’s presented by your logo, your ‘About’ page, the text in a brochure, or a blog post, your story aims to entertain, inspire, motivate, drive action, or spur people to think deeply about issues. Your brand story is more than your products and services and should embody a higher purpose if it is to inspire your customer base’s loyalty over time.
If told with consistency and authenticity, your brand story will be much more memorable, so much so that it can forge communities as well as ignite social change.
And for your brand story to resonate, it should be told in a way that makes your target audience feel that it’s ultimately their story, not yours. After all, the main goal of brand storytelling is not to sell your products and services, but the overall experience they provide.
How storytelling strengthens your brand
Not convinced? Then allow me to be more specific as to why brand storytelling is integral to your marketing strategy.
Stories tap into the subconscious mind
Delivering a rote recital of your product’s features is the best way to make potential customers head for the exit.
If you want your target audience to give you the time of day, don’t act like a desperate salesman. You need to get in their heads, or in their hearts.
In other words, you need to tap into the seat of their emotions—their subconscious mind. Did you know that 95% of purchasing decisions take place in the subconscious?
By communicating your brand’s value proposition and message in ways that are emotionally-compelling, relatable, and meaningful, your intended audience is more likely to let down their defenses. This gives you a clear pathway to their subconscious, making them more receptive and involved in what you have to say.
Stories make your brand memorable
Do you remember the first time you cried at the movies?
I bet you do.
Well, I do, too. After more than 30 years, I still remember every little detail from Littlefoot’s “Get up, Mama” scene from the animated movie The Land Before Time.
Now think of one movie that has left you emotionally cold that it bored you to tears. Chances are you can hardly recall a single plot point (I’m looking at you, Transformers 3).
It’s pretty clear: the more emotionally charged the experience, the more likely you’ll recall the details attached to it.
Science supports this. In fact, a Psychological study suggests that our brains are more likely to pay attention to stimuli that have emotional significance.
Simply put, if you want to give your customers something to remember your brand by, hit them right in the feels.
Storytelling makes your brand stand out
Every company or business has its own unique backstory. With that backstory (or origin story, if you will) comes a company’s unique experiences, core values, purpose, and culture.
If there’s anything that can make your brand differentiate itself from the competition, it’s your brand’s unique story. Nobody can tell your story like you can. It’s yours to begin with! If your story is consistent and authentic, your brand will stand out all the more.
So, take the time to ask the following questions: Who are you? What’s your backstory? What are your core values? What makes your brand unique? What is your overarching purpose? Who is your target audience? And what can you do for them to make their lives better? What positive change can you contribute to the world?
Once you’re done answering the above questions, use what you’ve come up with to document your brand’s mission statement, vision, core values, and goals. Incorporate them into your brand style guide or your vision board. A good digital asset management (DAM) tool can also help you tell your brand story more cohesively.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, for example, has differentiated itself from the competition not only by providing outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality products, but also by continually expressing and reinforcing their intent to promote the ethical management of the world’s natural resources.
Every element of Patagonia’s brand story, from their logo and color motif, to their “outdoorsy” clothing to their website design, feels unified and harmonious. By drawing from its unique, eco-friendly roots, Patagonia was able to tell its brand story consistently over the years. This helped them win their customer base’s trust and undying loyalty. This unremitting commitment to save the environment is a big part of what made Patagonia a billion dollar retail empire.
Stories connect you with your target audience
Stories can forge a community and bring people together like no other. Religions, customs, moral codes, and mythologies were built through the ages because of humanity’s innate need to tell stories, forming millions (if not billions) of communities of like-minded individuals.
Brand storytelling is not concerned with selling products. If you want your brand to forge lasting relationships with your customer base, you must sell ideas, values, and emotions instead. A community isn’t formed because its members are using the same home security system; it’s formed because they share a common desire to have a safe home.
If you want to build your “tribe,” you must tell stories that reinforce, strengthen, and embody your target audience’s worldview.
Here are actionable tips that will help you build a community around your brand:
- Make your audience feel that they’re part of the story (publishing user-generated content is a great way to pull this off).
- Create a platform in which customers can share and talk about their common interests (e.g. Facebook groups, Facebook page, Reddit, Twitter hashtags, etc.).
- Engage with potential and existing customers on a consistent basis.
Tell better stories now
Telling an engaging, cohesive story is hard work. But it bears noting that storytelling is not just a method. It’s an art. And like any other art form, no one can become a great storyteller overnight. It takes practice, hard work, dedication, and a full commitment to absorb new ideas.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to telling a great story. But if you tell the story truthfully and make it clear to your audience that it’s theirs, then a happy ending might be in the cards.