- Why Brands Must Tell Stories
- What Is Brand Storytelling?
- How Storytelling Strengthens Your Brand
- Stories Connect You With Your Target Audience
- Brands That Do an Excellent Job of Storytelling
- Tell Better Stories Now
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Originally written on July 15, 2019, and updated according to the latest developments in May 2023.
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, making sense of all the disparate information bombarding people daily is becoming more difficult.
Did you know that by the end of 2023, the world will likely produce and consume 120 zettabytes of data? That’s a lot of white noise out there. No wonder why 81% of consumers worldwide 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 compelling stories that your customers can relate to rather than solely focusing on driving sales.
Why Brands Must Tell Stories
For one thing, people see everything through the lens of stories. It satisfies their innate desire to ascribe meaning to everything that's going on around them.
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 establishes them as a master of letters.
That way, you get to hold your audience in rapt attention. Stories, after all, have a way of reeling people in. They build tension and trigger emotions until the surprising, satisfying conclusion. It's much more involved and immersive.
Ever wonder why storytelling is an essential part of marketing? It can boost conversion rate by an impressive 30%.
To bring it home even further, research shows that content delivered as stories is 22 times more memorable than when presented as facts.
What Is Brand Storytelling?
It would be correct to say that brand storytelling is the process of delivering your company's content through a narrative structure, but it would be incomplete.
Other than to impart content, the goal of storytelling is to convey intention, emotion and meaning. Whether 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.
It should embody a higher purpose if it is to inspire loyalty in your customer base 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, tell it 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? Let's take a closer look at how 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.
Don't act like a desperate salesman if you want your target audience to give you the time of day. You need to get in their heads or their hearts.
In other words, you need to tap into the seat of their emotions—their subconscious mind. Did you know that many of the audience's decisions, including purchase decisions, are made by the unconscious mind?
By communicating your brand's identity, value proposition and message in emotionally compelling, relatable and meaningful ways, 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 say.
Stories Make Your Brand Memorable
Do you remember the first time you cried at the movies? You can probably name the movie and who you saw it with.
Now think of a movie that left you emotionally indifferent and bored you to tears. Chances are you can hardly recall a single plot point.
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, research shows that a person's brain is 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. Storytelling in marketing cannot be understated.
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've answered 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 by providing outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality products and continually expressing and reinforcing its intent to promote the ethical management of the world's natural resources.
Every element of Patagonia's brand story feels unified and harmonious, from its logo and color motif to its "outdoorsy" clothing to its website design.
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 saving the environment is a big part of what made Patagonia a billion-dollar retail empire. The founder eventually gave the company away to support the cause.
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 doesn’t form because its members use the same home security system but because they share a common desire for 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 part of the story (publishing user-generated content is a great way to pull this off).
- Create a platform where 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 consistently.
Storytelling on Video
Videos are great at creating an emotional connection with your audience. To maximize their effect, you can:
- Make the story as short and concise as possible
- Replace any talking with captivating visuals
- Implement humor or an emotional response (if applicable to the subject)
- Always tell one story at a time
- Ensure high audio quality
- Add captions for accessibility
The best part is that you don't have to invest significant amounts in professionally-made videos. People want to see videos that make a company look genuine. Too much professionalism takes away the authenticity and makes it harder to relate. That’s exactly why Gen Z’ers prefer TikTok.
Storytelling on Social Media
Social media is an excellent place to tell a story. Initially, social media platforms specifically helped people interact with each other. You can use the opportunity to offer your brand's story and make it shareable.
Meanwhile, your activity on social media brings you closer to your followers. It's an opportunity to create personal relationships and share innovation by telling a brand story.
Additionally, social media is a great place to source user-generated content. This content shows your audience that people like them are taking advantage of your products and services. This initiates the bandwagon effect that brings new customers and clients to your doorstep.
Brands That Do an Excellent Job of Storytelling
Brands that excel in storytelling see a significant impact on their bottom line, as customers are more likely to remember and trust their brand. Here are three brands that have mastered the art of storytelling and are reaping the benefits:
Almost 40 years have passed, but the one-minute-long Apple Superbowl ad is still breathtaking. The main element of this particular storytelling effort is engagement. The short story catches the audience's attention so well that they easily connect emotionally with the brand.
Even after Steve Jobs was gone, Apple continued working on the storytelling aspect of its brand awareness campaign. For example, they created a "Start Something New" campaign that showed how regular people create art with Apple products. With this genius move, the company asked its customers to tell the brand story, thus reinforcing the bandwagon effect.
Nike has always been one of the storytelling leaders. The company always managed to tie something personal into its product promotion. For example, back in 1987, their Revolution campaign took advantage of the Beatles' song "Revolution" and used the images of regular Americans together with athletes.
Many years later, Nike created an Equality campaign that expresses the company's desire to bring positive change. The brand shows its strong view on social equality, helping regular people relate to its values.
While Airbnb has done an excellent job telling its story in the past, the company achieved the best results by turning to its audience for help. They encouraged their guests to share personal stories on social media and published them in their own Airbnb Magazine.
Most content Airbnb creates for its marketing purposes focuses on people, their thoughts, experiences and stories. This type of campaign makes it easy for clients to share related content and become brand ambassadors for the company.
Airbnb emphasizes the importance of making connections (after all, that's what their business is about) and uses these connections to tell a brand story.
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 clarify to your audience that it's theirs, a happy ending might be in the cards.
While high-quality storytelling is hard work, it can't exist without the right approach to digital assets, including user-generated content, customer behavior statistics, internal knowledge base, etc.
Yes, excellent stories aren't just creativity. They are a combination of data collection and analytics. With the right data, it's possible to figure out what type of story can work best for your audience.
That's why creative digital asset management or (DAM)is so important for your brand. DAM is integral to excellent storytelling since it provides a central location to store, organize and share all your brand’s assets to ensure your story's told right every single time, resulting in positive brand sentiment and emotional connection.
Brandfolder's best-in-class DAM solution can help you enhance your storytelling efforts and drive success with your target audience. Learn more about streamlining your brand storytelling with robust DAM tools today.