Storytelling is one of the hottest trends in marketing today. A vast majority of marketers in the B2B and B2C worlds alike are using storytelling to attract consumers, raise brand awareness, distinguish themselves in the market, and convey their value proposition.
Storytelling is a critical part of modern marketing for a number of reasons. The consumer landscape is crowded and chaotic. People are constantly bombarded with messages of all kinds on all fronts—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texts, Snapchat, advertisements, email, ads and more. As a result, our attention spans have plummeted to less than that of a goldfish. Marketers have just eight seconds to capture their potential customer’s attention, and storytelling is the key.
First of all, storytelling is woven into the fabric of human existence. We have told stories for tens of thousands of years (and maybe more). Secondly, storytelling helps brands build personality and seem relatable, which strengthens their ability to connect with consumers. In other words, storytelling is an important aspect of authenticity, which is one of the Millennial consumers top priorities.
Here are the three secrets to using storytelling for brand marketing success.
1. Channel other people
Storytelling is powerful because it helps us connect with others. The most effective, captivating stories channel other people. People are what make stories interesting. When brand marketing, it can be easy to fall in the trap of talking about yourself or your company, but the best storytellers look outside of themselves and glean inspiration and meaning wherever they see it.
For example, Clif Bar created a “Farmers Speak” series where the brand’s farmers talk about how they got started in organic farming. When telling a story, it’s always a good idea to start with “why.” It’s also important to capture authentic moments that unfold through the subject’s journey. Stories need to have a narrative arc, and show rather than tell.
2. Use an authentic voice
When telling a story—whether it’s for a branded blog post or a work of fiction—the voice has to be authentic. And this isn’t just because Millennials crave authenticity. It’s because voice is how consumers form their opinions and sentiments about what they read. It dictates whether they find something trustworthy, funny, informed, and ultimately worth reading or listening to.
For example, podcasters Michael Davies and Roger Bennett have attracted a devoted following for their soccer program “Men in Blazers,” which is intelligent, humorous and always passionate. There are countless other places to get soccer news and analysis, but their unique, authentic voice sets them apart. Their excitement is contagious, and this inspires their listeners to not only tune in multiple times a week, but also to sign up for their emails and actively follow them on social media. Uniqueness and authenticity drive off-the-charts engagement.
Brand storytellers can learn from these crazy bald guys by using tone of voice to differentiate their content. Also, remember that passion is storytelling fuel, and can help you find interesting ways to say boring stuff.
3. Create an emotional connection
Great storytelling requires an emotional connection. For evidence of this, look no further than the mind-boggling abundance of cute dog and cat photos on the Internet. You see an image of a puppy looking sad, and it pulls at your heartstrings. A happy puppy automatically triggers a smile.
Of course, there are more emotions than happy and sad, and we don’t recommend plastering all your brand content with cute animals, but the point stands. The most powerful stories forge an emotional connection with their readers. A story is not a vague, high-level principle or generalization. A story happens in moments, because the recipient gets access to emotional cues that puts them in your shoes and makes the story more vivid.
Take GE Digital’s commercials, “What’s the matter with Owen?” It is trying to recruit young talent by telling a story about the moment when you tell your family and friends that you got a new job. It built an emotional connection of excitement, relief and pride that comes with getting hired. That’s memorable.
When it comes to great brand storytelling, just remember PVC: people, voice, connection. These are the key to telling stories that stick.
Jake Athey is the director of marketing at Widen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.