Exploring how story telling can benefit brands

Published on Tuesday, 08 September 2015 by Laiza Zikalala in Marketing

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of passing knowledge from person to another, and much of what we consider to be facts are influenced by stories and how we interpret them. From childhood through adulthood, we are drawn to the lessons we learn, the exciting journeys we embark upon, the knowledge we gain and the opportunity to unleash our imaginations. Stories celebrate our culture, are a testimony to the lives we lead and are a great vehicle with which to pass messages.

According to Robert McKee in his book The Invisible Grail, Storytelling has, over the past several years particularly, become part of the marketing language. Effective storytelling is a fine and beautiful art. A well-developed and presented story can cut across age barriers, will hold the interest and really reach its listeners. Good stories will be remembered long after other orations. If executed well, brand narrative and brand stories can break through the clutter and engage with consumers.

This form of communication is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into a brand and it's one of the main components of a content marketing approach. By giving a brand an identity and sharing the stories that it represents, they can take consumers on a journey they yearn to experience. But for them to form a personal connection with a brand however, company stories must be authentic, creative and inspirational.

Brand stories need an emotional connection to be relevant to consumers because, at its very essence, stories add to the humanity of the brand. They help consumers to act upon a narrative that is fundamentally rooted in human truths. Well told stories generate empathy. We may see ourselves or a particular side of ourselves in the tale, or event - the 'me' that we would like to be. Without that narrative, everything is dominated by features, data and discounts.

Sadly, the stories that brands tell often focus on the world as they see it - it's one sided. Their communication is a narrative shaped around their brand's history and vision for the days ahead, and marketers continue to take their reference from the thinking and planning that has taken place internally.

Without a doubt, in most sectors the stories of market leaders dominate. These brands set the rules and the expectations and as such they can have an undue influence on the stories that their competitors tell. They decide the market norms for the industry. That’s frustrating if you have a different brand approach and if you don't want to be labelled as just another participant with the same attitudes and limitations as your rivals.

As Shawn Callahan (Founder, story specialist and consultant) states, if your brand is struggling to get its story told in the face of a highly articulate and motivated competitor with strong market presence and plenty of resources, simply trying to out-shout them is a waste of time (and money). One option to seriously consider is generating a counter-story; a narrative that deliberately sets out an alternative perspective in the minds of the consumers. A good example is Uber who took the taxi industry by storm when they told the story of an alternative way of getting from A to B.

Emotional branding is a progressive marketing strategy that has the potential to drive revenue and increase customer retention. How a person feels about your brand typically determines whether they buy your product once or repeatedly. A brand is a matter of perception. When marketers tell a story that embodies human challenges, they create an experience that resonates with their customers.

A good story takes their audience on a journey, leaving them feeling inspired and motivated. As we know, attention spans have dwindled. Everyone has so much to do. The challenge is figuring out how to share that story in a way that aligns with the needs and priorities of current and prospective customers. But, it's not as simple as just sharing the story - It's about making the story so compelling that it elevates perceptions of value.

As Carl Gustav Jung once said, the reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories. We don’t always understand the stories ourselves and many people’s stories are often not heard. To deserve attention we must pay attention. To get our stories and content shared and acted upon, we must understand the stories of the people forming the communities we want to live and thrive in first.

For many of us it's hard to manage our time and stay focused with the increasing number of channels, messages and content that is available to us. Good marketing means telling a good story, so the question to the marketers has to be ‘what stories are we are telling consumers that ultimately deserve their attention?’

Last modified onThursday, 15 June 2017 15:25