Close your eyes and imagine you’re back in first grade. The best part (outside of maybe recess) is story time. Milk and cookies at hand, you and the other kids are curled on nap rugs in a semi-circle around your teacher. She (or he) opens a book and starts reading aloud, and you’re transported to a new place that’s simply…magical.
You were mesmerized by stories then and the power of a good story still captivates adults. That’s why great storytelling is a strategic priority for brands today. Storytelling isn’t new –advertisers and marketers have been using it for decades – but social media now offers powerful opportunities to tell stories as part of direct and indirect marketing initiatives.
"Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic
human need is for storytelling." ~Khalil Gibran
Your brand is no longer just competing with other brands, you’re competing with writers, artists, filmmakers, entertainers, and more. People don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted by an ad, but they always have 30 minutes for a great story. And brand storytelling is the best avenue you can use for building trust and credibility—elements that are critical to a sustainable brand.
"Stop interrupting what people are interested in,
and be what people are interested in." ~Mike Schoultz
The best brand storytellers understand the critical elements of fiction writing. Here are some secrets that brand storytellers understand and use to engage, connect with, and intrigue consumers on an emotional level.
- Be honest. Transparency is key to brand storytelling. Yes, you’re crafting stories, but they need to be rooted in the reality of your company, brand, or products. Be creative, but don’t go too far from your brand promise. Confusion is a brand killer.
- Use characters your audiences will cheer for. You’re not required to create fictional characters or brand mascots to tell your stories. A great spokesperson can go a long way to selling your brand message, but the important thing is to create characters that your audience will connect with emotionally. Tell stories from your employee’s point of view, or create buyer personas and tell stories from their perspectives.
- Create stories that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Give your characters a way to take your audience along for the ride. Stories always have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and your brand stories should follow a similar structure. Open your story strong and establish a setting for your character(s). In the middle, set up your main character’s problem and present conflicts that will lead to resolution. Structure your stories and if people enjoy the ride, they’ll come back again and again. They’re also more likely to share your stories with their friends and family.
- Leave your audience wanting more. Your brand stories should be page turners, where one piece feeds off the next. Don’t give it all away in one story. Leave people wanting more and they’ll come back again and again.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article. We’ll share some specific brand storytelling examples you don't want to miss!