With more brands clamoring to capture the attention of potential customers, any business that wants to achieve some measure of success in its marketing needs to offer something special and unique. People need a strong reason to give you their time, particularly in crowded, fast-moving marketing spaces such as social media.
This is where storytelling can prove invaluable. If you’re able to tell compelling stories that engage and move people, you’re well on your way to creating a strong brand and building up a core following of loyal customers.
The power of storytelling
Storytelling is becoming an increasingly important and powerful part of many businesses’ marketing strategies. One of the key reasons for this is that appreciating a good story seems to be a fundamental part of what makes us human, going all the way back to ancient cultures that would share myths and folktales around campfires.
The irresistible appeal of a good story is as relevant today as it has ever been, even in our current digital age of high-speed content generation and consumption. In fact, telling fascinating tales could be more important for brands now than ever before, considering how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd in the modern business landscape.
Storytelling is a quintessentially human way of sharing knowledge and making big ideas accessible. For businesses, it’s a highly effective method of illustrating what you do and how you can help your customers, without putting people off by talking too much about yourself.
Charities and non-profit groups in particular can make effective use of storytelling by showing how their work impacts real people and their lives. Consider these examples from Feeding America and the NSPCC.
As consumers and business clients alike place more emphasis on meaningful content that resonates with them, the story-based approach to marketing will prove increasingly significant in the years to come.
The secrets to successful storytelling
One of the secrets to telling a good story is giving your audience something that not only grabs their attention, but holds it.
Businesses that want to make storytelling a key part of their marketing should be working to create assets that are sufficiently intriguing to get people interested, but also have the depth and quality required to ensure readers stick with the story to the end.
At the heart of this is finding the right balance between the different elements of your narrative, particularly images and text. A powerful image is pretty much unrivaled in its potential to capture someone’s attention, but you need to ensure your words are strong enough to keep readers interested.
Fundamentally, the various elements that come together to form your overall story should be designed to build an emotional connection with your audience. It’s this engagement that people will remember, increasing the likelihood that they will come back and continue their relationship with your brand in the future.
Another strategy that can prove effective is the customer-led approach to storytelling, with user-generated content helping you to build community engagement and demonstrate how your customers value your brand. Airbnb’s Community Stories section is a good example.
This can deliver particularly strong results, seeing as consumers are reportedly 92% more likely to trust peer recommendations than advertising.
Brands that get storytelling right
There are many well-established and successful brands out there that have found the right approach to storytelling in their marketing and are seeing the results.
One example is National Geographic, which has managed to attract 350 million followers on social media through a combination of stunning imagery and effective copy that has an emotional impact.
When asked how the organization has managed to build up such a strong following and achieve so much engagement, Nadine Heggie, vice-president of brand partnership, said:
By staying true to your brand, being timely with content, using the power of wow and wonder, and embracing new technologies to tell stories.
HubSpot highlighted the example of Apple, which uses real-life stories to illustrate how its products benefit users, rather than focusing on technical aspects or specifications that will only appeal to a knowledgeable but fairly limited audience.
Speaking to Forbes, Kimberly Whitler, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, discussed the approach taken by Japanese car manufacturer Subaru.
“In a world selling fast, sleek, sexy, cars, Subaru dares to suggest it’s all about love. Through stories of people caring for people (and dogs), the Subaru emerges as a hero that helps a certain type of person find connection with others.”
These examples provide a real-world insight into how storytelling is becoming increasingly central to marketing and, when used in the right way, can deliver unique and truly valuable results for businesses.