Story telling dates back to the origin of humans. Every civilization has had its own way of capturing stories that are important to their history: before the internet, radio and books, our ancestors painted in caves for millennia and passed down folk tales to younger generations. They used storytelling as a medium for learning, passing down wisdom and societal ethos and as a pastime activity.
Even though our civilization is more technologically advanced today, the neurobiology of storytelling is much the same as it was millennia ago. Businesses that are aware of this fact have succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of consumers. As Ian Rowden, chief marketing officer of virgin group puts it “the best brands are built on great stories.”
Stories work on an emotional level. In an article published on smartinsights, author Jonathan Gabay writes: “…stories activate sensory parts of the brain that help influence the meaning and purpose of what is seen and heard – helping provide a greater personal insight into life and events”.
In the article, we will explore the power of brand storytelling. We will endeavor to answer the question “what are the benefits of storytelling” and demonstrate through examples, why your company should incorporate brand story telling as part of your marketing strategy.
Why Is Storytelling So Important?
Brand story telling is important for the following reasons:
Stories Make People Stop And Pay Attention
People generally don’t like advertisements; they are intrusive, they interrupt programme viewing, and on the internet, nothing is more irritating than pop up advertisements selling all manner of things. What’s more, there are now machine learning algorithms and “cookies” that can target browsers with adverts based on their browsing activity. Given this invasive nature of adverts, it is no wonder that adblockers are increasing in popularity, costing online advertisers billions in revenue yearly.
Given this, the question for you as a marketer is, “how can you generate quality leads in the current online landscape? The answer is: storytelling.
Advertisements that are couched in story format are fun to watch or read. For instance, Cocacola embraced this mode of advertising, winning customer loyalty from as far back as the 1920s. Their adverts show you how Coca-Cola brings people together, be it meal time, a day at the park, when shooting hoops with friends or during special holidays.
Stories Get You More Sales
You can sell more through the stories associated with your brand. This is why reviews and testimonials are so useful.
More often than not, a recommendation from a friend or a YouTube video is more convincing than all the logical aspects of decision making such as:
- Looking at product features,
- Comparing competing brands,
- Making price-related decisions.
In a nutshell, for the consumer, the mental process of buying goes something like, “someone used this product, their testimonial proves it changed their life, and now I want the same for myself.”
Pamela b. Rutledge ph.d., m.b.a., sums this up rather well in her article, “the psychological power of storytelling”. She writes: “…stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values”.
Especially in the early stages of the funnel, stories will help you form an emotional connection with prospects, leading to more sales down later on.
Your Story Sets You Apart
Your business is no doubt competing with thousands of other businesses in the same space. In all likelihood, you and your competitors match each other toe-to-toe when it comes to product features and specifications, so much so that when you advertise, consumers perceive you and your competitors as saying the same thing.
In a commoditized world, BRAND is what will make your business stand out. To build your brand, you need a UNIQUE story that sets you apart.
Take Apple for instance. There are dozens of phone brands in the world, selling hundreds of millions of phones and tables a year. But what makes a brand like apple stand out? What makes Apple fans stand in line with every release of the iPhone? It is what the phone has come to represent to them. Before apple founder steve jobs died, he would deliver rousing speeches about the company, their plans….
Apple inspires this kind of loyalty because of what Simon Sinek refers to as the “why” of storytelling. That is, Apple is very good at getting people to identify with their purpose, which is to always challenge the way things are. Their product design embodies this purpose.
On the other hand, majority of brands focus on the “what”, and in the process lose their message in the sea of marketing messages reaching consumers every minute.
People Want To Be Part of Something
Howard Schultz said, “people want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.”
The credit for building a company lies with its founders and employees, but to build a brand, you have to allow your fans to be a part of the process. As more people coalesce around your brand, it evolves into a lifestyle brand: the more people interact with it, the more they find that they can’t live without it.
A great brand story example of this is Red Bull. Over the years, Red bull has marketed itself as the drink of choice for active, energetic, outdoorsy and adventurous people. But beyond that, Red Bull’s social media channels feature user-generated content showing daring feats performed by adrenaline junkies and sports personalities. For example, a video like last call from Mr. Paul depicts a scenario that most people often find themselves in. Most people can identify with almost missing their flight. If only they had the free-running skills of Mr. Paul, to beat the last call.
How To Tell Your Brand Story
You now know why brand story telling is important. But how do you tell your story in a way that is believable? Below are 2 main tips to make your stories stand out and feel authentic:
Your Story And Your Reality Should Match Up
There are so many reasons why falsehood is bad for a brand. But top of the list for any brand is credibility. Reputation is everything for people and companies alike. Once lost, it may never be rebuilt.
Nothing captures this better than the story of Lance Armstrong, the career racing cyclist who lost everything. In 2013, Armstrong admitted that he had been doping for the better part of his illustrious career. Up until his admission, Armstrong denied all allegations as false and always professed himself to be an ethical athlete. What followed soon after was devastating to watch: his entire life’s accomplishments were called to doubt and lost practically everything he had worked for overnight. He was stripped of his tour de France medals, he lost his position in the Livestrong foundation, sponsors like Nike severed all ties with him and he lost up to $75 million in daily income.
The consequences of stories that don’t stand up to scrutiny can be even more dire for b2b companies and the employees who work for them. In a nutshell, when creating b2b brand stories, make sure it stacks up to the reality of what you do every day. If a story isn’t true:
- First, there is a high likelihood that it will sound doubtful and won’t withstand close scrutiny.
- Secondly, even if people believe your story for a while and you succeed as a result, sooner or later, the truth will come out. At such a point, customers, investors, employees, vendors and endorsers, will jump ship and your competitors will not hesitate to kick you while you are down.
Show Your Human Side
Marketing helps to drive profit and cut through competitive noise. But in order to create lasting impact, the story you tell should demonstrate that you are not just about bullish sales and marketing tactics and profits. Today, people want to buy from companies that care about people. Companies that transform lives and leave a positive mark in the markets they operate are more profitable than their counterparts.
If your brand is actively involved in making the world a better place, make sure your stories capture this fact (though not in a boastful way).
Brand story telling statistics show that stories help to build an emotional connection. Once this connection exists, you can build a community of trusting customers around your brand, and what follows is years of successful selling and profitability.