“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.” – Seth Godin.
Remember those days when adverts were about the product and solely about the product? Businesses tried to outdo themselves by creating products with snazzy names, colors and designs. Sometimes, manufacturers packed so much irrelevant functionalities in products (phones that functioned as radio, television and remote control thanks to Chinese manufacturers) … so much so that such products became too complex and too technical for the consumer. Products were made and consumers were forced to catch up or risk getting left behind.
That was the age of the product
Today, it is the age of the customer.
Marketing is now about developing a relationship with the customer and, one of the best way to achieve this is through storytelling. Advertising has become about creating experiences and arousing the imagination of the consumer in a way that is relatable and personal. Brands now know better than to shove technicalities down the throats of customers.
Marketing is now about the customer. It is no longer about what the product is but now about what the customer’s needs and desires are – and how that product can fulfill that need or achieve that desire.
Products are now designed through shared ideas and experiences on both sides of the table (businesses now do more of asking their customers what they need…even service platforms that serve as the marketplace for buyers to meet sellers understand that the business is really about the buyer AND the seller)
‘Marketing is now about the
customer. It is no longer about what
the product is but now about what
the customer’s needs and desires
are – and how that product can fulfill
that need or achieve that desire’
The Art of Storytelling
Creative writing and storytelling are intertwined. You could have a great story but if it’s not told with the right words, gestures and expressions, the effect gets watered down and, it may lose its appeal. On the other hand, if you had a bad story but had the creativity to make it larger than life, there’s a good chance that it could hit the right chord (this is why cheesy stories somehow gain acceptance)
Do you know why a story works?
People love stories because of their entertainment value. But, beyond that, people remember a great story because it leaves an imprint in their minds. Have you ever watched a movie that you liked (or feared) so much that you could even paint a picture of the unwritten future in the movie (e.g., a story where two people fall in love and you can see them getting married, having children and living happily ever in your mind’s eye or, a horror movie where the person or thing causing the horror lives on and, you can imagine them showing unexpectedly everywhere you turn)
That’s the power of great storytelling – an ability to make that idea live on in the mind of your audience
Stories attach themselves to memories. So, if a story is so good, it has a good chance of embedding itself in the customer’s mind. Customers like sharing great stories and, this means great stories can take on a life of their own and go viral even with little effort and small budgets.
‘People love stories because of their entertainment value. But beyond that, people remember a great story because it leaves an imprint in their minds.’
What are the elements of storytelling?
Emotion is critical in storytelling because this is the part of the customer that takes in the story. If a story is lacking in emotion, the audience will have a hard time connecting to it because, the element that is supposed to sync with their own emotional DNA is lacking. The Mary Kay brand found resonance with women because it was a brand birthed on a dream to help women achieve unlimited personal and financial success. Her ‘can-do’ attitude gave women hope and something to dream about. Building a multi-billion dollar empire from $5000 in savings in a period where gender bias was rife was the ultimate dream and, with her success, women’s emotional desire for independence and financial freedom became more than a dream.
Great stories – whether real or fictional – have an element of authenticity. People buy into it because it is something they believe and accept. If it sounds too good to be true, people may become wary of it or even completely ignore it. You are allowed to go out of the box with the creativity of your idea but – whatever you do – keep it realistic
‘You are allowed to go out of the box with the creativity of your idea but – whatever you do – keep it realistic’
A great story should come alive in the customer’s mind. Remember the sound of Coca-Cola? That is an iconic sound because every time you hear it, you either turn to where it’s coming from (for the Coca-Cola addicts) or suddenly imagine the bottle in your mind without even trying. That sound became the driving force behind every Coca-Cola advert and, today, Coca-Cola has mastered the art of combining relatable stories, amazing storytelling and THE Coca-Cola sound into ideas that arouse strong feelings and desires for the beverage. So, it does not matter what health experts say about its level of sugar or how many videos people post about the ‘interesting’ things one can do with the drink, people will continue to buy it because, it has successfully evolved from being a brand to becoming a lifestyle choice.
What are the benefits of brand storytelling?
Great storytelling keeps the customer’s attention on you
There is no easier way to catch your audience’ attention than to tell a story. They will readily listen and, if your story is good, they will be willing to read or watch till the end. As humans, we are wired to love stories and we always want to find out what happens. Facts are hard to remember; it even becomes worse when they are presented as data (charts, tables, etc.). The brain automatically tunes out these kinds of information because it somehow takes us back to school and reminds us of the reason why we tried to bail on school so many times (so, only geeks and nerds would be drawn to information presented in that style)
People understand stories easily; they are able to embrace and trust what they understand. This means that if you are able to infuse the right amount of authenticity, creativity, skill and emotion into your stories, you will always be able to keep the focus on your brand. Coca-Cola has successfully built a massive following – not only because it has an addictive product (I have seen lots of people who cannot go a day without drinking at least a bottle) – but because it knows how to tell great stories through the use of music and relatable experiences.
Great storytelling inspires action
When people find resonance with a brand and its narrative, they are motivated to take action (consciously or unconsciously) as a show of support or solidarity. If you were an eco-warrior and passionate about the preservation of nature and the environment, you would easily incline towards brands that donated to tree planting (like Tentree), ocean cleaning (like Devocean) or bee conservation (like the GreenBox Shop). In fact, would even be willing to volunteer if they created campaigns and called for volunteers for their eco-projects. This is because they mirror some of your values and share some of your dreams and supporting them would directly or indirectly help you live your dream of making the world a better place.
‘When people find resonance with a brand and its narrative, they are motivated to take action (consciously or unconsciously) as a show of support or solidarity’
For a brand to successfully create the needed connection with its customers, it needs to find out what their values are so that it can build its mission and vision around these values. When the mission and vision align with what the customer holds dear, crafting a story around this becomes easier – and the results are more effective, far-reaching and long-lasting. When a customer sees a brand that supports their values, they are quick to buy from that brand – but, more than that – they introduce other customers that share similar values to the brand and basically do half the marketing for such a brand (with better results to show for it).
Great storytelling can help you build communities
When customers are able to connect with your story, they are able to meet people who share similar feelings and build relationships (with these other people) around your brand. For example, if your product created nostalgic memories around high school and this formed the basis of your storytelling, you could spark conversations on the best memories people had from high school and once that conversation grows, people could find common interests, hobbies or ideas and bond over these (even if they did not previously know each other before).
When a brand directly or indirectly becomes the reason why communities are formed, it increases customer loyalty and gives customers a sense of belonging. This feeling is further deepened in communities where content generated is two-way (brand-generated content and user-generated content); this is because, everyone becomes actively involved. Sony’s PlayStation community provides an arena for ardent PlayStation gamers all over the world to share ideas, content and advice. They are allowed to be stakeholders in that community. The satisfaction that comes with being part of that community keeps them grounded in that community (and in that brand) for a long time.
‘When a brand directly or indirectly becomes the reason why communities are formed, it increases customer loyalty and gives customers a sense of belonging’
Great storytelling can help you repurpose old ideas
If your storytelling skills are top-notch, you can easily transform your old ideas into something more exciting and tell your story in a million ways….it really all depends on how good your imagination is. This means that you don’t need to think up ideas fresh from scratch. Like the popular saying, there are different sides to a story. It all depends on how you want to look at it.
Great storytelling humanizes your brand
When customers can find a common ground with your story, your brand easily transitions from a cold, calculating corporate entity to a trusted neighborhood kind-of-business. They feel as if the person behind that brand understands them, values them and honestly wants to do what is best for them. These kinds of feelings are worth more than their weight in gold and, they are not something that can easily be bought – or lost. When your customers accept your story, they willing readily forgive your little slip-ups, laugh at your cheesy adverts and defend your integrity like they would for a dear friend. For them, you are no longer a brand but, a person that they can trust.
‘When customers can find a common ground with your story, your brand easily transitions from a cold, calculating corporate entity to a trusted neighborhood kind-of-business’
Great storytelling makes your brand worth remembering
Storytelling creates memories and, memories are hard to completely erase from the mind. Even if the idea as a whole fades over time, the key messages usually remain for a very long time. Every time it is Christmas, I remember the Coca-Cola ad where Santa Claus is giving out Coca-Cola and laughing so heartily. I may not remember the whole advert but I definitely remember the happiness and warmth that radiated from that Santa’s smile and laughter; that gives me fond memories of Coca-Cola during the Christmas Holidays.
MORALE OF THE STORY
- Embrace the art of storytelling
- Tell great stories
- Infuse all the right elements
- Use your stories to humanize your brand
- Find resonance with your customers
- Unleash your creativity in your storytelling but…keep it real
- Make your brand worth remembering
Photo credit: Rawpixels|Unsplash