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How to Use Storytelling to Strengthen your Brand

Discussion in 'Copywriting & Sales Persuasion' started by Madhat27, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. Madhat27

    Madhat27 Newbie

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    The Importance of Storytelling

    Recently, I came across a post which extolled the value of storytelling in marketing. It explained, quite rightly, that storytelling can be a great way to connect with your readers, to show the personality behind the brand or to show off your company's history.

    All of this creates a rapport with your customers and makes your company more approachable and trustworthy. Building meaningful relationships with your customer base is invaluable, and storytelling is a crucial part of that.

    The post in question showed six examples of brands using storytelling effectively. Now, we all know storytelling is a concept beyond the simple story arc; it is, at it's most basic, an umbrella term for consistent brand marketing across platforms. Nevertheless, as a fiction writer, it was good to see that three out of the six examples displayed something resembling traditional storytelling, while still ticking all the right boxes for the buzzword concept.


    • Manchester United

    Having identified Facebook as the primary platform for their fanbase, Man U developed a detailed account of their football club history, and maintained an ongoing narrative for their fans, providing information on statistics, tactics, blogs and pre-game press conferences. Their story goes all the way back to 1886, when they were founded as Newton Heath. Now, that's long-term value.


    • WaterAid

    Charities are used to telling stories to raise funds. They've established a system of showing us the impoverished, famished and infirm in their daily struggles to appeal to the public. They know emotive storytelling is the best approach to audience engagement.

    For their purposes, this means the use of empathy; for commercial products, we look at fulfillment. How cool would you look with this product? How much better will you feel when you realize you've saved money? WaterAid, in their latest mobile campaign have achieved both - showing plight, and offering you a chance to be a hero in the story by making things better. The story starts with them, but the ending is in your hands.

    We can't all achieve this in the same way a charity can, but we can offer our customers and readers a chance to engage, making them feel like valued members of the company, rather than just goldmine to line your pockets. Cadbury's personalized chocolate is a great example for a business aspect that can have results-based content written around it.

    Who doesn't want to hear happy stories about products?


    • Microsoft

    For me, the most impressive has got to be Microsoft. Specifically, their IE9 campaign: The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator. With ideas written by customers, the option to scrawl an image on a notepad, and an uncannily familiar plot for content writers the world over, Brandon is the epitome of narrative in marketing.

    Not once in the entirety of the first episode is IE9 mentioned, yet the audience is still aware of the branding behind it. It still works as an advert without being a blatant sales pitch. And most importantly, it invites users to becomes invested in the brand.

    Customer Investment

    We hear a lot about how the average attention span is significantly shorter, and how people spend a lot less time reading than they once did. It's one of the reasons we see so many infographics, videos and podcasts.

    The result is streamlined text - articles that grab your attention and then get to the point as quickly as possible. We see a lot of list articles that have a quick intro and then very little beside the relevant information. Research has shown it works.

    But maybe the reason we love it so much, is that the content-heavy articles don't add value. There's no entertainment, and no reason to go back until the next time an interesting list comes up. Even then, a lot of people will skill to the top three because those are the most salient. As much as we seek valuable information in content, we don't retain it all.

    We certainly don't remember all 100 of IMDb's list of the Greatest Ever Movies.

    But we remember stories. The B.T. Broadband ads, the Compare the Meerkat franchise, even the Lego Movie . All of these had value beyond just the product and, for my money, created better brand awareness than any pitch.

    But these brands didn't only offer entertainment either. It isn't enough to simply make us smile. The dancing pony advert is amusing but I can never for the life of me recall which tariff was behind it. No, there has to be engagement. Something more on offer than just the product.

    The B.T. ads featured characters you became familiar with, like each ad was a tiny episode in a long-running series. Compare the Meerkat created, not just a character, but a voice which they use on Facebook and other social media, with a site offering toys with their quotes and free coloring books.

    The Lego Movie speaks for itself.

    It's Storytime

    What surprises me is that so few companies are using the traditional story format in their marketing. As Microsoft proved, using a narrative is a great way to engage with your readers. Of course, two of these example are using a visual media, which makes storytelling much easier and is used consistently in television/youtube ads.

    But in text, the traditional narrative is so rarely employed. The majority of brands would rather be informative and salesy than even attempt any kind of plot structure in prose. As a result, customers don't get any value from the writing.

    The gov.uk team has recently undertaken a huge overhaul of their online services, creating a cohesive web portal with their users in mind. They have a new style guide, and a user-focused strategy. Everyone was suitably impressed.

    But beyond simply implementing the changes, gov.uk made a story out of it. They created a blog dedicated to the process, with hundreds of posts detailing their ideas and innovations. In delivering the story, they're delivering value.

    What Makes a Story

    Of course, you don't have to do a complete redesign before you can use a narrative. Any new drive or strategy, any new products - in fact, just about anything can be a story if it's framed properly.

    If you can keep your customers coming back for the content, even when they're not intending to buy, you've got more chance of convincing them to buy. And they won't even feel like you pressure them in the slightest.
     
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  2. EdgeMalone

    EdgeMalone Registered Member

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    Fantastic post. I study Motivationally Speaking and one of the leaders in the field is a guy called Eric Thomas. For as phenomenal as he is, and he fucking is, all of his best videos are him telling somebody else's story. He told the story of Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson, his famous "Guru" story, people who got out of Detroit. It's all storytelling. Great value.
     
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  3. EverestOnline

    EverestOnline Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Hopefully, other companies will follow the footsteps of the aforementioned when it comes to using storytelling. Not only is it effective in getting and keeping the attention of the public, but it is also a great way to improve relationships with customers. Storytelling makes any business less distant and more relatable to the consumer, and the more relatable the business, the more customers it will get. Stories "humanize" brands and make them more accessible.
     
  4. Manny

    Manny Registered Member

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    This is great information! The value of this type of marketing is awesome!
     
  5. Tunenchi

    Tunenchi Regular Member

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    Thank you for the share. It is true that storytelling makes the best writings and choice for readers. With a 15% increase of 16 year olds who underperform writing tasks in Canada, it is said that in the next two decades the number of adults with low literacy level will increase to 25%. Studies suggest that we improve the written performance, research points to the best instructional strategies. Storytelling seems like a good strategy.
     
  6. kuro999

    kuro999 Regular Member

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    Thanks for sharing this. Story telling many may think is crazy when it comes to writing but it's amazing how much easier it can be once you use that kind of method.
     
  7. nextadnet

    nextadnet BANNED BANNED

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    Thanks for this great post! It explains a lot in good story telling.
     
  8. ADLUDUM

    ADLUDUM Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Yep. Apple for instance did the same thing but with a twist with their "Hi, I'm a mac. Hi I'm a PC" and that went hugely viral. At the same time I feel that it's important to balance out the entertaining aspect of storytelling and the goal to sell, in which Apple actually did it right with that commercial. It offers both storytelling and strongly persuaded the audience to get involved with Apple's product(s).

    Sometimes though, companies get so carried away with story telling that the consumer practically forgets that: "Oh, I can/should buy what they offer" because the story draws them away from taking action. But that would depend on what the goal is of storytelling in the first place for the company.

    Some companies already carry a strong brand so for them story telling would be most often used to create/strengthen the emphatic connection with their audience.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
  9. Avid Learner

    Avid Learner Regular Member

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    I was actually surprised with the OP. My expectation was that it would talk about how effective it would be to write like many of the so-called "IM gurus".

    They use a "folksy" style like they are talking to you directly. That is fine on the sales / marketing side.

    However, they seem to use that as "filler" for their content. They stretch a paragraph of advice into two or three pages of "motivational story". It doesn't work for anyone serious about learning, IMHO.

    "It is dishonest to promise how-to information, then deliver a bunch of ?You-can-do-it? platitudes instead. The motivational business, like patriotism in Samuel Johnson?s memorable phrase, is one of the last refuges of scoundrels." - from the BS detection list here (applicable for IM too):
    Code:
    http://www.johntreed.com/BSchecklist.html
    Kudos to the OP for using appropriate examples of where this style should be used.
     
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  10. TechFinder

    TechFinder Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for sharing such a great information. It's all storytelling which will be helpful to make best writing and choice for readers.
     
  11. ghanashyam

    ghanashyam BANNED BANNED

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    Is that a book or DVD??
     
  12. Ramse

    Ramse Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Thanks for sharing this interesting article!
     
  13. Jazmine

    Jazmine Newbie

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    Good points here. I agree that there are some fillers, used to stretch paragraphs into a neverending read. But yes it again depends on what kind of voice is used, and for what purpose?

    I believe "fillers" sometimes do tug at the heartstrings :)
     
  14. Denvas

    Denvas Newbie

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    I have a good course by Harlan Kilstein I'm going to have to dust off. Great post, and inspiring me to give it a try for an upcoming project.
     
  15. abhi007

    abhi007 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for mentioning Manchester United....there's no other football club better than United when it comes to branding :)
     
  16. Honest

    Honest Regular Member

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    Nice to know I wasn't crazy, and wasting my time, when I decided to write a little backstory for my recent project for this exact reason.

    Interesting read, thanks.
     
  17. Sardosa

    Sardosa Regular Member

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    One is reading site another one is shop. Very misguiding idea
     
  18. Ramse

    Ramse Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Interestign article, thanks for sharing.