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.