Brand storytelling has been a strategy for far longer than it’s been a buzzword, but the technological characteristics of the modern era—namely, blogging, social media, and online videos—have made brand storytelling an even more dynamic, more definable strategy for compelling audiences. The principle behind brand storytelling is simple and easy to understand—it’s a form of storytelling that strengthens a user’s relationship with a brand. How you tell those stories, and what type of stories you tell, determine how your audience reacts.
Stories are effective because they’re humanizing and personal. Using relatable, personal elements in your marketing and advertising entertains people, makes complicated ideas easier to understand, and it can even make people trust you more as a brand.
If you want to do more for your brand storytelling, try one or more of these seven engagement strategies:
Depending on your industry, it’s more than likely there’s at least one idea that can’t be conveyed easily to your audience. Most consumers aren’t interested in reading technical manuals dozens of pages long; they’re interested in getting the gist of a concept as quickly as possible. This is where storytelling comes in.
For example, if your company specializes in website development and you’re trying to explain why it’s inefficient to add scope in the middle of a coding sprint, you may find it difficult to articulate the logistics of the situation. Instead, you can illustrate the dangers of the concept using a story; a man is driving a car down a highway, and attempting to make engine modifications to the car while doing so. It’s going to be near impossible without causing an accident. Such a story demonstrates an idea without making it too complex or unnecessarily wordy.
Sometimes, the course of business will come up with stories for you. Case studies are a perfect example of brand storytelling, and you should use them to your advantage whenever possible.
Let’s say you’ve done a great job for a recent customer and you have the data to back it up. Ask your customer’s permission to publicize their story and tie your brand to it; once you have that permission, write up a narrative about your performance. Don’t rely on numbers to do all the work for you; tell your customer’s story as if writing a book or a screenplay. Walk your reader through all the stages of development that came during the process, and environmental factors that complicated the situation. By the end, you’ll have a beginning-to-end story that effectively captures an “ideal” brand performance and presents your company as a real contender to those unacquainted with the brand.
Hypothetical situations can also serve as valuable stories. These are perfect for when you’re trying to describe the advantages of a particular product without getting into technical specifications or simply bulleting out a list of benefits. Instead, you’ll describe a person in a demanding situation, noting details and using narrative elements to show, rather than tell your readers, how your product would fit into such a situation.
Consider the “mayhem” advertisements from AllState. A character who epitomizes and represents the abstract concept of mayhem or unpredictable events arrives onto a scene—sometimes a residential neighborhood, or a highway—and inevitably creates a disastrous situation through physical damage. At the end of each advertisement, AllState claims that it can protect you from such situations. Readers are able to easily relate to this because they witnessed a story play out before them. Of course, you don’t need video ads to do this—you can just as easily illustrate a similar scenario through written posts.
Another type story is a more literal translation of brand storytelling—it’s the story of how your brand came to be. This isn’t necessarily a story you want to tell often, but it is one you’ll want to bring up from time to time, especially if your company has a unique origin story. For example, Coca-Cola regularly calls attention to its lengthy history as one of America’s favorite soft drinks—it’s a simplistic reminder of the brand’s origins, and it does a great deal to strengthen its relationship with consumers.
Your business might have an entirely different story—for example, you could be a startup less than a year old that’s looking for funding and a handful of maverick customers to launch its flagship product. No matter what kind of company you are, there’s some kind of story to tell about your brand.
Characters in brand storytelling are more than mascots, at least in most cases. Take, for example, Flo from those Progressive Auto Insurance commercials. She is strongly associated with the brand, but she isn’t really a mascot. Instead, she finds herself in regular situations, helping customers with various dilemmas solve their insurance woes. Flo exists as a personal manifestation of a company, illustrating principles and demonstrating the brand’s values on a personal level.
You could use any type of character you want to generate the same sentiments—for example, you could have a recurring character in your blog posts named “Tim,” who always finds himself in tricky situations. Recurring characters help humanize your brand, and build an extra layer of familiarity among your readership.
If you’re always rolling out new products and services, don’t rely on them to always speak for themselves. Instead, make it a point to tell the story of how each one was created—with particular attention to the problem each product or service solves. For example, if you’re launching a new app feature that corrects a common customer complaint, tell the story; explain that your customers were having trouble with a particular feature, and narrate the path of those complaints from customer service representatives to brand visionaries to field technicians, who eventually came up with an ingenious solution.
This type of story is a perfect way to give a little more transparency to your company, building trust, while giving a logical backing to each of your new products and services. Essentially, it promotes your product and strengthens your brand relationships simultaneously.
Of course, stories don’t need to be longwinded blog posts or television commercials. Social media presents a perfect opportunity to tell extremely short stories, narrative pieces that convey the feelings of a story without the lengthy backing. For example, instead of writing several paragraphs charting the history of your latest product development, you could consolidate it to a short tweet: “You spoke. We listened. Welcome to this new feature…” In three short sentences, you told a beginning, middle, and end to a dynamic brand story, and it’s far more compelling than a bland tweet like “Check out this new feature…”
The beauty of brand storytelling is that it isn’t limited to any one subject or any one format. You can easily convert any message you have—internal or external, informative or entertaining, online or in person—into a type of story. That simple inclusion of a narrative element can do wonders for improving your brand’s reputation, and increasing engagement in your target audience.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.