Storytelling is the oldest form of human communication. In eras past, it’s how we passed down information from one generation to the next. Of course, today, we have so many forms of communication that storytelling is no longer the only way to get important messages across.
However, storytelling is still here, even though we don’t require this method of communication to impart critical information anymore. What is it about storytelling that has stood the test of time? Why is storytelling so effective?
The answer is simple: emotion.
When you tell your audience a story, it triggers an emotion in the readers or viewers or listeners. A tale of a lost puppy reunited with his owners might bring feelings of sadness and triumph. A story about a missed flight can cause frustration, or a short yarn about a kid mispronouncing something can cause amusement.
When we can get our audience to feel an emotion, they won’t soon forget the message. That’s why storytelling is such a powerful tool in marketing.
How to leverage storytelling techniques to boost marketing success
Now that we understand how storytelling can be an effective tool in marketing, let’s look at some of the ways you can leverage this idea. Storytelling can be challenging, especially for a brand trying to connect with individuals, but these techniques can help you on your way to becoming a master storyteller:
- Provide solutions rather than products or services
- It’s about your brand in the real world
- Find the human side to your product or service
- Ask your audience to help tell the story
Provide solutions rather than products or services
We all remember the infomercials that would grace our television late at night. They would inevitably depict some overblown problem and then provide a simple solution. All you had to do was call and give them your credit card number. There’s a reason they used this formula: it works. When your messaging is more about solving your audience’s problems than it is about your products or services, people are more likely to see the value in your products and services.
Take, for instance, a makeup brand that has just released a new green concealer to counteract redness in the skin. Now, imagine they’ve posted two different ads on Instagram. In one ad, the product is shown, the name highlighted and a link is included to the product page for purchase.
In the other ad, however, the brand introduces a customer who has always struggled with excessive redness in the skin. They then use the green concealer to dull the redness, providing a flawless finished look.
Which ad do you think would be more effective? A great beauty marketing agency would develop something closer to the second ad because it solves a customer’s problem rather than reaching for their wallets.
It’s about your brand in the real world
It’s easy to post a sleek photo of your product set in a beautiful landscape or a luxurious backdrop, but that’s not real life. Connect with your audience instead about how their product can be used in the real world.
Tell a story that your audience can relate to, that might invoke some kind of emotion that makes your brand hard to forget. You can do this by putting your product or service in a more familiar setting.
As an example, an automobile brand can create a striking ad for its latest SUV model, showing it tearing across some exotic landscapes with ease. But that brand could also create an ad that depicts a newly married couple getting into the SUV, perhaps another shot of them years later buckling little ones into the back, and maybe another one showing the whole family riding in the vehicle to a child’s graduation. This invokes emotion; it shows the product in real-world situations that consumers can relate to. This is a less forgettable ad than the first because it tells a story that triggers emotion.
Find the human side to your product or service
It’s time to get personal. Your consumers are human. They have attachments to products and services for very human reasons. If you can tap into those reasons and use them to tell your audience a story, you’ve got a winning angle.
As an example, a lighting company might choose to focus on its product’s ability to counteract the effects of seasonal affective disorder, rather than just focusing on the aesthetics of the product. The aesthetics will still be noticeable, but when you can provide your consumers with a way to be happier in a space with your products, you’re going to have loyal customers.
You can use storytelling to highlight the human side of your product or service and tap into the power of human connection.
Ask your audience to help tell the story
Sometimes, your customers are the storytellers. If you’re struggling to pinpoint the right story to tell, tap into your audience. Ask them about their experiences with your brand or product. Tell their story and connect to your customers in a real way.
An example of this kind of storytelling campaign comes from the dating website Match.com. In 2012, this brand launched a marketing campaign featuring real Match.com users telling the stories of their first dates. It was memorable because it was real life, and sometimes it was messy, other times, things went really well. But it’s also a really great way to tap into the vast resource that is your audience. Each one of them has a story. Could their customer stories be used to build your brand recognition?
Storytelling in marketing wins
The best way to illustrate the power of storytelling is to remind you that word-of-mouth referrals are almost entirely that. If you’re a marketing professional in any capacity, you know the power of the referral. But we don’t have to leave storytelling up to chance encounters our customers have. Instead, we can harness that power to develop unforgettable campaigns that build customer relationships and increase visibility, brand loyalty, and conversions.