Let’s face it – people love stories. From those childhood memories of being soothed to sleep with tales of dragons and distant adventures, to the books we read during our spare time, and the television shows we can’t bear to miss – stories pervade every aspect of our life.
Since our ancestors first began to scratch shapes into rocks and dirt, we’ve been sharing stories with each other as a way to elicit understanding and emotional connections. It only makes sense then, that this approach to marketing is likely to have a more robust, long-lasting approach than a list of boring facts and figures.
The Relationship Between Brands and Stories
If you have a business with an offline, or online presence – then you’re already telling a kind of story. Everything from the blogs and tweets you post, to the methods you use for sharing leaflets on the street outside of your store, says something about you, and your business. The question isn’t whether you’re involved in storytelling in today’s market – it’s whether you’re telling the story best suited to the growth of your company.
Are your connections with customers convincing them that you’re worth their trust, their investments, and their recommendations, or are you just another faceless corporation in a crowd? In an age where transparency is essential, managing your professional narrative has never been more important. The way you write your narrative with each step in your digital marketing strategy will influence how your customers respond to you, deepening the relationship between your brand, and your target customer. In other words – you can’t afford to make any mistakes.
What Are the Ingredients of Good Storytelling?
Every business has a unique personality identified by its goals, morals, USPs, and general ethos. Storytelling is the tactic that you can use to convey that personality to your target customer. If you want to communicate a good message to your audience, then you’re going to need to address a few essential criteria, including:
- Demand: The best, most successful companies aren’t those that try to create a problem for their audiences to respond to. Profitable companies simply create a story that identifies them as a solution to a pre-existing problem. Simply put, you need to seek out an underlying need for your service, or product, and appeal to that need.
- Intrigue: Unfortunately, your customers aren’t your friends, so they’re not going to be engaged by boring, lackluster stories that don’t provide any inherent value. This means that your storytelling has to be interesting, engaging, and in line with the interests of your target market.
- Trust: As with anything else in the world of business, your customer needs to trust your company if they’re going to invest in you. People simply do not engage with companies they don’t trust.
- Context: Your target market needs to be able to relate to whatever message you’re putting across if you want to invoke an emotional reaction. With storytelling – this means that you need to put the focus on them, not yourself.
- Simplicity: Every corporate story should be simple, and easy to understand. You can’t risk that someone will take an alternate opinion of what you’re trying to convey. As Robert Browning said: “Less is more.”
- Consistency: Finally, every story you tell should work in conjunction with the existing narrative you’ve already begun to create. Consistency is essential for all brands because it helps to build relationships and trust. Without it, your customers are just going to be confused, and unhappy.
Quick Tips for Corporate Storytelling
Every business is different – so every corporate story will be different too. This means that you can’t just copy and paste your narrative from a similar company – but you can follow a few basic tips that should help to keep you on the right path. For instance:
- Authenticity and honesty are key – Make your customer trust you
- Show your value – Your customer wants to know why they should buy from you instead of your competitors
- Your story needs to be engaging, and how you tell it is crucial
- Your story should excite, entertain, and educate – but it should also be consistent
- Whatever you do in business should relate to the needs and interests of your audience. This means that your story needs to reflect their values
- Make sure that your story is simple and easy to follow – don’t try to be too complex
- Be memorable in everything you do – Don’t just blend in with the crowd.
Using Videos in Storytelling
The world of storytelling has changed over the years. We’re no longer restricted to writing narratives about our companies – we can “show” our audience the tale that we want to tell through video and imagery. While copy has a part to play in the digital marketing landscape, visual messages can have more of an impact than written ones.
The best way to determine how you can interact successfully with your audience and tell and engaging story, is to figure out as much as you can about your existing market. Learn what you can about how your audience likes to consume content, and consider testing out different media from time to time. After all, video is very shareable, which means that it has a great chance of going viral.
Before you start recording however, you should know that while it’s possible to develop your brand story through video in a traditional manner – for most businesses, video is a way of enhancing an existing story. In other words, you don’t tell your entire story with video – but use it as a supportive element to your overall strategy.
Corporate Storytelling at Its Finest – Apple brand case study
There are plenty of companies around the world today who are killing it when it comes to crafting a professional corporate story. For instance, Airbnb base their story around their customers – with sections of their brand dedicated entirely to stories from their community, and Nike have been leveraging the power of amazing storytelling for longer than most people have even been online!
However, perhaps the best example to turn to when you’re looking for evidence of corporate storytelling done right – is Apple. The Apple brand has been making the most of storytelling in their brand development for more than three decades now – and the results have been incredible. After all, just think about the media storm that accompanies every technological update or “big reveal”. Apple has created a story for itself which identifies it as the “must-have” technological item. Nothing else can compare in the mind of the consumer.
Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in 2007, building suspense with hints about internet communications, touchscreen and phone development. Just as the audience is starting to catch onto the story, Jobs finally makes the big reveal of a mobile that would change the world as we knew it forever. Of course, the iPhone brand was being built long before the audience ever saw and, and the story was consistent with a brand impact that Apple had already built, but it was up to Steve to tell a great story – and he did.
Today, Apple is still using the storytelling marketing approach, weaving their products seamlessly into long-lasting stories, and showing audience members how their products can help them evolve their own stories, such as in the case of the “Start Something New” initiative. Apple immerses their audience in their brand at all times, from their website, to their announcements, and even their stores. After all, if you visit an Apple store, you don’t see products hidden behind glass – everything is laid out for you to play with, explore, and touch. This approach lets people get truly involved in Apple’s story, and relate to their products – an action that is sure to promote desire in their audience.
Apple invites their customers to be a part of their brand, and join their story – and people queue around the block or sleep on the streets just to have an opportunity to do just that. It’s no surprise they’re one of the biggest brands in the world.
Telling your Story
No business should expect to be able to transform their brand with an incredible story overnight. Valuable storytelling – like the measures taken by Apple – takes time and consistency – you have to be willing to work at it. However, there’s no better time to start than the presence.
The quicker you start taking control of your own story, the more you will be able to accomplish with your brand in the future.
Guest Author: Matt Press – the founder, owner and Director of Splash Copywriters. He’s an academically trained UK copywriter who worked for Sky for 11 years.
Check-out this podcast on ‘Why Storytelling Works’ with Aussie Twitter Expert Keith Keller