What's in a Story? - Digital Storytelling for Marketers

In the age of blogging, social media, and content marketing, storytelling matters more than ever.

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Stories effect the way we feel, the way we think, the way we act and the way we behave.  Stories demand an emotional response, stories pique and hold interest, stories bring energy to a message and stories cause us to take action.

As marketers, we’re all a little obsessed with the newest creative breakthrough. However, the most important thing you do for your brand has nothing to do with the latest ad technology or the hottest new social platform. Instead, it’s a skill that humans have been applying for centuries—the age-old art of storytelling.

This ancient craft far predates the technologies of today. But, in the age of blogging, social media, and content marketing, storytelling matters more than ever. Never before has a company had such opportunity to build close connections with their community. A brand’s expertise may be what attracts audiences at first, but the stories they weave around it are what draws communities in.

If you deliver to your audience messaging that is factual, they will either agree or disagree; they will form an opinion. If you tell your audience a story, they come along for the ride.

Story telling is an ancient art explored in so many different media: 

  • The study of ancient cultures
  • Movie Making
  • Books
  • and Branding

The principles and success factors are closely related to word-of-mouth, social sharing, social media, brand perception and the very core of content marketing. They are your emotional link with your audience – your method of infusing meaning and impact into the raw information you have to share.

Writer & Film Maker Andrew Stanton - who was the writer behind the 3 Toy Story Films and Wall-E talks about story telling as knowing your punchline.  Knowing that every sentence you say from the first to the last is for a single goal.

So often, when trying to communicate a story it’s worth starting at the end and working backwards. We all love stories because we were born for them.

Do you remember what stories were like as a child?  Andrew Stanton talks about setting out to invoke wonder in a story and that this is a secret ingredient. For me, the first film that my Mum took me to see at the cinema did just that.

In its most basic form it’s generally recognised that a good story can be split in to 3 parts.

  1. A Likeable Hero
  2. Encounters Roadblocks
  3. Emerges Transformed


MAKE ME CARE!

Andrew Stanton talks about this as being a “Great Story Commandment” - Make me care. Emotionally, Intellectually or Aesthetically...just Make Me Care!

We all know what it’s like to not care as we channel switch trying to find something of interest …but then something catches your attention. That not an accident, it’s by design.

We are born problem solvers. A good story is not one that is given to us on a plate. In fact it’s the well organised absence of information that draws us in. 

It’s why we get attracted like a magnet to a toddler or puppy. It’s because they can’t completely express what they are thinking and what their intentions are and we can’t stop ourselves from completing the sentence. 

2 + 2

Andrew Stanton talks about the unifying theory of 2 + 2. When telling a story don’t give your audience 4. Give the 2 + 2. Make them work for it. 

Storytelling, like marketing is not an exact science. Stories and Marketing are inevitable if they are good but not predictable.

If you break marketing down to its end goal it’s about selling. Whilst most agree this is true, those same people agree that today’s marketing is all about engagement and sharing.

Customers have evolved with media and technology and storytelling moves those customers towards action. Marketing programs that focus on engagement, sharing and then the sale have bigger and more successful campaigns.

Historically we accepted disruptive advertising as a way to consume our media such as adverts between TV shows. However, now we have so much control over how we consume our media that we can fast forward or skip over advertising for the most part.

Today we generally lean more towards permission based as opposed to disruptive advertising. With consumers becoming more and more immune to blatant advertising and selling, marketers need to think differently and create emotional bonds between brand and consumer.

That’s where story telling comes in.

And I think this is a great example from Coca Cola.

In this blog I’ve shown a lot of video because that’s such a great and easy way to tell stories. But not everyone has multi-million pound budgets to work with.

That said, video is so cheap in comparative terms these days, I don’t think there is any reason not to include it as part of any marketing strategy. But, video is not the only way to tell a story. 

In the age of blogging, social media, and content marketing, storytelling matters more than ever. We have an unprecedented opportunity to build close connections with our communities through powerful narrative. 

You can use all of your marketing channels to tell your brand story, through your website, design, blogs, case studies, animation, social media and PR. And all these channels should tell the same story.

The fact is, telling the right stories will help you win customers, make more sales, and build brand equity. And in any case, your brand’s story is being told every day, whether you’re the one telling it or not. 

Start thinking about your story and the narrative that goes with it. Start telling your brand story today.

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