How Good Brand Storytelling can Turn Even Your Most Pessimistic Audience into Loyal Followers
Here’s a dark thought. If your company suddenly disappeared, would your former customers remember it in a year? What about 10 or 50? What about today, are they thinking about you and your brand at all? If the answer to these questions is (and I’m hoping for a bit of honesty here) no, then there’s only one reason behind this. You are not using brand storytelling to connect with your audience.
Stories shape us and our belief system. We get influenced by a good book or a hero in our favorite movie or TV show, enjoy hearing funny stories our friends tell us and try to learn from them. We derive meaning from all kinds of stories, from those told by Ancient Greeks about their gods to stories told today by Hollywood directors about superheros. There is power in a good story and a brand that goes deeper than simply telling its customers “we make X product”, but also why they do it and how, in a way that goes beyond data, uses emotions, makes it personal and ultimately creates an exciting journey for its audience, will have more than customers, it will have loyal followers.
Why Should You Tell a Story?
Let’s make one thing clear here. You shouldn’t tell stories for the sake of telling them. They need to have a meaning. Brand storytelling needs to have a goal. This goes beyond making a sale or building leads.
It’s about trust, about engaging your audience, having a conversation with them, one that goes beyond “here’s my product, buy it”, but tells them “here’s what we stand for”.
Stories need to inspire, to motivate, to teach. But they also need a hero. Someone who will act as the champion of your brand, carry the torch so to speak. But there’s danger in having a hero that’s too far removed from your audience. P&G, for example, figured this out and so their heroes include normal people with normal body image and self-esteem woes, not perfect (let’s not say superficial) models. Why? Because the people who will buy P&G products are imperfect and won’t be able to connect with a “perfect” hero, but they can with one that has the same problems as they do.
How You Should Tell a Story?
There are many elements that make a good story. I’m not suggesting that you should use all of them (that would be counterproductive), but as a good storyteller you need to figure out what works best for your specific audience.
Here are a few things that you want to introduce when using brand storytelling to make it more compelling and convincing:
Why are comedies, dramas or horror movies so popular? It’s because they rely on some of the basest and most sincere human emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear and so on.
Emotion is a powerful tool in brand storytelling and you want to bring out an emotional reaction from your audience, whether through humor, fear or some other way.
- Make it personal
Make the story about the customer, not about your brand. Of course, you can’t specifically make it about the person reading your content, but you can make it about someone who is just like them.
Name this person, give him or her life and paint the picture from their point of view. If they have the same problems and needs as your actual customers, the latter will be much more ready to connect and you will be able to evoke empathy this way.
- Use data to support your story
Data on its own, doesn’t mean much in content marketing, but when put in the correct context, it is a powerful weapon in the content marketer’s arsenal. You are not making fictional stories here, so you need to have data and facts to support your claims. For instance, if you say “we are the number one SEO company in the world”, that is not a fact, but a boast, but if you say “we’ve helped X number of companies with their SEO” that’s a fact and besides, gives you social proof that users like to hear and often base their decisions on.
- Take advantage of visuals
Remember when you were a kid and all books had nice images in them? Those were there to guide you through the story. There was very little text in them and it wasn’t necessary. The message was just easier to understand for your little brain this way.
There is now a resurgence of visual thinking, thanks largely to social media and sites like Instagram. This means that, not only do you not have to rely on just text to bring the point home, but you shouldn’t either. Use visuals, such as a nice photo, GIF, infographic or a video, to tell the whole story, together with text.
- Actually show how you can solve their problem
A story is only as good as it is valuable to the reader. Think about what the reader can get out of it, how the story can help them solve a problem. Offer the reader a scenario where they can visualize a realistic way to do this and you got a fan for life.
Don’t fall into the trap of telling the story to yourself. Brand storytelling is about introducing and then drawing your audience to your product, service or brand. This can’t be done with one blog post or infographic, but needs time and commitment.
But it’s worth it.