Storytelling should be at the centre of your marketing efforts. To understand why, let me tell you a story. It’s mid-afternoon on a warm summers day. The suns unforgiving rays perpetually fixate on your face. Your cheeks redden and beads of sweat begin to slide down your face. Your throat itches and you feel an awful and sudden pang of thirst. You need a drink!

Fortunately, a Supermarket is just around the corner offering ample opportunity for refreshing liquid relief. On entering the store, you’re met with an abundance of choices. You choose quickly with hands reaching for your favourite soda (which has rarely let you down in the past). But why do you always choose that soda?

Most likely, you were influenced by the brand’s story. As consumers we’re irrational and great storytelling in marketing campaigns and advertising strategies can make all the difference in consumer choice.

Why We Love Stories

In ancient times, once the sun sets, everyone would gather around the campfire and tell stories. There was no cinema or books, just pure imagination released through the human voice. Fairytales, local tribal news as well all the latest gossip were people’s favourite yarns. In essence, stories are bred into our DNA since birth. As kids, even our parents would tell us bedtime stories. In Ireland, one Irish person greets another with a question of “What’s the story?”.

Blunt, emotional, and vivid stories can really capture our imagination. We love great rags to riches stories. The Hero goes through adversity and struggles their way to their top of their field much like the highly acclaimed Rocky movie. Every great movie operates under this premise often with a hero and villain. In the end, the hero overcomes their adversity serving to both inspire and motivate the audience. In a business setting advertising also operates with a similar storyboard.

I read an excellent book recently The Storytellers Secret by Carmine Gallo which had various anecdotes and teachings about how storytelling is used in business and life. In this book, it details how every great story has conflict, struggle and a resolution.

Carmine uses the example of the kids’ book Cinderella. Ella is forced to live with her horrible stepmother after her beloved father dies. She struggles before meeting her prince charming before losing him again. Ultimately they find other and achieve Cinderella’s happy ever after.

Telling the Brand Narrative

Increasingly, customers are also asking brands pre-purchase (if only unconsciously) “What’s your story?”. Why should consumers buy from your company compared to the competition? In today’s world, choices are abundant which makes the brand story a key differentiator.

Stories build trust and make us feel like we know a person/brand as well as what they stand for. Trust is vital in any relationship. In order to buy from your company, people must be able to trust it. Authentic stories can help your business connect with people.

If you’re a founder why not tell your own personal story behind the business and why you started up. This helps people get to know you making them more likely to trust you with their money. In addition, blogging can also be a powerful method of building trust.

Company Culture

When we speak about the brand’s story, we also include the company’s culture. What is the company’s mission and values? How do they mix with consumers values and beliefs? People must also buy into the brand’s story before they buy from the company. People buy products that fit their world view and compliment their self-perception.

As an example, Innocent is dedicated to being a responsible company which attracts socially aware customers. Southwest Airlines strives to value both their employees and customers equally. They make customer service and employee welfare their core values. This encourages people to return again and again to Southwest as they feel valued and it offers such a unique flying experience. As their employees and customers are so happy, they in turn act as brand advocates.

Using Storytelling in your Marketing

Storytelling isn’t just a key facet of great branding strategy. Implementing stories in companies overall marketing plan should also be standard. Using stories serves to inspire and motivate customers to take action demonstrating why they need to buy your product.

Storytelling is a key element in all great advertisements. It operates under the similar hero, villain and struggle theme used in films. The product solves a key problem/struggle that a person is dealing with and helps make the world a better place.

Guinness’s latest Advertisement serves as an excellent demonstration of this. A man is living in poverty in urban LA where he cares for an abandoned horse destined for the slaughter. It relays his passion for horses and how this love has given his life meaning. The ad encompasses Guinness’s overall mission of encapsulating passion and character while representing being more than a beer.

The Master Storyteller

Steve Jobs was an expert at using storytelling in Apple product launches. He was also a big proponent for incorporating storytelling into Apple’s overall marketing strategy. Jobs always followed excellent storytelling practice keeping his messages clear, concise, and compelling. He frequently positioned competitors like IBM and the PC as villains and Neantherthals. Meanwhile, Apple was attempting to rescue the technology world with their innovation.

Complexity is the enemy in storytelling. People must leave understanding what your marketing is trying to tell them. If not then your marketing has failed. Steve Jobs was excellent at presenting his marketing message. His language and stories were always simple and easy to understand supported with dashes of humour. This made his marketing message easily palatable for the audience.

“An iPod is 1000 songs in your pocket”. He would start with a struggle people had and their questions. Before finally ending with the declaration that Apple’s new product represents the ultimate solution.

Tell Stories

In conclusion, storytelling is a massive part of our day to day life. Utilising storytelling can help your business forge a better connection with consumers while also eliciting action. Place storytelling at the heart of your marketing and advertising efforts to help people understand your brand. Tell stories!