Storytelling marketing: Why telling a story sells

Posted by Kirstie Hogg on January 15, 2020

storytelling online

Are you familiar with storytelling in marketing?

It’s time to get real. Because your audience is real. Hard selling and cliche posts are not going to cut it in the digital world of marketing. 

It’s hard to grab your audience’s attention between all the digital noise.

From ancient days, storytelling has been one of the most prominent forms of exchanging information. Humans love stories. We enjoy listening to and sharing a great story.

“Humans need stories. Stories are good. Stories work. Story clarifies and captures the essence of the human spirit. Story, in all its forms—of life, of love, of knowledge—has traced the upward surge of mankind. And story, you mark my words, will be with the last human to draw breath. – Jasper Fforde

Storytelling is missing from digital content. Most of what ends up online goes unnoticed. Even if marketers spend hours perfecting content, be it videos, images or words, it will not create a big impact if it’s not telling your audience a story.

Why storytelling in marketing is so effective

Our love of stories is anything but random. There are reasons why we love them so much. They have a big impact on us:

Stories increase a hormone called oxytocin

Oxytocin is linked to increased levels of trust, compassion, and empathy. It’s also known as a “feel good” hormone. An increase in this hormone can help reduce stress while promoting positive social behavior. This helps us build connections with others. Brands can use this as a powerful tool to build an engaged audience and lasting relationships.

Stories activate sensory centers in our brains

Facts activate the data processing centers in our brains. But stories activate the sensory centers in our brains. A group of neuroscientists at Princeton University found (in agreement with previous research) that “story evoked highly reliable activity in many brain areas across all listeners.” They even noticed that a successful connection enabled speakers and listeners to share the same response patterns in the brain. So, in other words, in an MRI, both the storyteller’s and listener’s brains would light up in the exact same areas. Therefore, if you share a well-told story with someone, the listener’s brain will react as though they are experiencing it for themself.

We are empathetic

We place ourselves into stories. We feel different emotions when listening to or watching a story. Think about the emotions you feel when seeing sad scenes from Disney movies, such as Bambi’s mother being killed by a hunter in the movie Bambi or Mufasa falling and getting trampled by wildebeest in The Lion King. This is because we gain a sense of connection with the characters in stories and feel their emotions – be it a real character or a cartoon character. We feel as though we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

How storytelling in marketing affects consumers

If you tell a great story, no one’s going to care if it’s an ad. 

Today’s consumers are less susceptible to hard selling. People are looking for your brand’s narrative. It’s not always about who’s offering cheaper products or services. It’s about who’s telling their story well. 

Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn devised an experiment called Significant Objects. It demonstrated the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively. By adding narratives to objects, they were able to increase the value of objects by over 20 times. This is just one of the many powerful effects of storytelling. 

Storytelling in marketing shows your audience authenticity. It outlines experiences, challenges faced and solutions found. By inspiring, entertaining and genuinely crafting content to help other people, you will reach and potentially convert your potential consumers. 

4 Examples of amazing storytelling marketing campaigns

1. John Lewis Home Insurance – Tiny Dancer

John Lewis is a UK-based department store chain who produced the video Tiny Dancer in 2015. In the video you see a little girl dancing around her home – almost knocking household items over. We watch the little girl dance around the house without a worry in the world!

The advert’s message is that you can do what you love without having to worry about your items as John Lewis covers your household items. 

2. National Geographic – Wildlife Stories

National Geographic incorporates stories accompanied by images of wildlife into their social media strategy. It’s almost impossible to scroll past any of their posts without reading each story!

Powerful visuals together with heartwarming and interesting stories have captivated their audience and increased their following.

 

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In this episode we witness one of the Arctic’s most magical moments. With the help of a one-of-a-kind local tracker, @bertiegregory finds a female polar bear fresh out of her winter den with her tiny new cub. We see ultimate cuteness as the cub explores the world outside for the first time. Their irresistible interactions distract from the fact that the mother bear is actually making an impossible decision. The mother has spent the last eight months starving, so she is eager to rush to the ocean where she can hunt. But to reach the seal feast means a 40-mile trek. Does she wait to allow the cub to gain strength for the long trek, or does she head out to sea to make sure her milk doesn’t dry up? We also follow a young female bear in her first moments of independence, having been kicked out by her mother. She has spent the last two and a half years with her mother preparing for this moment, but she quickly manages to get herself into trouble. Will she be able to survive a wolf on the hunt? Content sponsored by Destination Canada.

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3. Volkswagen – Moments

The advert uses a story to promote Volvo’s automatic stop feature, which can prevent accidents. The commercial shows a little girl speaking to her mother about adventures she’ll have in her life while overcoming her fear about her first day of school. While moments she describes flashes by, we see another story playing out as well – a distracted woman driving to work. The stories merge. Although nerve-wracking, it all ends positively.

4. Budweiser – Someone waits for you at home

Most people love dogs, which is why this advert is so memorable. It sends out a message through the eyes of a dog: “Don’t drink and drive”. 

How to incorporate digital storytelling into your marketing strategy

Make your audience care about your brand as much as you do. Whether they care emotionally, intellectually, or aesthetically. Your digital stories are a way you can connect with your online audience and enable them to experience similarities between your brand and themselves. 

Your audience should understand where you’re from, what obstacles you’re facing, the efforts you’re making and what you’re striving for as a brand. This is a great way to get them to develop empathy for your brand.

Creating a storytelling strategy can take time. But, there are quick ways to start telling your story online.

About us 

 The About Us – or Meet the Team or whatever you call it – page if the second most visited page on most websites after the Home Page. This is because people want to read your story and find out more about why you do what you do. Give your audience the narrative they’re looking for. You can explain when and why your company started, your vision and the overall evolution of your company. Let them know what you’re striving towards and how you hope to get there. Humans love visuals! So, add team and office photos.

Case studies 

Creating case studies is an excellent way to bring a series of stories to your audience. You can create a connection between your audience and a problem you’ve helped solve. This will also bring to light a similar problem someone in your audience may have. If they relate to a problem, they might ask you to help them!

Meet the team

This is something many companies have already done. But, have your team members told your audience their own stories? It’s a great way to create relatable content and get your audience to connect with your brand.

Images 

Our phones give us the ability to take high-quality photos at any given time. You can share photos on Instagram with a short story. A simple story, such as an experience with a client or a small success of the day is enough to start getting people interested in your content.

Videos 

Videos are one of the most effective ways to tell stories online. They’re taking over the internet. You either need to source the tools to start creating video content or work with an agency to produce quality videos. 

Conclusion

However you tell your story, make sure you share something great. Whether it’s heartbreaking, heartwarming, motivating, funny, amazing or just entertaining, create an experience that matters and you’ll create an audience that cares.

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Are you ready to tell your story? Let us help you. Fill in our contact form and we’ll set up a coffee date to discuss your business. 

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