This article was originally published on the Sprout Strategy website.
Telling stories is an essential part of being human. Stories let us communicate and share ideas in a way that establish strong emotional connections. An authentic and engaging story can elevate a brand above its competitors.
A story is an account of characters (real or imaginary) and events involving those characters leading to some conclusion or resolution. A brand story is a narrative that relates the facts and feelings behind an organisation[i]. Unlike traditional advertising, which is about promoting the features and benefits of the product or brand, a story should inspire an emotional reaction.
Why is storytelling so important for your business?
Behavioural economics tells us that 90 percent of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously and are emotionally driven[RW1] . We tend to choose brands and products we have a positive emotional connection with rather than basing decisions on rational facts. It is this ability to create strong emotional connections that makes storytelling such an effective tool for marketing and creating exceptional customer experiences.
According to research by Headstream, if people like a brand story, it is 55% likely that they will buy the product in the future, 44% will share and 15% will make an immediate purchase[ii]. Research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone.
It must be authentic
To be successful the stories you tell need to authentic. To tell an authentic story you need to go beyond the truth, you need to explain why people should care. One of the most successful and authentic storytelling campaigns in Australia was the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne. Designed by McCann marketing agency, the campaign was launched as part of the effort to reduce the number of serious and fatal accidents on Metro Trains rail network.
The campaign clearly captured the reality of most train accidents – that they are preventable and wouldn’t occur if the people involved didn’t do something dumb. By using off-beat humour and a musical hook, the video created an authentic story about ‘rail safety’ that people could easily relate to, connect with and remember. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw
Besides telling people why they should buy your product, the story needs to reveal who you are as an organisation, what you value and how you help your customers achieve their goals and objectives. Authenticity can be quite subjective. What feels authentic to one person may feel fake or superficial to another. You need to identify what’s important or relevant to your audience and how to connect this to what’s important to your brand.
Let the customer be the hero of your story
Customers are not interested in your organisation’s challenges or achievements. Certainly not as much as they are interested in their own. They want to know how you can help them achieve their goals or solve their problems. It is the customer who needs to be the hero of the story , not the brand. The story needs to highlight the journey the customer is on and their success in achieving their goals. The role of the brand is to be the narrator or the guide, taking the listener or the viewer on the journey with the customer hero.
The True North campaign by Great Northern Brewing Co, designed by Mediacomm, is a great example of branded storytelling where the brand is not the hero but the narrator of a compelling story. The story being told is of friends bonding in an outdoor setting. It does not overtly promote the product or the brand, rather connecting the product and the brand’s ethos of living a ‘good life’ with people’s emotional needs to belong and feel engaged with the natural world.
By telling a story that addresses the issues important to
your target audience, you can create a memorable and authentic experience that
resonates with them. Storytelling has become an
indispensable feature of modern marketing. Telling authentic stories will make
your company and its products more human in the eyes of your customers. It connects what is important to your audience
and their emotions with the purpose and core values of your organisation.