Why Storytelling Matters
It’s a buzzword, right up there with “authentic.” “Storytelling” has pushed its way into our marketing dialect, wedging itself into every meeting, and every brainstorming session.
Why? Because storytelling matters. It always has, ever since cave paintings were first convincing people to buy mammoth coats. You begin to tell a good story, and people might stick around to hear what you have to say.
But why are we seeing such an emphatic return to the heyday of storytelling now? Because more than ever, we are being inundated with content across all mediums. With such a variety of options by which to convey an idea, a message, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the piece that moves us — the piece that breaks through the clutter, that makes us feel, and that connects us — is the story.
The natural advocacy born out of sharing a great experience with others is perhaps the newest and most valued brand currency today. Those shares, reposts, and @mentions are not only the results of people FEELING something; they result from a deep desire to share that feeling with others. To extend the reach of that feeling.
And that desire for shareable feelings, is exactly why the experience, is in demand. Consumers want those shareable moments, and smart brands are realizing this. No longer will a simple spot or isolated interaction form that lasting connection. Well-crafted stories will.
Rules to Live By
When brands are looking to make meaningful connections with consumers, how can great storytelling make an impact?
Root your story in a strong insight.
Don’t let your strategy end at audience research, a good idea should be informed by a solid understanding of the current landscape. Find the nugget — that little spark of genius that lends itself to a brilliant story. A simple insight creates cohesion, clarity and a connection that is immediately obvious to the experiencer.
Over a decade ago, Dove nailed one simple insight that informed their world-renowned “Real Beauty” campaign. Coca-Cola secured serious press, with “Friendly Twist,” after a simple insight about college freshmen sparked a brilliant creative solution.
Be the ultimate one-upper. A reactive model can be a good model; Listen to your audience, and behave accordingly. Content now moves at such a rapid pace and the ability to switch on a dime — to be responsive — rings well with audiences. Creating passionate advocates through experience happens in these opportunistic moments, where reaction time means everything.
Take for example the newly successful Dominos brand, which has recently greatly improved its agility, as seen in campaigns like Pizza Turnaround and Emoji Ordering. Continuous creative solutions to real-time problems will generate big hype.
Yes, we are actually using the word authentic. Because buzzword or not, authenticity matters when telling your brand’s story. Authenticity isn’t about “giving back” or ensuring that your brand is doing what other “good brands” are doing. It’s about being who YOU are. Telling a consistent and thoughtful story through experiences, content and engagements that speak directly to your brand’s personality.
A Few Tools for the Shed
An experience should tell a story that is folded into every single moment and element. The experience of things is about creating value in every single interaction. Recognizing that engagements are opportunities to build emotional equity… To make people feel. Here are a few tips for doing it right:
Think every moment.
- Set the tone, by making every detail meaningful from the very first interaction.
- Consider the importance of finding new opportunities for engagement. Ladder these moments to build intrigue along the way. There are ways to make these seemingly mundane (but necessary) interactions (such as event registration, or picking your luggage at baggage claim) extraordinary.
- Offer a teaser. How are you building excitement and showing personality? You want your attendee to be putty in your hands, to already feel something before they arrive. So help yourself by creating an engaging pre-experience.
- Technology is not the idea. It is a tool and a mechanism to tell a story but not the idea itself. Projection mapping, for example, is not a concept unto itself; it’s how you use it that becomes one. Audiences can see right through gimmicks. Instead, sync your strategy and concepts first, and then utilize the amazing technology around you to make it sing.
- All-screen experiences. Make sure to think through the second-, third-, and fourth-screen experience to tell an engaging and layered story. Exceed expectations with moments that surprise. Each screen offers another layer of depth to your story, another chapter, and each one is an opportunity to make stronger connections.
- Be social; don’t do social. Social is your biggest advocacy platform, not an add-on. Embrace this opportunity for successful and shareable storytelling. Understanding your audience and becoming a part of their story, is the result of a meaningful connection made
- Avoid going to market the way you always have, just because it’s comfortable. Instead, think through your end goal. Show your audience, and not just tell them, how your brand will fit into their lives. Take Dixie for example, which recently engaged a new audience with a non-traditional approach.
- Create a connection that is personal. Through customizing experiences and journeys to your specific audiences. Take digital advertising for example, where big data allows for a more precise approach. Our online experience is more targeted than ever, and ultimately more valuable. Our offline experiences need to evolve toward the personal, too.
One Final Note
The storytelling of an idea is just as important as the idea itself. Through carefully designed experiences, great storytelling builds connections, meaningful and memorable connections, that stick.
For a brand, an agency, or a consumer, the ultimate return on investment is that lasting connection. Those moments – when a brand’s goals meet thoughtful creative that aligns perfectly with its audience – impact perceptions, memories and ultimately…actions.