Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to market and sellyour brand. Companies like Nike tell the story of ordinary people doingextraordinary things through perseverance. “Just Do It,” doesn’t justmean to do something. It means to be strong, to fight, and to push.Coca-Cola tells a story of love and world peace. Is it practical tothink that Cola can bring about harmony to a world torn apart by war and pain? Of course not. But around the holidays when you see those PolarBears drinking a Coke, you might think otherwise.
Both of these are powerful examples of what a story can do for abrand. But Nike and Coke are not the only companies that need to tellstories. Every business needs to tell stories to captivate their targetaudience and convert them into paying customers.
Your “About Us,” pageof your website should tell a compelling story about your brand. Youradvertising efforts should all tell stories that connect your audienceto your product. They should feel like a part of your business and canrelate to what it is that you are selling.
1. Follow The Classic Story Pattern
Classic stories work for a reason. There is a tried and true methodto take the reader or listener on a journey. You know what to expect.You know who to cheer for and who to hate. And you know what to expect(except when it comes to the conflict and the climax – nobody should beable to anticipate what they will be).
One example of classic story patterns is “The Hero’s Journey,” inwhich a person seeks to right a wrong or overcome their past. Another is the “Coming of Age” story in which a young man or woman grows up andlearns about the trials of life. This story format works becauseeveryone has experienced something similar. You might not haveexperienced your best friend have a Bar Mitzvah on your 13th birthday,like Kevin Arnold did in “The Wonder Years.” But you have experiencedfriendship and disappointment. Stick to a classic story pattern, and you will instantly be more relatable to your audience.
2. Be Authentic
The best way to tell a story is to tell a true story. If your familystarted their business in their basement and struggled to make endsmeet, tell that story in the most genuine way possible. Don’t try totell the story about how your pasta is better than the other pasta. Tell the story of your grandmother throwing pasta on her ceiling when shewas 16 because she just knew she wanted to cook for a living. In yourcommercials, make your actors look relatable, like an “every man.” Haveinterviews with real people in your advertisements. Engage with yourcustomers on social media. The bottom line is this: be likeable andreal.
3. Don’t Sell Your Product
I can hear you screaming at your computer. “Don’t sell my product?What’s the point of all this awesome storytelling information if I can’t use it to sell my product?” I get it. But hang on. You aren’t going tosell your product. You are going to allow your story to sell your brand. Consumers are smart. They receive thousands neural signals constantly.They are bombarded with advertising, and they can sense a sales pitchform across a football field. All you will do if you try to blatantlysell your product is to scare away your customers. Instead, become solikeable that your viewers choose to support your brand.
Consider the recent Budweiser advertisement that sought to reduce drunk driving. The lead in the commercial isshown adopting a puppy. The puppy grows up throughout the commercial,and we see the man playing with him and bonding throughout his life.Then the man leaves for a night of drinking with his friends. The dogwaits…. and waits…. Morning comes, and we are left to believe the manhas been killed in a car accident – the dog’s fate unknown. Finally, the man returns and tells his dog he slept at a friend’s house. Nowhere inthe commercial does Budweiser make a comment about their beer beingbetter than other beer. All they say is this
4. Match Your Story to The Format
Telling a story visually requires different skills than telling astory orally because people respond differently when they are listeningthan when they are watching something. When you are writing your storyfor audio formats (like a commercial, or in-person sales call) considerthe tone and volume of the speaker’s voice, hand gestures, and facialexpressions. When you’re telling your story visually (on your “AboutUs,” page or in a magazine) consider the pacing of the story, the layout of the page, and readability. Include visuals and charts/graphs ifapplicable.
5. Make The Conflict Clear
The conflict is, arguably, the most important part of a good story.The hero must rise to overcome some obstacle. Without overcoming achallenge, he cannot grow. And characters that don’t grow (staticcharacters) are not interesting or relatable. When you are telling astory, whether it’s the story of how your business got started, or afictional commercial about a man racing to catch a bus and ultimatelyrunning into the woman who will become his wife, you must make theconflict absolutely clear. Make the audience care about what’s at stake.
People are social creatures. We love to talk about ourselves andother people. We don’t like facts and data as much as we love a goodstory. It’s the reason why cinema and excellent novels will never become outdated. Man has been telling stories since the dawn of time. Evenwithout a written language, we managed to pass stories from generationto generation.
Stories bind us together in a way that nothing else can. When we hear a story about something or someone that we can relate to, weinadvertently care more about that person because we see ourselves inthem. It’s essential for marketers to understand this fact. If you cancreate a story for your brand that people will care about, you will find that more people are willing to listen to your pitch or consider usingyour product. Remember, your brand is replaceable. Your story is not.