Is "Storytelling" Still a Thing?
Brands that tell stories develop loyal, relationships with customers, said everyone. Regurgitating lists of features and benefits isn’t storytelling or branding; it’s lazy marketing. And it can paint you as irrelevant, or even invisible.
For a while there, “storytelling” was all the fashion in marketing circles. Couched in pseudo psychobabble, with a dash of Mr. Rogers encouragement and a hug, agencies of all kinds touted their skills at doing so without ever really describing what it is, exactly, and how it should be expected to affect your brand.
Well. Let’s fix that.
What is brand storytelling, and what does it do (if it works at all)?
Marketing that gives your customers real reasons to take action about something they care about is brand storytelling. And that something isn’t your brand.
Your brand is never the hero in these stories. Your customer is.
Why is this so difficult to do right? Let’s break it down:
Reason is a head thing.
Care is a heart thing.
When your stories address both, your customer can see themselves in the mirror of your brand so clearly that they decide to do a specific thing as a result.
Not so easy.
If you manage to pull this off consistently, the rewards you reap as a brand are significant, namely:
By not hawking your wares, you set the stage for a story. You demonstrate generosity and genuineness by embracing the good, the bad, and the ugly truth about your customer’s lives at moments when your brand promise can intersect.
The seeds of trust are shown by accurately and truthfully reflecting your knowledge and understanding of the critical emotional and situational drivers in your customer’s lives. Subconsciously, we want the customer to recognize themselves in the stories we tell.
Behaving in this way opens the door for you and your customer to interact.
Repeat: Interact. We haven’t said anything about “brand loyalty” or “long-term commitment” here.
“Research” is always the first step
Listening to your customer’s voice, defining who that customer is, and defining their behaviors as it relates to your brand offering isn’t only good marketing; it’s showing your customer how much you respect them. Research informs everything we do at BSLLC. We’re confident our kind of research will help your brand — and help your customer. Contact Ben Greenberg to get started
Are you just talking about “emotionally-charged creative?”
We are not.
We are talking about relative creative: content that demonstrates an acute awareness of customer dreams, problems, and emotions, especially during critical moments of decision-making.
The magic word back there, of course, is “relative.”
To get tactical for a moment, consider:
At your next brand meeting, instead of a fact-filled PowerPoint of mostly tables and charts, how would you communicate the same information in a human story that is meaningful to the audience watching and listening?
How would you craft a real-life case study instead of showing your product and a spec sheet to a prospective customer?
In order to make these stories compelling — that is, powerful enough that the hearer / reader / watcher is moved to act — requires that you understand the intersection of that customer and your brand, intimately.
Think outside the creative.
Don’t just restrict the concept of storytelling to creative. Storytelling can extend to any aspect of your brand that expresses why your brand exists. This can include product design, packaging, educational materials, experiences and events, and more. Anything that can empower a more profound exchange or connection with your customer can be made part of the narrative. Hence the term “shared narrative.”
How do I get my brand started — or at least more consistent — with storytelling?
Like all of the most successful marketing activities, it starts with a thorough understanding of your customer’s life. Describe, in detail, what you know about the circumstances surrounding your customers and their problem or aspiration that intersects with your brand.
This mindset is known as “Jobs To Be Done” theory, and we use it every day at BS LLC. In practice, it gives you a clearly defined, multistep rubric that breaks down virtually any decision-making process. This process can reveal opportunity gaps that your brand can enter, providing hard-core value for your customers where they are seeking it most.
With these gaps listed, you can now create a narrative around your customer. (Or rather, your customer persona. Personas and archetypes are essential building blocks for brands and their stories.)
Don’t get creative with the narrative; think like a journalist or biographer. Generate authentic, realistic approaches that reveal the challenge and the job to be done — the “goal” of any hero’s journey.
Now, look at your marketing mix from top to bottom.
From social to email marketing, from traditional advertising to packaging, and yes, even product design and innovation, let this story guide everything.
We told you this wasn’t fluffy.
If you’ve never given this process a good run for its money, we encourage you to do so. It builds consistency and brings a sharp “customer lens” to every aspect of your brand.
BS LLC offers branding, strategy, and design solutions because we believe businesses operate at their highest growth potential when guided by a holistic set of values and goals.
If you would like to learn more about how BS LLC can help you grow from the inside out, please send us a message or give us a call. Additionally, you can take an in-depth look at our services and resources. Contact Ben Greenberg