The benefits of using storytelling in your digital marketing
When we think ‘storytelling’, we might think of children and story time but the reality is that, no matter how old we get, we all still love a good story. The question is: are you making the most of this love of a great story in your digital marketing plan?
Storytelling in marketing: what is it?
Storytelling in marketing (or business), in lots of ways, is the same as garden variety storytelling in whatever form that might take in your life: over drinks at the pub, at bedtime with the kids, talking about your latest first date disaster. It’s about creating a narrative, being expressive, showing emotion and creating a connection between you and the listener. You avoid unnecessary and dull statistics and focus instead on allowing your listeners to get to know your authentic self i.e. who your company actually is and what you stand for.
The crucial point to remember is that we’re talking about a way to show your true personality, which means that the stories you tell can’t be works of fiction. To be successful the stories need to be genuine and true works of nonfiction.
“You have to tell the truth and then spin the story for marketing purposes. Obviously you need good products but the success of many brands is linked to emotion. A strong story based in reality will bring your message and values to life in a way the consumer can believe in.”
- John Stapleton co-founder of New Covent Garden Soup Co.
What are the benefits of using storytelling in your digital marketing?
It allows your brand personality to shine through.
There are some things that, if you’re doing it correctly, shouldn’t need to be said in your marketing. Your brand values are a key example of this and are the number one thing that should be shown in how you present yourself rather than said in how you describe yourself.
If you meet someone new IRL, they don’t have to tell what you sort of person they are: you’ll figure it out from how you find yourself responding to them.
If they’re funny, you’ll smile and laugh.
If they’re strait-laced, you’ll notice them flinching at your innuendo-based gag.
If they’re standoffish, you’ll feel the divide between you and them.
Applying this back to brand marketing, let’s take the Innocent brand as an example. Ignore for a second if you personally like them and instead ask yourself how you’d describe them. Hopefully, your answer is something like:
- Fun doesn’t take themselves seriously
- Keen to do things their own way
They’ve never told me this: I feel it when I read their Dad jokes on Facebook, when I see the smoothie bottles with hats on, when I see how they interact with their follower on Twitter or when I see one of their ads on tv.
It makes you more memorable.
If someone were to reel off a series of facts, it’d be tough to remember them all. Facts are cold, clinical and devoid of any emotional attachment if they’re just listed in isolation. In some sense, it is the difference between listing the Features of your product/service vs. the Benefits offered to your clients by your product/service. Storytelling is about how you craft those benefits together into a story that resonates with your clients.
Think about the Coca-Cola Christmas ad: it’s become so closely inter-linked with Christmas that it’s not quite Christmas without the ad. The advert has nothing to do with what Coca-Cola actually is but rather it makes it a part of Christmas so that you begin to view it in the same way that you might, say, a Christmas tree.
It transforms your relationship with your client into a journey.
Even if you’re business is about selling one-off goods, you still want them to come back and make more purchases from you again in the future. After all, we all know that existing customers are more likely to buy again and, with the cost of acquiring new customers, we want to do our best to keep hold of them for as long as we can.
Creating the emotional contact through authentic storytelling helps bond people in a far more enduring way. My example for this point: Apple. Of course, they were going to make it onto this list because, above all else, Apple is a marketing machine and their customers reward them with their unwavering loyalty. We will pay over the odds for the latest iPhone (without thinking twice) because of what we feel having that phone says about us and what it means to us. Names like ‘Cult of Mac’ are spot-on to describe the long-term strength of feeling Apple fans have about Apple.
It sets you apart from your competition.
And isn’t this why we do most things as a business? We do it to create a competitive advantage to our rivals. For some, this still might involve focusing on the financial side of our offering - holding sales, cutting prices etc - but you needn’t diminish your offering down to being ‘cheap’ to be successful. Once again, let me remind you about Apple.
The differentiator becomes how your clients feel about your brand - something that is more permanent and persuasive than a one-time discount.
This time, think John Lewis. During the post-recession era in which discount retailers have come to the fore and a number of erstwhile High Street names have fallen by the wayside, they’ve stayed the course. How have they done it? Their story.
The John Lewis Christmas ad is now a modern-day Christmas staple. Last year, millions of people were waiting to see their Christmas ad played for the first time. Think about that - this isn’t Bey releasing Lemonade or the latest JK Rowling book release: it’s an ad. Just like the millions of DFS, Sofology, Go Compare ads we see all year round and, in all likeliness, irritate us. Can you imagine waiting around to be the first to see a new Go Compare ad? No! But right now millions of people are waiting for John Lewis’s ad and feeling excited about it.
Want some help in kicking this off in your business? Get in touch or tweet me @anthonyjohns0n and we can start crafting your story together.