What is Storytelling in Marketing? | Digital Masters

Episode #20

What is Storytelling in Marketing?

marketing storytelling

A few years ago, I sincerely thought that I wouldn’t be a coder or a marketer for much longer. My original career trajectory was to get my PhD and then teach Literature at the university level. I was just coding and working in marketing to pay my way through school (or so I thought).

When life happened and my side hustle started to morph into my full-time gig, something new was coming into marketing that made me excited about that life shift. What was that trend?

Marketing storytelling.

It’s been about 10 years now since storytelling was the predominant method to marketing, but that doesn’t mean the concept is always easy to understand.

When we think of stories, we think of heroes and larger than life moments. We think of fictional characters and people we might want to be like. We don’t often think of a brand or corporation.

That’s actually one of the hardest parts about storytelling when it comes to marketing. You have to take this seemingly inhuman thing – a company – and give it humanity that we can and want to connect to.

If you’ve been struggling with how to create your own brand story, knowing what you need to do, and how you want to present your own brand, let me help.

Buckle up, because we’re going to talk about the main components in a brand story, what our goals should be, and how to craft your own brand story.

It’s Not About You

Literally the biggest mistake I see a lot of people make is making the brand the main character. But in a good brand story, the main character isn’t you, or the face of your company, or the brand – it’s actually your ideal customer.

Let me explain a bit. A good brand story isn’t just how a brand came to be and what services or products they offer. Let’s be honest, that would be kind of boring. The confusion in thinking the brand is the main story and therefore needs to have some sort of drama is how you get those hugely long posts on LinkedIn that are supposed to be gut-wrenching or thought provoking (but they’re often just trite) or those diatribes on Instagram about all the hurdles a founder has overcome.

When you’re crafting your brand story, you need to focus first on your ideal customer, not the brand. Give that customer a name and some personality traits you think they’ll have. Then, ask yourself what that ideal customer wants. What do they struggle with? What problems are they facing?

Your brand story starts in this gap because with those answers, you should be answering how your company and its services or products helps your ideal customer solve those problems. What value are you providing them and how are you making their life easier?

That’s the start of your brand story. How you help, how you solve problems, and the value your ideal customer finds in working with your versus a competitor.

Always keep the focus on them. That doesn’t mean that you don’t share the personal pieces that led you to start a business or those uniquely human things about you and your company, but you always want to look at it through the lens of how that relates back to that ideal customer. Why do they care about that?

With storytelling, our goal should be to:

  • Spark emotion
  • Raise trust and awareness
  • Start conversations
  • Propel our story forward through our customers

A good brand story that customers care about is how you start engagement, how you get them to share your posts, and how you get them to carry that story forward. This is especially important when it comes to your social media marketing and content marketing.

Finding & Writing Your Brand Story

First things first – a brand story has to be authentic to the actual brand. You can’t fake a story because your audience will be able to spot that fake and they will punish you for it.

If you want to look like a brand that cares about your local community, you have to actually do things in your local community. If you want to have excellent, friendly customer care to be part of your brand story, you have to actually provide that high level of customer care. See where I’m going with this?

Chances are that you already have some components of your brand story ready to go. And if you’re helping a client craft their brand story to use on their website, there are definitely places where you can start instead of having to do hours of interviews to get it.

Places to find your story:

  • Your company mission, a day in life, heritage, community outreach
  • Products’ special history or lore, any influencers that use them, unique features or special uses
  • Customer success stories
  • What’s special about your brand, your logo?
  • How have you’ve grown since you started?
  • Your employees, their relationship to your products/services, their community causes

All of these are a great place to start to put something together. Keep track of the things that stick out to you and what you think your ideal customer will care most about.

Putting Your Brand Story Together

Now, open up a Google Doc or get a notebook and write down the most common five or six themes that you notice. Rank those and choose types of content that you can share to showcase that part of your brand story.

Remember, you don’t have to fit everything in every single post. A common method is to choose a few “pillars” or main focuses that you want to share in social posts, blogs, videos, etc. Each pillar can give you a broad topic from your brand story and you can drill down from there with something more specific.

When you can, back up that part of your brand story with a customer experience or success story. Seeing how it’s helped someone like them will help your ideal customer connect better and builds trust that you can help them, too.

Don’t Be Afraid of Personality

This is easier said than done, but your brand story needs to have some personality to it. After all, we’re telling a story here! Give it some humanity and find the right voice to attract your ideal customer. You can be sarcastic, witty, calm, caring, understanding, lively, funny, or professional; you just have to keep it consistent across the board and make it feel like a real-live person is telling this story.

Stories Are Shareable

The most important part of brand storytelling? It helps our customers connect to us and our businesses like nothing else. More and more people buy a product or service because of who is behind the business as much as how the business helps them.

By their nature of being engaging and emotive, stories help us to connect to our ideal audience and gives us content that is inherently shareable.

A good brand story can gain a life of its own and continue on beyond your own marketing channels. In fact, that’s kind of the goal. It will help your customers connect with you in a way that traditional marketing just can’t do.

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