The goal of marketing campaigns today is no longer simply about convincing the target audience to buy your products or services but also about allowing them to relate to the brand.
Most businesses can present all the data and facts concerning the efficacy of their product, but brands that can reach their audience at an emotional level will more likely be the ones that stick.
This is where storytelling as a marketing strategy comes in. Stories can help businesses build trust among their target audiences. What were the humble beginnings of the company? What challenges did the team overcome? How does the business impact the community? These are some angles for a good story that audiences can relate to.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at storytelling as a marketing strategy: what it is and why you should use it. I’ll also offer you tips on how to use storytelling effectively to engage your readers and make your brand memorable.
While companies compete for the attention of their audiences by trying different strategies to make their brand stand out, people are bombarded by content—be it on the internet, television, newspapers, magazines, and others. When potential customers don’t like what they see, they move on to the next one. It just takes one glance for us to decide if we like something or not.
Storytelling allows brands to reach out to people, communicate the brand message, and prompt them to do the desired action. If the goal is to get people to buy a product or service, and the marketing campaign is able to lead them from being passive audiences to paying customers, then that’s a successful campaign.
Captivating your target audience is the point of storytelling. For most people, brands are just this distant, faceless, emotionless thing that doesn’t matter. But if you can make an emotional connection with them through storytelling, then your brand will be memorable and will begin to matter to the people, thus reducing your competition.
In marketing, storytelling is communicating a brand’s message or idea through a narrative—it can be done visually, verbally, or through writing. When you tell a true story it improves your credibility, authenticity, and sincerity. This form of marketing impacts your target market at an emotional level because your brand becomes more relatable. And, of course, we all love a good story.
Storytelling has been a part of human history since the dawn of time. Stories can be a form of art, entertainment, or knowledge being shared. Either way, it is in our nature to want to gather around a storyteller—it’s something that sparks our interests and captivates our imagination. That hasn’t changed, even now, with all the technology that we have.
Even on social media, posts that tell visual stories get more engagement like shares, likes, and comments. People are no longer easily convinced by the same old ads and sales pitches. Any brand can claim to be the best, the first, the most effective, and other superlatives.
On television ads, any brand of soap can kill 99.99% of germs. But when the ad tells a story of a boy coming home with a wounded knee and the mom washing it with soap, it’s no longer about just killing germs but taking care of the family. The product becomes connected to a bigger idea which is a parent caring for their child, and that’s what the audiences remember when they think of the brand.
Another great example is the Dove Real Beauty campaign. In 2004, Unilever launched this worldwide campaign with the aim of building self-confidence among women and also young children. Dove wanted to share with the world a vision where beauty becomes a source of confidence among people so that they can enjoy a positive relationship with their physical appearance, raise their self-esteem and find their way to their full potential.
In the same way that we love stories, we also have our own stories to tell. What’s your brand’s story? This is an important question to ask. Once you know what you want to share, then it’s time to match it with your target audience.
A story is only successful if it’s well-received by the audience and you get the response that you expected. Before you can get there, you first have to define who your target audience is. When the emotional connection between brand and customer is built, they will take it to social media, where the conversation among consumers and your brand can continue.
To define who your target audience is, you can start with demographics. Who are they, and where are they from? Just knowing these two can help you in aligning your brand’s story better.
The next step is creating a persona. What are the age, gender, job, and hobbies of your target market? This can further improve how you tell the story so that it becomes more relatable.
When you’ve defined your target audience, it’s time to set the goal for telling the story. The goal should be measurable, so you’ll know whether it’s effective or not. You can start by setting small and realistic goals.
Let’s say you want a thousand visitors to your site every week. Break down the steps you have to do to achieve that goal. Of course, you have to do your keyword research and use them strategically in your content. Then you need to know which platforms to share your content on.
Be as specific as possible. These steps are all measurable. You can use Google Analytics to check whether the keywords you’re targeting are performing well and you’re getting the volume of traffic you want.
The point of storytelling in marketing is not just to share a story but it is to persuade your audience to do a specific set of actions. The six principles of persuasion are reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity.
Dr. Robert B. Cialdini provides the “6 Principles of Influence” in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, an important book for anyone who wants to optimize conversion.
Reciprocity. This idea states that we naturally feel obligated to return favors whenever we receive them. The psychology behind this is simple: We don’t like feeling indebted to others. When you offer something of value to the visitors of your site, like free tips and other useful information, they will be more likely to buy your product or service.
Commitment. We like consistency. When we commit to someone or something, we aim to deliver on what we promise because we want to preserve our self-image. When you can get your visitors to make a small commitment like signing up for the newsletter, their self-perception changes from being mere visitors to customers. It becomes much easier to make a follow-up and offer them your product or service.
Social Proof. With this principle, Cialdini states that people will most likely do what they see others doing. This works if the target audience is unsure, and they see the people they’re observing as similar to them. We like to behave the same way as the rest because it makes us feel safe not being different from them.
One way that this happens today is through customer reviews. Before people buy a product, they usually search online for reviews to know what the buyers’ opinions are. When people see positive reviews, they’re more likely to buy the product since previous customers have been happy with their purchase.
Authority. Another thing that’s part of our human nature is that we obey whoever it is that we see as the authority figure. We see doctors in ads of pharmaceutical companies and believe in them because they’re experts in their field. The same idea can work in any industry, from fashion to finance and more.
Liking. A person will most likely be persuaded by someone if they like that person, to begin with. This is why storytelling is important for brands because it gives people the chance to relate to the company. The more the brand becomes relatable, the more it also becomes more likeable.
Scarcity. Most of us have this fear of missing out. When something is in limited supply or availability, it becomes more attractive and more valuable. Consumers are more likely to take action when they find out that the product is the last one or if a good discount is expiring soon.
You may choose to use a combination of these principles for your marketing campaign. It’s also a good idea to test which ones work best for your specific product or service. For example, one principle suggests that when potential customers like a person, they’re more easily convinced when they recommend a brand.
That’s why brands partner with celebrities and other famous people with a large following because they can persuade more people to perform a specific set of actions such as buy a product or try a service. If you have a great story and you choose the right person to represent the brand, then that becomes a powerful combination to help you reach your marketing goals.
Don’t feel daunted at the thought of developing a content strategy. It simply means preparing a plan on how you’ll create content, how and where you’ll promote it, and how you’re going to test the marketing campaign. It’s also crucial to track each stage of the process, so you’ll know how you’re progressing.
Having a strategy will give you the chance to understand your audience, develop your content, and know the best way to share it so your campaign can be as effective as possible. It’s important to know how you’re going to tell the story—will it be through a series of blog posts, a combination of videos, or through podcasts? You can use social media, for example, to leverage your campaign.
Keep a record of how you were able to get your leads, as well as your sales. With this record, you’ll be able to see what trends are in place and use them in your future content strategies and marketing campaigns.
Storytelling is not only about sharing your brand’s story. It would benefit your business if you also listened to what your audience had to say. You may also take advantage of social media platforms for this. Are your target audiences talking about the story you shared? What are their reactions and comments? See to it that you are actively participating in the discussions.
If you want to use storytelling and make the most of it, you need to measure the story’s impact on your audiences. It’s crucial to plan, execute, and learn consistently so you can adjust and adapt to what your target market wants and expects. Which, again, emphasizes the need to keep track of progress.
In social media, you can measure the impact of your story through the engagement you get from your audiences. Look into the likes, comments, messages, and shares to understand how the story affected them.
It’s also important to observe other marketing campaigns from different brands. Learn what you can from them so you’ll gain insight into what works and what doesn’t. Strive for your story to pull your audiences closer and get to know your brand more. Don’t forget to engage them and continue the conversation on various platforms.
Your brand’s influence does not end when the story ends. Keep on engaging and responding to your audiences because sharing your brand’s story is only the starting point of a genuine and long-lasting relationship with your customers.
Lozi Mabunga is a writer and content marketing consultant since 2009. She provides content writing services while also teaching others how they can start their content writing careers. She shares her expertise through her website LoziMabunga.com.