We all have our "aha!" moments. Sometimes it happens when we're pondering a problem or when we've had time to decompress and just relax. For marketers, an "aha!" moment could be the discovery of your brand's story.
Humans are programmed to share and receive stories - it's why so many public speakers are encouraged to incorporate storytelling into a presentation. Our sensory cortex lights up when we hear a good story and it helps listeners relate to the speaker through shared experiences. Marketers love using stories to connect with consumers and there's nothing more powerful than using stories to convert your audience into potential customers.
But brands can't tell just any old story - a brand story needs to resonate with your team and answer why your brand exists. At Zendesk, identifying the brand story led to the formation of Zendesk's new marketing campaign to show they are more than just customer service. "One of the amazing things that's come from finding our "why" is it's actually forced our entire organization to rethink our why and to rethink how we image ourselves to our audience," says Sarah Reed, Director of Content Marketing at Zendesk. "It's caused us to get back, heads down internally, and ask 'What's our messaging?'"
If finding your story is the first step, figuring out how to share your story is the next logical move. But you need to deliver your story in an appropriate manner. Think of a book you might read to a child before bed. You're probably not going to see SAT-level words scattered throughout the story or complicated metaphors to explain the plot. That's because the author recognizes his audience wouldn't understand language found in a novel for adults. Storytelling is about understanding who your audience is and speaking to them in a manner that makes it easy for them to digest your content.
Just like with Harry Potter, your brand story needs compelling characters. As marketers, we create personas or brand mascots that helps consumers connect with brands on a personal level. Think about the Geico gecko or Allstate's Mayhem character; they make insurance commercials entertaining and memorable for the viewer. When your consumers can relate to your characters, it creates an emotional connection to your brand that can lead to a lasting relationship.
For your brand story to be effective, it needs to be authentic. No preachy monologues or boring speeches. Your brand stories aren't marketing materials; rather, they influence the content created for marketing purposes. Take native advertising for example. Consumers are incredibly adept at sniffing out the difference between corporate advertisements and content created by thought leaders. In response to TiVo and Ad Blockers, brands have turned to social influencers and their creative teams to produce content that could easily be mistaken for a Buzzfeed trending article. Today's digital marketing is about navigating the roadblocks in place that prevent traditional advertisements from being effective while maintaining an an authentic, trustworthy voice.
In order to spread these brand messages marketers are putting increased pressure on branded content production, often outsourcing the content creation to third parties. Increasingly, however, businesses are beginning to build their own internal media hubs that provide the necessary content for marketing campaigns. Zendesk's recently launched sub-brand and content hub, Relate, stands on its own and even has its own event series.
"What we realized is you have to have an entire hub for creative," says Reed. "You have to have video, social media experts, designers, and that's a really challenging and expensive conquest for a lot of organizations." It's important to remember that all content needs to fit in the big picture - treat each advertisement as a chapter that contributes to an entire novel.
Producing content for the sake of having marketing materials is no longer effective. Every brand understands the importance of having content - the marketing industry is rapidly evolving and to stay ahead it begins with understanding your brand story. The marketers who can capture their brand's "why" are more effective in reaching their target audience and in building their brand's digital presence. Just like with any good story, start with the plot - your branding strategy can't move forward without a strong foundation.
Understand why you do what you do. The rest will come naturally.