Storytelling has a clear and essential value in marketing -- and no, it isn't simply meant to string customers along on some fantasy. Storytelling helps elucidate your brand's past and, most importantly, its purpose.
Consumers have a huge variety of choices today, and when things like price and quality are equal, customers judge brands by their purpose more than any other criteria. They want to buy from a company that they feel good about supporting.
Purpose, it turns out, is also important to employees. A study from Deloitte showed that over 80 percent of employees working for a purpose-driven company believed their business would grow in the coming year. They were also more likely to believe their clients were the top priority and less likely to feel that financial gain was the main focus.
When consumer research group Origin set out to quantify the storytelling advantage, it found some surprising results. Paintings with an artist's personal story increased in value by 11 percent, while two otherwise identical eBay listings commanded very different values. The post with a piece of short fiction attached to the product earned bids that were 64 percent higher.
While companies are getting fined left and right for making unsubstantiated claims and misleading customers with their marketing, there are still those that know the value of putting authentic stories front and center. Airbnb, for instance, devotes an entire section of its website to telling customer stories. Without customers, Airbnb and many other companies both within and outside the sharing economy would have no business.
Storytelling is an important part of any brand's marketing strategy, especially considering the increasingly crowded marketplace. To help draw in your audience, focus on these three strategies:
1. Produce heartfelt video content.
Video captures audiences in ways that other mediums just can't. There's a human tendency to empathize with what we see in others, making video a highly effective means of evoking emotions in the viewer. In fact, over half of global marketing professionals surveyed report video has the highest ROI of all of their different types of content.
Tristan Pelligrino, co-founder of Motion, explains: "Whether it's your CEO giving an overview of the company, a product demonstration video with screen grabs, an animated whiteboard video breaking down complex subject matter or a testimonial from one of your clients, video gets everyone on the same page, using the same story and the right messaging."
From a marketing standpoint, video is the perfect medium for showcasing your brand's purpose. Why was the company founded? What impact do you hope to have on your customers and the world? Your audience has an appetite for stories, and video can communicate yours authentically to your audience in a way that leads them to make a purchase. In fact, research has found that as many as 64 percent of viewers will buy a product after watching a branded social video.
2. Craft engaging physical experiences.
Another highly effective way to tell your brand story is to do it at an event - either your own or someone else's. An overwhelming number of event attendees -- 74 percent, according to EventTrack -- feel more compelled to purchase a product after going to an event. Brands are taking notice, and 79 percent of them surveyed in 2015 planned to utilize more experiential marketing tactics the following year.
While experiential marketing is capable of delivering big wins for brands, it's not a silver bullet, and a poorly executed event can leave customers with a bad impression. Darren Wilson, president of signage company bluemedia, advises teams to focus on the importance of designing the physical space: "Brands that set expectations and overdeliver with a few twists and amazing surprises, such as dome activations, win hearts. When fans regularly see identifiable signage and promotions, they increasingly make purchases, actively entering the sales funnel. And if they do attend your activation, they feel at home when the dome content and experience echoes and reinforces the message you have established throughout the customer journey."
It's imperative for an event to fit in with your larger, overall story. Getting people together and having a good time is important, but creating loyal customers is the end goal.
3. Deemphasize your brand.
It's definitely counterintuitive, but if you want to get the most out of your branded content, you'll need to make it less "branded." It's not uncommon for brands to craft a compelling story and then dilute its effect by throwing a huge logo in the middle of it. Consumers rarely find this appealing, as they're attracted to authenticity.
Try to resist making a story overtly about your brand. Instead, focus on producing a good story and let the word get out organically. Compare the effect of shouting to get a group's attention with speaking softly and forcing them to listen.
Storytelling is a crucial part of a marketing strategy, but you shouldn't just be spinning a yarn. Crafting engaging content for both digital and in-person consumption is vital, and that often requires having your brand take a back seat to the larger story. While you're most likely to notice the upswing in your marketing ROI, your audience will notice your emphasis on exceptional and authentic content.