Storytelling in Marketing: a 7 Step Process to Money Making Narratives

Note: the following is a guest post from John Desyllas at Moosend

People have been telling stories since ancient times and I bet all of us have at some point sat and listened to a good story.

Stories have the power to create a connection among people through empathy.

In fact, studies have shown that information conveyed through a story is way more memorable. People are 22x more likely to remember a fact if presented in the context of a story. Moreover, in a study by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, only 5% of participants recalled a statistic, while an impressive 63% remembered the stories after being presented with a pitch.

So, could storytelling be used in marketing or become part of the overall content marketing strategy of a business? The answer is definitely yes.

What is Storytelling in Marketing?

Storytelling marketing is the process of using a narrative to communicate your message to your audience. The story can be either factual or improvised and its purpose is to become the “foundation” that will transmit the brand’s core message.

The aim of storytelling in marketing is to incite feelings in the audience – feelings that will inspire them to take action and make memorable connections.

Marketers use storytelling to help consumers understand why they should care about a product or service. And if the customer can relate to the story, then brands can establish a relationship of trust with their audience.

Stories are in a sense a universal language that everyone can understand, no matter where they live and what their background is. And since it’s universal, they have the power to create the same sense of community among the teller and the listeners, readers, or viewers.

But storytelling isn’t a method or tactic. Rather, it’s an “art” — the “art” of storytelling. It requires a lot of creativity, passion, and skill in order to provide a meaningful impact on your marketing campaigns.

Storytelling marketing can take various forms. From films and pictures to verbal or written forms of stories. Several marketing channels can be used to that extent, such as email marketing that allows for advanced audience segmentation or social media for a wider reach.

The Importance of Storytelling in Marketing

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed at all through the years, it’s the fact that stories have always had a special place in our hearts. If the story contains the appropriate details along with authentic emotions, then the audience can easily relate to it, thus allowing brands to establish a bond with them.

Now think about what it is that marketers expect from their campaigns. A healthy and strong connection with their customers. And that’s exactly what storytelling allows them to do.

It should also be mentioned that 92% of customers themselves prefer ads that have a story-like feel, as the infographic below shows.

Storytelling is an important part of every business’ marketing plan since it can bridge the gap between the company and its customers. We all know that people prefer to do business with brands they can trust. With storytelling, you can add a human element to your content and consequently to your brand.

A good story can be the element that sets your business apart from the competition. Stories inspire and motivate people, so they “strike deeper” than classic advertising. By creating a compelling story for your brand, you can dominate the competitive marketing landscape of today.

It’s also true that a business cannot exist without loyal customers. With storytelling, you can go a step further and transcend into building a “tribe.” You can turn your brand into an experience that people can consume. In this way not only will they buy your products or services, but they’ll also support your success and come back for more.

Last but not least, stories allow businesses to cut through the “noise” and engage their audience successfully. Customers nowadays are bombarded with marketing messages, so a story can engage them on a deeper level and gently push them to convert.

And now that we’ve established how vital storytelling is in marketing, let’s take a look at the steps you need to follow in order to craft your story.

The 7 Step Process for Storytelling in Marketing

As we said before, storytelling requires creativity and vision, but it also requires a certain process to get it right. This is especially true when businesses are the ones crafting those stories since they probably need to incorporate a wealth of facts and messages in one succinct story.

Consequently, the first step is very important because it will guide not only the next steps but the overall process of crafting the story.

1. Understand your audience

The first step in the process of creating a compelling story is to determine who your audience is. Who are you speaking to? Who is going to respond and take action?

This first step is crucial since it is the foundation upon which everything is built. Therefore, take your time and do market research to identify who your audience is.

This may seem tiresome at first glance, but it will then allow you to build your buyer personas. Buyer personas can be a good model of your ideal customer and they are among the most common methods brands use to create targeted messaging for their audience.

This step has a twofold benefit. Not only do you get to know your target audience better, but you also get insights that help you create a relatable main character for your story later on.

2. Decide on your core message

After you’ve researched your target audience, you’ll most probably know what tone you have to use as well as what the ideal length of your story is. So, the next step is to define your core message. This is in essence the reason why your audience should care and it has to be established before proceeding.

Your core message must be clear and relevant to your audience, otherwise, people will simply skim through your story. If the message isn’t clear to you, then it won’t be clear for them.

A good way to define this is to summarize your story in 6-10 words. If this can’t be done, then you probably don’t have a core message.

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to remind yourself regularly why this story matters. After all, it is done with the customer in mind.

3. Determine the kind of story you want to tell

Now is the time to determine what kind of story you want to craft, or should I say how you want your target audience to feel after reading or seeing your story.

Depending on your objective, your story is going to differ accordingly.

If you want your story to promote action from the audience’s part, then you should describe the way a successful action was performed in the past and encourage the audience by explaining how they could implement a similar change. Avoid giving exaggerated details as this will sidetrack people from the action you’re encouraging them to do.

If the aim is to convey values, then the story should delve deep into familiar emotions and situations, so that the audience can see how the story applies to their own life.

In case you want to tell your personal story, be sure that it is genuine and promotes the human element. It is important to showcase the struggles along the way, the failures, and escalate towards success. A good story is a story that people can relate to and see themselves as part of it. If there are no hardships or conflict, then there is no story. Overcoming obstacles is something that everybody can understand and relate to it.

Alternatively, if you want to stimulate collaboration and community, craft a story that encourages users to engage, discuss and share that story with others. A situation or experience that incites a “Me, too!” feeling is ideal in this scenario. This will naturally promote engagement and positive “word of mouth”, which is ideal in the competitive marketing scene of today.

4. Craft your call-to-action

With your CTA you want to lead your audience towards the desired action after reading the story. It has to be carefully aligned with your story’s objective since in essence they’re the same thing.

For example, if you want people to subscribe to your newsletter, your CTA could be “Count me in!”, or if you want to promote collaboration among people your CTA might look like “Tap the share button here.”’

5. Choose the appropriate story type and medium

Once you’ve done all of the above, you need to decide upon the type of your story and its distribution medium. Your story can be visual, written, or spoken. It all depends on the available budget as well as the time schedule. It also goes without saying that the story type is influenced by the objective of the story.

  • Written stories: they mostly consist of text and they may be accompanied by relevant images. This type of story is the most affordable and in my opinion the easiest to craft since it requires either a pen and paper or some free writing tools like Google Docs. A written story can reach its target audience through a blog post, an article, and in some cases even books.
  • Oral stories: these are told in person, as for example in a panel or presentation. An illuminating example is TED Talks. This kind of story requires more effort and skill to convey the desired message and elicit emotions to the audience due to its “live” nature. However, with careful planning and execution, it could potentially drive great results.
  • Audio stories: they’re quite similar to verbal stories, with the difference lying in the fact that they’re recorded. Due to today’s technological advancements, creating an audio story is more affordable than ever. Such stories are usually in the form of podcasts. Great podcasters are able to blend storytelling in their shows to make them interesting and digestible, while at the same time inspire people to take action.
  • Digital stories: they are the most effective in capturing and transmitting emotions. And since they are the most advanced they are consequently the most expensive to produce. Fortunately, there is affordable video editing software out there that can make your video stories slick and professional-looking without breaking the bank. Digital stories can be told through videos, animation, and even games.

6. Create your story

We’ve now reached the point in the process that crafting of the story begins.

You have already researched your audience, established your core message and call-to-action, so you only need to add the details and a creative spin to your story.

Be sure to create an “attractive” and well-defined main character that will leave an impression on people’s minds. This doesn’t mean, however, that your story will only revolve around this person. The protagonist just needs to be unique, so that he can remain at the forefront of your story.

Another important aspect to remember is to put your best elements at the beginning of the story rather than save them for the end. You want to draw your audience in and engage them right from the start. This will also ensure that you’ve captured your audience’s attention.

Next, as we discussed before, the story must have a conflict or “disaster”. This is a crucial element because without obstacles the audience cannot relate to the protagonist. Raising the stakes and keeping the viewer in a constant “will the protagonist solve his/her problem?” will keep the audience keen on learning the ending.

The last thing to remember at this stage is that your brand personality has to be reflected in the story. For example, if you’re a start-up that aims to “shake” the industry landscape create an irreverent or funny narrative.

7. Share your story

The final step is sharing and promoting your story. As we all know, creating a piece of content is only half the job.

Popular mediums to share your story are emails and social media platforms. As for written stories specifically, it is a good idea to utilize your own blog to promote them or leverage guest posting.

Generally, you’ll see more engagement the more places you choose to share your story.

Real examples of successful storytelling in marketing

Now let’s see some real-life examples of storytelling in action from some of the world’s biggest brands.

Vodafone

Vodafone decided to try something completely different than what we’re used to for the launch of its new 5G and unlimited data plans.

The brand partnered with Ogilvy UK to create a video story depicting a woman dancing along with a dozen of her lookalikes. The women are all dressed in the characteristic red color of the brand. But they have different outfits since the story tells the “unlimited” sides of the main protagonist.

Watching the ad, you immediately see that there is a particular emphasis on the creative side and the tone is light and playful. The message of the story is clear “Be unlimited”. The brand wants you to express “your unlimited sides” by using their new service. This is definitely an intuitive way to signal the launch of a new service.

IKEA

IKEA’s “Improve Your Private Life” campaign masterfully highlights the value of the brand’s products through a hilarious yet relatable story.

In this video, we see Fille Güte, a ‘Shelf Help Guru,’ who takes IKEA customers on a trip of ‘shelf discovery’ with the aim to improve their private lives in their most private areas, their bedrooms and bathrooms.

The brilliance of this video storytelling lies in the hilarious puns and cheeky scenarios used to present IKEA’s products for smart storage and furniture solutions. The humor used could not be better, while it is clear that the brand presents itself as the go-to in case people want an improvement in their lives.

So, in a nutshell, IKEA has leveraged a simple and real scenario that anybody can relate to, in order to market their products in a funny and non-intrusive way.

Final thoughts on storytelling in marketing

Storytelling has been around since man walked the earth. It is a powerful tool for businesses to engage their audience on a deeper level and create memorable experiences.

Telling a story allows the communication of a message without much explanation. And this is exactly what consumers need.
The future of storytelling is here and it is certainly visual. While a good story doesn’t need much, technology is here to help marketers captivate their audience with new and creative ways.

Being able to communicate the “why” in your campaigns is what makes customers want to connect and ultimately engage with your brand.

John Desyllas
John Desyllas
John Desyllas works as a Content Writer for email marketing automation software Moosend. He is very passionate about Digital Marketing and Business Translation. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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