Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to market and sell your brand. Companies like Nike tell the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things through perseverance. “Just Do It,” doesn’t just mean to do something. It means to be strong, to fight, and to push. Coca-Cola tells a story of love and world peace. Is it practical to think that Cola can bring about harmony to a world torn apart by war and pain? Of course not. But around the holidays when you see those Polar Bears drinking a Coke, you might think otherwise.
Both of these are powerful examples of what a story can do for a brand. But Nike and Coke are not the only companies that need to tell stories. Every business needs to tell stories to captivate their target audience and convert them into paying customers. Your “About Us,” page of your website should tell a compelling story about your brand. Your advertising efforts should all tell stories that connect your audience to your product. They should feel like a part of your business and can relate to what it is that you are selling.
1. Follow The Classic Story Pattern
Classic stories work for a reason. There is a tried and true method to take the reader or listener on a journey. You know what to expect. You know who to cheer for and who to hate. And you know what to expect (except when it comes to the conflict and the climax – nobody should be able to anticipate what they will be).
One example of classic story patterns is “The Hero’s Journey,” in which a person seeks to right a wrong or overcome their past. Another is the “Coming of Age” story in which a young man or woman grows up and learns about the trials of life. This story format works because everyone has experienced something similar. You might not have experienced your best friend have a Bar Mitzvah on your 13th birthday, like Kevin Arnold did in “The Wonder Years.” But you have experienced friendship and disappointment. Stick to a classic story pattern, and you will instantly be more relatable to your audience.
2. Be Authentic
The best way to tell a story is to tell a true story. If your family started their business in their basement and struggled to make ends meet, tell that story in the most genuine way possible. Don’t try to tell the story about how your pasta is better than the other pasta. Tell the story of your grandmother throwing pasta on her ceiling when she was 16 because she just knew she wanted to cook for a living. In your commercials, make your actors look relatable, like an “every man.” Have interviews with real people in your advertisements. Engage with your customers on social media. The bottom line is this: be likeable and real.
3. Don’t Sell Your Product
I can hear you screaming at your computer. “Don’t sell my product? What’s the point of all this awesome storytelling information if I can’t use it to sell my product?” I get it. But hang on. You aren’t going to sell your product. You are going to allow your story to sell your brand. Consumers are smart. They receive thousands neural signals constantly. They are bombarded with advertising, and they can sense a sales pitch form across a football field. All you will do if you try to blatantly sell your product is to scare away your customers. Instead, become so likeable that your viewers choose to support your brand.
Consider the recent Budweiser advertisement that sought to reduce drunk driving. The lead in the commercial is shown adopting a puppy. The puppy grows up throughout the commercial, and we see the man playing with him and bonding throughout his life. Then the man leaves for a night of drinking with his friends. The dog waits…. and waits…. Morning comes, and we are left to believe the man has been killed in a car accident – the dog’s fate unknown. Finally, the man returns and tells his dog he slept at a friend’s house. Nowhere in the commercial does Budweiser make a comment about their beer being better than other beer. All they say is this:
4. Match Your Story to The Format
Telling a story visually requires different skills than telling a story orally because people respond differently when they are listening than when they are watching something. When you are writing your story for audio formats (like a commercial, or in-person sales call) consider the tone and volume of the speaker’s voice, hand gestures, and facial expressions. When you’re telling your story visually (on your “About Us,” page or in a magazine) consider the pacing of the story, the layout of the page, and readability. Include visuals and charts/graphs if applicable.
5. Make The Conflict Clear
The conflict is, arguably, the most important part of a good story. The hero must rise to overcome some obstacle. Without overcoming a challenge, he cannot grow. And characters that don’t grow (static characters) are not interesting or relatable. When you are telling a story, whether it’s the story of how your business got started, or a fictional commercial about a man racing to catch a bus and ultimately running into the woman who will become his wife, you must make the conflict absolutely clear. Make the audience care about what’s at stake.
People are social creatures. We love to talk about ourselves and other people. We don’t like facts and data as much as we love a good story. It’s the reason why cinema and excellent novels will never become outdated. Man has been telling stories since the dawn of time. Even without a written language, we managed to pass stories from generation to generation.
Stories bind us together in a way that nothing else can. When we hear a story about something or someone that we can relate to, we inadvertently care more about that person because we see ourselves in them. It’s essential for marketers to understand this fact. If you can create a story for your brand that people will care about, you will find that more people are willing to listen to your pitch or consider using your product. Remember, your brand is replaceable. Your story is not.
Kenneth Waldman is a freelance writer and content editor at essay writing service EssayMama which provides assignment help for students. Kenneth draws his inspiration out of the traveling and sport. Get in touch with him on Linkedin.