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Marketing Brands with Storytelling

Anna Hohenstein
19 July 2019

With every business exerting efforts to increase brand awareness, storytelling has emerged as an effective way of marketing brands. By including real-life stories, your business can compel customers to make the purchase or commitment that you desire. Furthermore, such stories tend to compel customers by appealing to their emotional senses. This is a strategy commonly used by many large sized businesses such as Airbnb.

This article seeks to look into some of the benefits of storytelling and examples of companies that are using this strategy.

Benefits of storytelling when it comes to marketing your brand

  • Communicating your company’s personality

Although storytelling counts as one of the most recent marketing concepts, Susan Gunelius notes that it has been around even before 2013.  Whether done directly or indirectly, storytelling conveys the personality, the culture and the values of the business. Traditional methods involve selling the brand whereas the storytelling approach involves narrating experiences and histories created by the brand. When the traditional and contemporary methods are used together, your business is likely to gain the desired outcomes regarding brand awareness among the targeted audiences. Therewith, the content of storytelling enables customers and potential employees to get insight into the company as well its value system.

  • Storytelling appeals to customers emotionally

While the aim of storytelling as a brand marketing approach is to enhance your brand, it is important to ensure that stories told are real and a true representation of the business. Regardless, it is important to ensure that the story is not designed just for the sake of appealing to the customer's emotions since customers tend to see right through. An example is that of GymJunkies that presents stories from ordinary people that have had bad lifestyles but changed by starting going to the gym. The stories are not only real but are also genuine and honest. Max Tsypliaev who is the CEO of Comindware notes that human beings love good stories hence are likely to react to such stories in one way or the other.

  • Stories keep people coming back for more

Just like people keep checking company websites for job openings, people also keep checking the company website just to see what the people and the company have been up to. According to Rachel Gillett, storytelling tends to light up parts of the brain, therefore, making people feel like they are experiencing the story. Studies show that people wish that companies would present online storytelling as a way of marketing their brands. Docs.Zone CEO, Vasiliy Makritskiy warns businesses against including too many numbers and statistics since they tend to bore the customers. People tend to remember just 10% of information unless one includes images, audios or videos.

  • Storytelling is a first step in building relationships

Storytelling often means that people share experiences and ideas with strangers in a bid to inspire them towards behaving in a certain desired manner. Companies such as Direct Line, Burger King, WCRS and Microsoft have been using online storytelling to market their brands. From the early years, children love listening to stories especially the ones that evoke their emotions in one way or the other. However, businesses should not use stories just as another part of their marketing campaign. Instead, online storytelling should be the foundation for building the business’ future growth.

  • Storytelling increases brand awareness

Traditional campaigns and marketing techniques may sometimes qualify as boring to the customers. However, stories told by everyday people tend to keep the audience attention for different reasons. Through such stories, the business can take such experiences and stories and turn them around to fit in with their marketing goals. People will feel more convinced to act in the desired manner if they feel that it will benefit them.

Here is a closer look at companies using this strategy:

  • Airbnb

Online Storytelling lies at the heart of Airbnb's success in marketing. Being one of the iconic brands of the day, the company has spent considerable effort in understanding their audience through creative use of consumer data. Their content for storytelling is community and local hospitality. They share their holidaymaker’s desires for more local travel expeditions and adventures. In 2015, the company told its story through an animated video. They had hosted approximately 550,000 travellers in New Year’s eve in their rentals spread across 20,000 cities. This was a great leap from 2000 guests 5 years ago. Airbnb's stories resonate with their audience consistently as they strive to bring life to the things their audience care about – travelling and creating new experiences.

  • Google

Google focuses on annual ‘Year in Search’ videos. They use their data to communicate the most searched for keywords with a view to tell a story on the ‘state of the nation’. For instance, in 2016, Google released a two-minute film that used most searched keywords  to create a footage of the year’s pivotal moments-both good and bad moments. The film had an overwhelmingly positive reception and appeared in the top 1% of ads tested and came in 3rd out of 700 tech ads that were tested.  

  • Spotify

Spotify concentrates on the songs, artists and playlists that their more than 30 million users select. They then combine this information with the location and demographics of their users. They in turn create original content for their insightful blog. This strategy helps them create original content for storytelling using insights that only they have access to, thus differentiating themselves. One of such outstanding stories was the “how students listen 2017” piece. The piece focused on how the different universities and colleges listen to music in the U.S.. Aspects covered included which places had most listening, the most popular genres, the diversity of music that was listened to, and guess what? Penn State recorded the highest record of party playlists.

  • Zillow

Zillow is a U.S. based online retail marketplace. It has data for over 110 million U.S. homes that includes square footage, value estimates, aerial photos, and nearby amenities among others.  The company uses this content to create stories. They create stories on the best places and offers for millennial, best places for retirement and also uses this content to produce quirky content. For instance ‘20 Best Cities for Trick or Treating’ was an insightful piece. It covered how homes are close to one another, the crime rates, and population demographics. The story was supported with infographics making it very meaningful to their customers through a dynamic and impactful storytelling platform.

  • Jawborne

This is a wearables company that creates products enabling consumers to track their movements, sleep, diets, and calories among others. Such consumer data is used to drive their content marketing strategy and storytelling. Data collected during San Francisco’s South Napa Earthquake in 2014 from Jawborne’s wristband wearable triggered one story. Scientists discovered those who wore the wristband woke up when the earthquake struck while 45% of them stayed awake throughout the night.  It also uses the content to create stories around dietary and fitness topics. For instance how people eat differently during super bowl and valentine’s day as well as the most effective of weight loss techniques.

Storytelling can be your best bet

Evidently, online storytelling is going to dominate over other marketing strategies especially since it involves other people working within different organizations. People feel confident engaging, purchasing or applying for work in businesses that have a positive impact on them based on the experiences of others. Therefore, the content included in storytelling can help market the business to potential customers while enhancing the brand in an honest and genuine manner. As co-founder of The New Covent Garden Soup Co and entrepreneur John Stapleton notes, storytelling is only effective if the source is credible and the content of the story resonates with the target audience.

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