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Storytelling has always been around. From symbols painted on ancient cave walls to bedtime tales of princesses and toads, stories have been told in every culture throughout history. Traditionally a means of entertaining, educating, and instilling moral precepts, modern storytelling has a much broader reach.In the context of marketing, a good story helps you illustrate, in an engaging way, how the products or services you offer are unique. Good stories also help you stand out in a hyperconnected world, where science claims our attention span is a mere eight seconds. As a point of reference, goldfish are thought to have a nine-second attention span.
1. HAVE A PURPOSE
Rather than making your message simply about your product or service, tell a story designed to inspire your intended audience. Nike’s Equality campaign, for example, makes an impactful statement about the brand’s commitment to social change. By portraying athletes getting involved in their communities, it seeks to encourage that involvement on the part of the audience.
2. MAKE IT PERSONAL
When telling the story of how your brand was born, discuss what inspired you, while keeping in mind the needs of your audience. Details about your products will not engender your audience’s trust. However, a real look at what you stand for, will help you to establish the connection necessary for your brand to stand out above the rest.
3. KEEP IT REAL
A behind-the-scenes look at the real people behind your product keeps your story authentic. HonestTea’s Origins campaign gave consumers an up-close look at the growers of its fair-trade ingredients in various countries. The web series gave a face to the individuals behind each product, while furthering the company’s “Honest”branding.
4. USE TESTIMONIALS
A customer’s opinion is a powerful addition to a marketer’s toolbox. Use testimonials in your marketing content to build on your story.Happy customers help you grow sales through digital word-of-mouth marketing and make the stories relatable.
5. HAVE A HERO
As logical as it might sound, your brand should NOT be the hero of your story. The best way to captivate and inspire your listeners is to make the story about them! To do this, you must research your audience, learn what obstacles they are facing and provide a clear path for overcoming the challenges. You are there to help along the way, but in the end, they are the stars of the story.
6. START WITH A PROBLEM, END WITH A RESOLUTION
A powerful story should have structure. Start with what motivated you to take this journey, what barriers you encountered along the way and how you came to be where you are today. Your story should end with how you solved whatever problem it was that you—and others like you—are encountering.The founders of the fitness brand, SoulCycle, for example, were bored by the dull fitness routines that failed to inspire a passion for exercise, so they developed a new experience designed to benefit the spirit and soul as much as the body. Problem identified; problem solved.
7. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO BUILD SUSPENSE
Today’s marketer has many options for selecting a platform through which to tell a story. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow us to start with a simple narrative—a single photo, tweet, or post—and build on that narrative with successive updates, that ultimately tell a broader story. Like any good thriller, each episode of your story should leave the audience wanting more.
8. CREATE AN AUDIENCE PERSONA
When you know who you are speaking to, how they live, and what matters most to them, you can make informed decisions when developing your story. If you create a persona based on general assumptions about your audience, your story may fall short of having an emotional impact. To be useful, the persona should be based on actual customer interviews, surveys, or feedback, or any type of customer interaction that can offer insight into what matters most to them.
9. INVITE PARTICIPATION
By inviting your audience to be the characters in your story, rather than passive listeners, the narrative becomes more relevant to them on a personal level. It results in a greater emotional response. Participation in contests or challenges that can be shared on social media, for example, invites others to hear the story, leading to enhanced brand awareness.
10. KEEP SCIENCE IN MIND
A good story activates the areas of our brain we would use if we were actually experiencing the events as they unfold. By triggering our emotions, a good story stimulates learning, memory, and most importantly, action. Therefore, the next time you set out to craft a story, ditch the bullet points and lists and focus instead on creating a succession of emotionally charged scenes that work the brain, and better yet, endure.