What is story marketing and why does it matter? Practical steps to create a powerful brand story to connect with your audience and keep them engaged.
Stories in all their forms have the power to inspire us. We understand the world through narrative, joining the dots in our own lives to create plots that we can understand and explain. Powerful stories engage our emotions, create suspense and resolution.
Story marketing taps into narrative, connecting with an audience on an emotional level, in order to help them empathize and understand the problems your business solves on a deeper level. It is a powerful way for brands to cut through the noise. Psychologist Jerome Bruner discovered that when stories are used to communicate a message, people remember them 22x more than facts and figures alone.
According to another study by Harvard Business Review, emotional connections are significant drivers of brand loyalty and a top indicator of future customer value. Customers are also more likely to recommend a brand when they have an emotional connection with it.
But how can you approach story marketing? And is there a formula for success? In this article, we will explore the power of marketing through story and outline a foolproof process anyone can use to define their own brand narrative.
To immediately start turning these insights into action, download the free Brand Storytelling Template.
Story Marketing explained
Story marketing is the practice of building a series of consistent narratives that help position your brand over time. The stories you tell center around your clients, the problems you solve for them, as well as your company’s culture, and experience. Through plot, character and rising action, you can create a genuine connection between your company and your target audience.
Story marketing is important because it gives customers an understanding of who you are and your values. When customers feel like they know your brand, they will be more likely to trust you with their business.
The best way to gain this trust is by showing them how much you care about them. Storytelling also has the power to change perspectives. For instance, if you have a negative perception about a certain company but then learn more about their background and values, there’s a chance that your perception could change.
When done right, storytelling remains one of the most effective ways for businesses to capture their target audience’s attention and deliver marketing messages.
Brand personality and values
Before you do almost anything else, you need to understand what your brand is all about. You probably have a feel for it already, but getting your team together can really help solidify your collective understanding before you dive into any kind of storytelling activity.
Defining brand personality
A well-defined personality will help you connect with your customers more intimately. At the same time, it can uncover hidden brand traits and interesting quirks you can highlight later on in your marketing.
A good approach to defining each trait is to use the Brand Archetypes Framework below. You can figure out which archetype is closest to what your customers are seeking.
Brand values and purpose
The next step is to define your brand values and purpose. Having a clear idea of these elements will help you craft stories that highlight your brand’s primary goals.
- Brand values: These are the 4-5 values that matter most to your company and set you apart from competitors. Your brand values should be clear and concise. For example, Adidas lists its brand values as Performance, Passion, Integrity, and Diversity.
- Brand purpose: This is one sentence that describes the exact value you deliver to your customers. For example, the purpose of outdoor lifestyle brand Patagonia is “to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature.”
The key elements of story marketing
Now you have a clear idea of your personality, values and purpose, it’s time to start telling your story. Here are the three essential ingredients you need to make a compelling story.
Before all else, you must define your business goals and ensure that your stories are aligned with them. Skip this and you’ll have some wonderful content, but it won’t have an impact on the bottom line.
How do you do this?
Consider what you want your audience to think or feel when they hear your story. Perhaps your ultimate goal is to increase your revenue, reinforce your thought leadership, or boost organic traffic. Whatever your goal may be, write it down along with any existing resources that can help you achieve it.
Linked to this, you have to make sure your stories are authentic. As the old saying goes, if brands talk the talk they must also walk the walk. Anything else will seem contrived – or worse, manipulative. It’s therefore imperative that stories are honest.
You should also aim for consistency. Your audience should expect certain messages from your brand and get excited about what’s next. This will go a long way in building trust and an emotional connection with your audience.
How do you do this?
Think about your personal values and goals. This step will help you understand how your own experiences shape the company’s mission and goals.
Knowing the history of your company is also crucial to your brand story. Who started the company and what was the original vision? What challenges have you faced and what are your major wins so far? With all this in mind you will be able to keep your stories on the straight and narrow.
Stories have to jump off the page. Without a unique voice and personality that carries over into your storytelling efforts, you won’t grab anyone’s attention.
Part of this is making sure your audience can put themselves in the place of the “main character” – or hero – in your story. If they see themselves in the action, the message will resonate more strongly.
Once you’ve caught their attention, it’s time to provoke your audience into action. There must be a point when your audience realizes the meaning of your story and what action you are telling them to take.
How do you do this?
Good stories follow all sorts of pathways. However, a popular storytelling structure is called The Hero’s Journey. It is often used to structure science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories and became a top storytelling structure because it delivers exactly what audiences desire.
First, there is an event that calls the “hero” character to adventure. Then there is a conflict, or action, followed by a resolution or reward.
This format creates an emotional arc that resonates exceptionally well with consumers in marketing content. Draft your own hero’s journey by answering these questions:
- Who is your hero (aka your customer)?
- What are your hero’s needs and wants?
- What is your hero’s problem, and how do they currently solve it?
- How can your brand step in to help, and how would they hear about you?
- What is the solution you offer?
- What does the transformation and a better future look like for your hero?
Once you have that information, you can put it into our free Brand Storytelling Template.
Write your own story
Now that you have all of this information in one place, it’s time to write your brand story. This describes why your company exists, your mission, and how you help your customers overcome key challenges. There are no rules about how many words your story should be, but try to keep it concise (200-300 words).
Make sure that everyone at your company has access to it and that you incorporate it across all departments. This story is a valuable asset for any human resources materials, sales and marketing content, and public relations campaigns.
Once you’ve documented your the story of your brand, you’ll be in a good position to think about all the other stories you want to tell. Those that get your clients excited about your solutions.
With these insights in hand, you will have everything you need to craft your own engaging stories. With our free ebook, you can access:
- A 6-step template to help you create your brand story (includes the hero journey, brand values, and more)
- Tips on how to define the key pillars of your storytelling strategy
- Useful links and graphs for your inspiration
Start using storytelling to make your marketing stand out, create an emotional connection with your target audience, and ultimately convert more people into lasting customers.