Karl is a former marathon runner living his years out in a nursing home.
The freedom he once felt as a runner is now just a distant memory.
He wakes up, eats his bland porridge, and gazes out the window watching time slowly pass by. It is as though he’s on a hamster wheel, repeating the same days over and over again. He longs for his glory days… the wind gently caressing his cheeks, sweat sliding down his back, and the heart-thumping exhilaration of passing the finish line.
One day he finds his old running shoes under a heap of trash. He instantly pops them on, laces em’ up, and the memories come flooding back. Tying those laces brings back the twinkle in his eye and bounce in his feet.
His renewed energy surges him down the hallways, breaking the monotony of the residents’ daily existence. They all stare with excitement while Karl rapidly approaches the door. Karl is suddenly stopped by his caregivers, temporarily crushing his hope.
But, Karl is determined so he creates some makeshift weights out of potato sacks, practices some laps throughout the kitchen, and is ready to try yet again.
With a little help from his friends, he puts his trusty gym shoes back on, sprints through the hallway, and finally makes it out the front door tasting that sweet sweet freedom, and feeling more alive than ever before.
Cut to— the Adidas logo flashing on the screen with the words “break free”.
In 1 minute and 39 seconds, we go through an emotional journey of Karl’s connection to his gym shoes and the story behind them. We’ve put ourselves in Karl’s shoes, and feel the urge to break free from our repetitive daily lives. And, we’re even given the first step to do so… a pair of Adidas running shoes.
This is the power of storytelling in marketing. By applying the basic elements of storytelling to your copy, you not only create more meaningful connections but also win the hearts of your ideal audience and inspire them to take action.
What is storytelling in marketing?
Marketers are always on the hunt for tactics to get as many eyeballs as possible succumbing to the usual suspects: urgency, fear, discounts, and sales as bait. However, while those might work once, twice, or maybe even a couple of times, they rarely cultivate lasting results.
To build that “like-know-trust” factor, storytelling is your new marketing best friend.
Infusing storytelling into your marketing triggers attention, persuades, and motivates potential customers — all the things we need to make a sale. At the same time, it fosters intimacy and cultivates trust — all the ingredients for a meaningful relationship.
The Advantages of Storytelling in Marketing
Before marketing was a blimp in our universe, the earliest humans used storytelling as a way to communicate. They would pass oral stories down from generation to generation. Now, stories are a huge portion of our entertainment and are still used as a way to convey messages. So, what are some of the advantages of incorporating storytelling into your marketing strategy? Let’s explore a couple.
Makes your content more human
For one, stories create personal connections because they’re relatable.
Think about it: would you rather buy from a logo or the actual human being behind the business? We’d say the latter. We want to know who we’re buying from, what their values are, what their philosophy is, and essentially where our money will go.
On the same note, story-based copy gives your business human values and attributes which makes your business more approachable and relatable. For instance, if you landed on a website that was bland, very “keyword-centered”, and overall felt like it was run by robots, would you be moved to purchase from them? Probably not.
At the end of the day, your product or service was created to serve people. Incorporating stories help connect you to your community. And people buy from people they trust and feel supported by.
Builds an emotional connection with customers
Stories make your customers care. By giving your audience a hero they can relate to, you end up putting them in the hero’s shoes. When you do this, you’re guiding your customer to care about what you care about.
Remember Karl from the beginning? The hero of the Adidas commercial isn’t just for retirees – it’s for anyone feeling bogged down by their mundane life seeking adventure and freedom. Everyone can see that buying a pair of Adidas shoes can help them escape their lives and get that sense of freedom.
Creates a strong brand personality
Whether you try or not, every brand has certain values and characteristics that customers resonate with.
A brand personality refers to “who” a customer is speaking with and is composed of numerous elements including visuals, website, messaging, and now more than ever, views on important topics. In fact, 64% of consumers around the world mentioned they’d buy or boycott a brand because of a social or political position.
It’s no longer okay to simply slap up your website and call it a day. A business needs to be authentic, weave in their viewpoints on the world and connect why that matters to their personal story in the process. This helps your why to shine through and pulls your customers to be connected to a larger purpose.
Taking bold stances and highlighting business values are all part of what makes your business story unique and appealing to your community. A compelling story can help you stand out in your industry and be like a friend and less of just another company.
Engages your audience
Stories transcend your audience into another world. As they maneuver through the world you created, they feel the need to buy your product instead of just thinking about it.
Like for instance, the Harry Potter series. J.K Rowling easily captured millions of hearts with the fictional series that compelled fans worldwide to visit theme parks, experience butterbeer, and bite their fingernails down while bingeing the latest volume. They didn’t just think about buying products, they felt what it is like to be a part of Hogwarts.
Ultimately, storytelling immerses your customer into an experience, which leaves a stronger and longer-lasting impression than a quick sale or discount.
3 Steps to Building a Compelling Brand Story
So, you’re ready to start using storytelling for your brand… but where do you even start if you’re not a storyteller per se? Here are 3 simple, yet powerful tactics to bring your business to life.
1. Start with data
The first step in any successful story is the research phase. So roll your sleeves up and start to research your customers by creating a map of their buying journey and use this to develop your hero’s story.
Do a complete competitor analysis, carry out SEO keyword research, and interview your sales team.
To illustrate, a B2B SaaS company came to us utterly frustrated with SEO, unsure about their messaging, and with no clue how to execute a content plan that worked. So, we breathed life back into their business through a complete audit, James Bond-infused copy, and a new plan to kill it with SEO.
The next part of this puzzle is building testimonials and creating case studies from previous customers to showcase that your product/service is the solution they’ve been searching for.
2. Create a storyline
Now that you know how your product or service helps your customer, it’s time to write your story.
Your story must have two characters: a hero and a helper. The hero is the ideal buyer persona or a person that needs your products the most. On the other hand, the helper is your brand. They take the hero from where they are to where they want to be.
Let’s look at some examples to paint the picture.
Sanlam Bank portrays a powerful message about saving through the ability to pay using only coins. In this example, the One Rand Man is the middle-class hero. He is just an average joe exploring unique ways to save and be a bit smarter with his money. The helper here is Sanlam Bank who helps One Rand Man achieve his financial security and peace of mind. Through this story, you’re urged to save, try out different approaches, and confide in Sanlam Bank to make that happen.
In another scenario, Barclaycard created two ads from different perspectives. In the first video, the husband goes to his happy place while attending an event his wife is passionate about. In the second video, the woman goes to her happy place while at her husband’s favorite spot; a music festival.
In both stories, the couple is the hero – they both want to do what they love but don’t want to sacrifice and spend a lot of money in the process. Barclaycard is the helper – they come in and provide a solution that offers discounts on thousands of events so both partners can be satisfied.
Now, let’s look at the third step.
3. Build an emotional connection
In storytelling marketing we don’t use reason to navigate our audience, we use emotions.
As you continue to work on your copy, identify emotional trigger words like sparkly, faithful, sabotage, or remarkable. Sprinkle these words consistently throughout your copy to spark emotion. Think about what emotional needs your product or service fulfills and then imagine that you’re speaking directly to a person to bring a human essence to your message.
Share their worries or fears and weave in how you’ve felt that at some point in your life. Make the story relatable for your audience.
Determine the emotional motivations behind your customer’s goals by digging back into your data. For instance, Nike’s goosebump-worthy Equality Campaign evoked powerful emotional motivators to promote a sense of justice in sports. Nike demonstrated that sports should be equal, the ball should bounce the same for everyone, so they included prominent sports figures to stand for social change (while wearing Nike gear).