Marketing Meets Storytelling: 5 Reasons Brands Need Stories

Stories give brands context and make marketing content more memorable. It was the focus of the August 16th #MMChat.

Across cultures, people have a tradition of telling stories, a narrative account of events. Most notably, fables and fairy tales are universal in their appeal, content and structure. As a spoken medium, stories must be short, contain easy-to-remember points, and have a lesson or moral. Seth Godin describes great stories as capturing the imagination because they’re true, trusted and subtle.

5 Story elements marketing needs

Stories are often told to enhance marketing’s content strategy for the following five reasons:

  1. Fit with our oral tradition. We’ve heard them since we were small. Stories still engage us and help us to make sense of the world.
  2. Provide human interest. Stories about other people draw your target market in by giving them something that resonates emotionally.
  3. Reduce narrative to key elements. Stories need a beginning, middle and end. For marketers, this translates to simplifying your story to its bare minimum. Members of the chat found telling a story on limited character platforms like Twitter challenging. I recommend thinking like an old-fashioned thriller writer and use a cliffhanger to keep your audience coming back. Alternatively, create a series of linked stories to engage the public.
  4. Enable tales to be modified and/or evolve over time so that they remain relevant. Every audience needs to make the story its own with special embellishments.
  5. Allow for interaction. Through the process of telling your story, other people feel the need to share their perspective. This enables them to engage with each other and with your brand.

5 Ways stories help brands

Stories are useful for brands to provide a framework for understanding the product and/or broader offering.

  1. Have real emotion. Stories provide products with sentiments through their brand attributes. This encompasses the breadth of senses such as visual and sound.
  2. Are memorable. Does your brand’s story stand out? Can your audience and the public associate it with its core elements? Remember that your brand attributes must be consistent.
  3. Resonate with audience. Does your story strike a cord that echoes a feeling that prospects already have? Is it relevant to their lives? If the story isn’t pertinent to your audience, they’re going to skip it.
  4. Provide a lesson and/or moral. Stories often give brands a reason to engage with their target market by offering an example of your brand in action.
  5. Can easily be shared. Is the story worth telling others about? Can you change the story to give listeners something that they want to tell their friends such as special knowledge?  The use of social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook and social bookmarking sites help disperse an intriguing message more quickly.

As a marketer, consider how you can incorporate stories into your content since they can help give life to your information and enable it to be distributed more broadly.

Have you used storytelling in your marketing? If so, how well did it work? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Note: While I participated in the #MMChat on August 16th, the ideas contained in this column are mine. Thank you to @SocialMediaCMO and @TreyPennington for leading the chat. Click hereto see the full transcript of the chat.

Photo credit: A Story Teller in Rockridge by Steven W Belcher via Flickr

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  • http://www.prologuebranding.com/ Stephanie Rosenbaum

    Many people associate brands with big companies, but really the smallest of businesses can use branding methods that will help provide them with great rewards. When a home-based business ties a nicely designed theme on all of there products telling the story of whom they are as a company and where they are coming from, it makes the branding work. Any time people see your logo, it’s branding and it helps build your business.

    • Anonymous

       Being a small company can itself be part of the story. “We’re small, we’re the underdog, we care about our customers…” etc.