Never considered telling your audiences a story to get them to engage with your brand?
You could be missing a massive opportunity to communicate with potential new customers. Research shows that 92% of audiences want the marketing they consume to tell more stories.
Let us explain what we mean, and why you should think about adding narrative content to your marketing strategy.
Have you heard the tale of the business who ignored a huge content marketing opportunity?
They were so focused on telling their audience about what they did, how they did it and what made them better than their competition, that they never thought to tell their audiences a story. About who they were and why they did what they did.
Their audience grew tired of the same old marketing techniques being thrown at them. They had no interest in reading countless ‘how to’ guides and listicle upon listicle all regurgitating the same information. Data reports held no value to them.
These audiences were short on time and numb to the same tired marketing strategies the business had been using for years.
And so, the audiences went elsewhere.
They went to a brand with a contemporary marketing strategy; one that entertained them while still communicating the brand’s messages and values. A brand that used stories to speak to the audience; stories that humanised the brand and held the interest of the audience.
So, the business was left behind and their audience flocked to a brand with a more interesting and personal marketing strategy.
With no leads and no new customers, the business grew stagnant.
Eventually, they faded into obscurity, all because they ignored the power of storytelling.
Now, that story isn’t going to win the Booker prize anytime soon, but the point still stands.
Not including narrative content, or storytelling, in your business’s content marketing strategy is a big mistake.
People love a good story. It’s in our DNA.
In fact, our brains remember information communicated as stories up to 22 times better than just facts.
Messages communicated as stories connect with audiences on an emotional level, which makes people more receptive to what’s being said.
But, we’re not suggesting you go off and run a campaign based around a children’s fairytale, your favourite novel or a Hollywood blockbuster.
Storytelling in marketing doesn’t have to mean fiction or fabrication.
It’s simple, people love to read, watch and listen to stories about other people.
And as we know, research has found that 92% of consumers want you to tell more stories in your marketing.
So, perhaps it’s time your business tapped into the power of storytelling.
What is Storytelling in Marketing?
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin.
Narrative content communicates your brand’s message through taking the audience on the journey of a story.
That journey could be anything. From your origin story to a first-person employee perspective or a day in the life of a customer using your product or service.
One of the key characteristics of narrative content is that it follows a structure. This is the same for all narratives, from content marketing right through to award-winning novels.
A narrative isn’t a narrative without a structure
There has to be a beginning, middle and end.
Though not always in that particular order.
Stories have characters, and storytelling in marketing is no different. As we’ve already said, people like to read about people.
Stories also have conflict.
A story where everything goes to plan is a bit dull.
Audiences aren’t falling for aspirational messages where everything is idyllic and perfect anymore. They’ve smartened up to the tactics employed by marketers.
We’re in the age of authenticity, where people are placing more value in truthfulness than ever before.
They’ll respect a business that shows their weaknesses, one that says; ‘Sure, we don’t always get it 100% right, but look what we learn from our mistakes’.
What isn’t Narrative Content?
Narrative content isn’t simply long-form writing. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can simply write epically long blog posts and pass them off as narrative pieces.
Just because your blog post is the same length as the Hobbit, doesn’t mean you’re giving Tolkien a run for his money on the narrative front.
Word count isn’t an indicator of narrative or quality. And quality is vital.
Research has found that 81% of consumers rate the quality of the content as being important to them.
Narrative content also isn’t simply a chronological account of your brand’s timeline.
This happened then this happened then that happened then this happened again and then…zzz.
Not a narrative. Not engaging. Not going to work for your business.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for detailing your brand’s history in your storytelling content. But it has to be more nuanced than a blow-by-blow account of every milestone your brand has reached.
The Importance of Storytelling
Your stories have to be relevant and they have to serve a purpose. Whether that purpose is to grow awareness of your brand, show your authority in your sector or convert audiences into customers.
Audiences want relevant content that adds to their lives.
68% of consumers state that content which informs and educates is most valuable to them.
While 17% of audiences say that content which provides entertainment is most valuable.
If you look at any number of big-name brands from John Lewis to Lidl, you’ll see that they’ve been doing this for a while now.
Tesco’s Food Love Stories campaign is a great example of a retailer using storytelling as a marketing strategy.
It would have been easy for the supermarket giant to simply say; ‘We sell these products, this is how much they cost. Look, they’re much cheaper than our competitors’.
In fact, this technique was, and is, a staple of retail marketing campaigns.
But, Tesco changed it up.
They started telling the story of their customers, how they used Tesco products and how those products improved the customers’ lives.
A sweet potato was no longer just a sweet potato.
It was the sweet potato that went into a homely grandmother’s magic soup. A soup that fed the homely grandmother’s poorly grandson and made him feel just that little bit better.
Tesco’s narrative took its audience on a journey.
It drew them into the life of a Tesco customer. It told them; ‘Look, with our sweet potatoes you too can create a delicious soup like this’.
The masterstroke of the Food Love Stories campaign was that Tesco accompanied the TV and print marketing with in-store materials. Go into any Tesco store and you’d be able to pick up a recipe card for the dish featured in the current featured Food Love Story.
This carried the narrative from the conceptual space of a TV advert to the reality of their customers’ everyday experiences.
Tesco invited their customers not just to watch the story, but to step inside and live it. All with a simple storyline and a recipe card.
So, if you want to tell the story of your brand, you need to find an angle that makes it relevant, entertaining and educational.
You need a hook, something unique.
Now you’ve got an idea of the importance of storytelling, it’s time to think about what kind of stories you could tell.
Tell your Story
Get personal. What is something that only you can say about your business?
All of your competitors can boast they’re the cheapest or the most efficient. But only you can say that your business is… what?
This isn’t just superficial things like your business has the most locations or will provide the best customer service.
You have to go deeper. You have to dig for it.
The story won’t gently float past you, you’re going to have to find it. Talk to your manager. Talk to the owner. Talk to an employee that’s been there since day dot.
They’ll all have different stories to tell. Stories about why they get up for work each morning. Or what it is they enjoy most about working for your brand.
If you are the owner, then think back through the history of your business. Before you made your first sale or met with your first client.
Why did you want to start it? What challenges did you face? Did you ever think about throwing in the towel?
Stories like these can humanise your brand.
They put a face and a name to the services and products you provide.
You’re no longer just the competitively priced but faceless organisation that wants to handle an audience member’s email outreach.
You’re the business that employs Jen from sales, whose favourite part of her job is speaking to her clients on the phone and making sure their experience is as simple as possible.
Jen who every Friday brings her Highland Terrier, Harriet, into the office with her because she knows getting to play with Harriet each week makes the rest of the sales team happy and more motivated.
Tell their Story
Your audience is engaging with your brand for a reason.
They may be about to make a purchase and are considering making a purchase with you.
They could be researching ahead of a future purchase. They might simply have an interest in the services you provide and are looking for more information.
Whatever their intention, the audiences that are engaging with your brand are on a journey.
You can use narrative content to show them what the conclusion of that journey would look like with your brand.
You can tell them what their story will be if they decide to become your customer.
Take audiences through a day in the life of a past customer, showing audiences what they can expect when they use your product or service.
Or, guide them through the process of installing your product or using your service for the first time, from the first-person perspective of a customer actually going through that journey.
This will show potential future customers your past successes and what you can help them achieve in the future.
Tell an Underdog or Redemption Tale
As we’ve already said, a story isn’t a story without some conflict.
People don’t get it right all the time and your business is no different.
Your customers are surrounded by marketing 24/7, they want content that cuts through all this noise and stands out.
They’re not going to fall for over-inflated claims that your business has always been at the top of its game and has never made a wrong move. That’s what every other business is telling them.
They’re not going to care about your version of the same message. They might not even notice your business at all.
So don’t do the usual.
Stand out and be unusual. Own your missteps, admit where you’ve come up against a struggle and prove you learnt from these experiences.
People love underdog stories.
Think about how many rags to riches and zero to hero movies there are. If audiences didn’t respond to tales of redemption and underdogs, none of those movies would exist.
Incorporating these types of narratives into your content marketing strategy works to humanise your brand to the audience.
Plus your business gets to be the hero of its own story.
Tell the Story of your Products or Services
Explain to your audience that your product isn’t just a product.
It’s the product that helps Sally from sales feel confident enough to finally ask Jeff from IT out for coffee.
It’s the product that sparks a coffee date. That sparks a relationship. That leads to Sally’s proposal at the staff Christmas party.
Your product isn’t simply a product, it’s the reason Sally and Jeff found love.
Show that your service isn’t just a service.
It might be the service that made Roger’s working day more streamlined so he could get home from work faster.
Which meant he was able to read his children a bedtime story. Which meant his wife could take that bath she really needed.
Your service isn’t just a service, it’s the reason that everyone at 49 Cherry Tree Lane went to bed happy last night, and will go to bed happy every night from now on.
Narratives put your products and services into context for audiences.
They can see the real-life benefits of choosing to engage with your brand and how it will impact their lives.
There’s massive scope for the types of stories you can tell in your marketing content. And, as we’ve said, there’s a huge market for it among audiences.
So, when your planning your future content, consider including narrative content.