That Reminds Me Of A Story
Flannery O’Conner once said, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way.” When brands search for the perfect way to tell their audience what they bring to the table, a story is often the best way to sum up all the intangible ways a product or service can improve their lifestyle. But for those who work in the data-driven world of business, incorporating storytelling into your content marketing can have a learning curve.
Why Telling Your Brand’s Story Works
The reason telling a story works to connect with an audience is the goal of storytelling. Consider the difference between the goal of marketing, which is to make a sale, and the goal of a good book, which is to make the reader feel connected to the tale. A story is all about presenting a universal ideal, something that inspires, intrigues, educates, or helps the reader grasp a certain value. In fact, the Vice President of Communications at Ford Motor Company, Mark Truby, said just that:
“A good story makes you feel something and is universal. They want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence; be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.”
Using Storytelling In Content Marketing
Here are three of the top benefits that brands see when they use storytelling in their content marketing:
- You help the audience create a strong memory of your brand, because storytelling techniques are so deeply ingrained in the human experience that our brains automatically work to remember the story.
- You motivate the audience to take action, because a story is designed to garner an emotional feeling – and emotion is the best way to spur a person on towards an action that they feel connected to.
- You build relationships with your audience that will last longer, because by consuming the story, the audience feels that they are a part of the story.
What Industries Use Story in Content Marketing?
Every single industry you can name can tell their story in order to better market their content. Here are a few examples of businesses in a wide range of industries that tell their story in a creative way:
- Airbnb, a brand in the hospitality and travel industry, has built their brand around the idea that the customer is the brand. The property owners who offer the rentals on the website are the drivers behind the brand – so rather than focusing on the story of the people running the website, Airbnb puts the focus on the stories of the customers. By using a forum-driven community and highlighting experiences with a pseudo-social media platform, Airbnb communicates to potential consumers that the brand’s story is all about the personal experiences of every trip taken.
- Minnetonka, a brand in the footwear industry, shares its story through mini movies on their website, meant to inspire customers to understand the brand’s core values. By using high-quality video that looks more like an entertaining movie than a sales pitch, the brand is able to take advantage of the consumer’s love of visual content.
- Adagio, a brand in the food and beverage industry that sells custom tea blends, shares their story with consumers by instead putting the focus on the suppliers of their ingredients. On each tea blend page of the website, shoppers see a biography of a farmer, along with a statement about how shopping with Adagio helps this person’s family or community. By making the experience personal and showing the direct path that the money takes – from consumer wallet to feeding a farmer’s family – Adagio shows that their brand is based on humanitarian values.
23 Content Marketing Ideas for Telling a Brand Story
Now that you know how powerful telling a story can be, and you’ve seen a few examples of how this tool is being used across many industries, here are 23 ideas you can start using today to boost your content marketing:
- Tell Your Story at a Glance: Use visual cues to give consumers an idea of your brand’s personality and voice without saying a word. The color scheme of your website, the typeface of your logo, and other visual elements you use in your content, can all play a part in telling your story.
- Define Your Brand’s Voice: If you struggle to figure out what your brand should “sound” like, just listen to the conversations that happen around your office. Is it casual and fun? Motivated and professional? This should define how you sound to your audience, because it will be the most authentic to your company’s internal culture.
- Show Yourself Supporting Your Community: Whether you hire veterans or support a special charity, showing how you give support to your community is a strong tool for communicating your brand’s values.
- Be Relatable: One of the ways that brands like eye-wear retailer Warby Parker tell their story through their annual review, is by making sure to include things that aren’t always successes. Talking about the bad or the quirky alongside the good in your brand’s content helps get that emotional connection that story strives for.
- Serve the Customer in All Your Content: Stories aren’t written to tell the reader how awesome the author is – they are written to give the reader a special experience. In the same way, your brand’s content should be focused on giving the audience something, not simply trying to prove you are the best.
- Show, Don’t Tell: This is an age-old bit of storytelling advice. It would be easy for footwear retailer Nike to say, “We are a company that sells to athletes.” Instead, they show you that their products are meant for competitors through their advertisements that feature athletes.
- Look to Other Industries: One of the best ways to tell your brand’s story in your content marketing is to make sure you stand out from other brands in your industry. You can get great ideas for content marketing by looking at what other industries are doing. For example, look at how Hollywood releases trailers to build buzz over new products (movies). Why not do something similar for a new product release?
- Get Your Spokesperson Online: Does your brand have a unique mascot or spokesperson (think the gecko from Geico)? Give that fictional figure a Facebook or Twitter account, and let the persona you’ve built to tell your brand’s story connect with audiences off the screen.
- Remember – Plot Isn’t Story: You don’t have to tell your brand’s story through a series of connected events, such as how a book unfolds. Use as many channels and opportunities as you can to present your brand to consumers.
- Document Branded Experiences: Did your management team recently go on a buying trip? Did your company host a B2B seminar? Did the face of your brand take a vacation? Document these experiences and share them with your audience.
- Invite Consumers to Take a Journey with You: Watching a movie or reading a book is all about experiencing all the ups and downs that the character goes through. Give your audience a similar experience with your product by filling them in on what goes on behind the scenes of production, buying, managing orders, and selling.
- Share What You Learn: Another thing that people love about stories is the chance to see a character grow, from amateur to expert, or zero to hero. Show your audience how you are growing by letting them know what you’ve been learning lately – about your industry, about marketing, or even about them!
- Branch Out into New Forms of Media: There are many forms of media that can help you present your brand’s story to an audience. We all know that video is the king of content right now, but what about the quickly-growing realm of podcasting? What about publishing e-books? There are many forms of media you can use to tell your story.
- Ground Your Content in Real-World Events or Concerns: If the goal of telling a story is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, then writing your content around recent events or real-world concerns can be an easy way to do that. Look at how brands like Dawn talk about the global epidemic of water pollution and work their content in by telling the stories of how their soap is used to help affected animals.
- Collaborate with Other Brands: No story exists with just a hero alone. Even if the hero is on the screen or page by themselves, there are always people from their history involved in their backstory – and most often, you see other characters as part of the story. Bring in other brands to your content to show relationships in your story.
- Share What Inspires Your Content: What makes your marketing team excited? Sharing these inspirations is another way to help your audience get an emotional connection to your story.
- Invite the Audience into the Industry Fold: Are there certain industry “secrets” that you know, like when to shop for the best discounts in retail stores, or the best time to drive to avoid traffic jams? Share these things with the audience so they can be part of the same group of “insiders” as your brand is.
- Share Your Why: Every brand started for a reason. Tell your audience the origin story of your brand. Help them understand what the original problem was that you were trying to solve, and it may help them understand more about your journey. For example, does it surprise you and maybe make you appreciate the journey of YouTube to know that this leading video sharing site started as a dating site?
- Use Technology to Put Your Audience Front and Center: The best stories are the ones in which we can picture ourselves in the leading role. You can allow your customers to become the star of your content by using things such as augmented reality apps to allow your customers to virtually try on the latest trends you blog about.
- Get Endorsed by Industry Influencers: Often times, the stories we remember the most are the ones our friends tell us. Many consumers think of industry influencers as friends, people they’ve connected with through years of blog posts, candid videos, and social media connections. By using influencers to share your content, you can give your story that personal touch of being shared among friends.
- Create a Series of Content: Think about the stories that have become huge in the last few decades. Star Wars. Harry Potter. The Marvel Movies. James Bond. These things all share one thing in common: they are all based on the creation of a series. Consumers love being able to return to favorite stories in fresh ways, so give them that by creating content that works as a series. (You can even see this idea working in social media – #ThrowbackThursday is an enduring series that has permeated many platforms.)
- Stick to Your Winning Streak: Did you know that the famous author of the Winnie the Pooh character also wrote murder mysteries? Probably not – because once A. A. Milne got on a winning streak with the kids’ stories, he left the world of crime and gore behind. This is a really great example of someone who saw where their content was succeeding, and followed that path. If your posts on one topic are getting tons of views, don’t spend your time writing content on topics that barely get a peek.
- Talk About the Future: Finally, make sure your content is future-focused. Whether you are predicting industry trends, or discussing your own goals as a brand, looking ahead and what you want your story to be like, tells the audience a lot about your brand’s values.
These ideas can help brands of any industry find the perfect avenue for their content marketing strategies. Get your audience hooked with a great story, and you’ll have faithful consumers for life.
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