Getting storytelling right

"Facts tell, stories sell." Getting storytelling rightDo you remember the last time you were engaged with a really good story? You know the ones – the types of tales that bring you on a journey. A story is meant to engage and connect people to a set of characters and emotions. According to MarketingProfs contributor Brad Shelton, truly exceptional stories exist on a completely separate level.

Shelton uses Star Wars as a prime example. Think of how many people the story of Luke Skywalker has managed to connect. The proof was in the release of the latest movie. Fans young and old lined up outside local movie theaters to experience one of the greatest stories of all time.

This is what makes truly great storytelling SO difficult. You have to connect with people at a variety of different levels, from capturing their attention without being too gimmicky, to hitting their emotions without pushing too hard. Great storytelling is about finding a delicate balance between power and simplicity.

The Marketers Dilemma

At the core of marketing there exists a desire to provide information. Businesses want to make sure their audience understands their newest product, they want to teach them about their value props, they want to educate them on their services. However, according to Shelton, this is where marketers make their biggest mistake when it comes to storytelling.

The best stories stem from emotions, not facts. Because of this marketers are constantly messing up the art of storytelling, explained the source. So – what does it look like when a business gets storytelling right? Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Google: This 3-minute video by Google perfectly encompasses the ultimate emotional journey (we may have teared up a little bit after watching). If you have a chance to watch it, it’s worth the time. In essence, the story gets to the core of what makes Google so special by telling the story of how a user used the site to re-connect some old friends. The simplicity and directness of the story makes the raw emotion even more authentic, explained Cernos Blog contributor Mike Schoultz.

Johnnie Walker: This world-renowned whisky company provided consumers and marketers alike with an exceptional example of storytelling. The campaign titled “Joy Will Take You Further” transforms the story of whisky and the Johnnie Walker brand and turns it into a personal story about the lives of their consumers, explained Shelton. The narrative is clear and compelling and weaves the brand’s core values impeccably into the piece.

Dawn: Who doesn’t love a story involving a good cause and creativity? Dawn managed to combine the two in this 1-minute video. The information is interesting, the subject matter is emotional and the video is overall well-presented: The true triple-threat of storytelling in marketing. Not to mention the video appeals directly to Dawn’s target audience.

So, what are the takeaways from these examples of good storytelling in marketing? Shelton created a list of four key principles and we have added in a couple of our own – the combination will almost certainly set you up for success.

Align: Leaders must start out the storytelling process by defining their objectives. From there, they must ensure that everything they do aligns with these goals. According to Shelton, an engaging marketing story often involves inspiring change. Whether this means improving brand perception, increasing loyalty or ramping engagement – marketers should define and align to create a truly spectacular story.

Hit the heart: When creating a good story the focus should be the foundation not the bells and whistles. Sure, you can have a visually captivating video but without a story that engages people, the efforts are pointless. Truly great stories start from the heart and evoke the shared feelings and values that unite the audiences at hand, explained Shelton.

Focus: The longest story we mentioned above was three minutes in total. From the start, leaders should aim to focus their story line on one singular theme or value in order to avoid confusion. Clarity is key when telling a great story. This doesn’t mean your story has to be cut down to 30 seconds but it does mean the messaging should be simple and accessible to your audience. Staying focused on a singular theme can help you achieve this goal and ultimately tell a better story.

Visualize: You’ve probably noticed that all the examples we mentioned were packaged in the form of a video. This is because when it comes to storytelling visuals are a huge plus. Sure, there are other ways to package your story but imagery makes it easier to drive home your point. Marketers looking to craft a truly impressive story should consider using video as a medium. If not, visuals should be included wherever possible.

Focus on Customers: Customers are the heart of everything you do as a marketer. It only makes sense that your stories should appeal to me. Whether this means making sure the story content is relevant to their interests or making the story about them completely – your story should focus on what you think your consumers would be interested in hearing. Without their interest, even the most well-executed story will be pointless.

Stories can be extremely powerful marketing tools when they are executed the right way. Leaders should aim to encompass these core principles when creating their next brand story – whatever form that may take.


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