Stop Shouting! Reasons to add storytelling to your marketing

Aug 17, 2016 by Brendan Jack

It’s not easy for advertisers nowadays. Gone is the Golden Age of advertising, when there was a monopoly on consumer attention.

There’s only so much prime time space available on TV, billboards and in major newspapers. This is also incredibly expensive to iterate enough times to get noticed. Traditional advertising platforms are more likely to be seen as (expensive) wallpaper. A new style of marketing is required to create engagement, and in the digital realm, there’s plenty of room for this.

It used to be all about the advertising agency. The father figure and purveyor of cool, telling people what to think and buy. We’ve now moved to a consumer-empowered market, where the customer is the centre of the universe.

Don’t interrupt, engage and add to the conversation

Social media has given everyone a voice. Even if you have ninety followers, your message can strike a nerve and go viral, or simply be seen through a #hashtag or irate message to a company’s social media department.

Digital media has transformed the way stories are created and shared.

The goal now is to get consumers to invest emotionally, and stories are a shortcut to this connection. Just like our days of being cave dwellers, telling stories on cave walls or around the fireplace.

We’ve all met a person who effortlessly engages a room. People want to hear what they have to say, and enjoy being around them. That’s not the old advertising model of being a loudmouth, telling everyone ‘how it is’ or ‘what they should be doing’.

Storytelling helps spread messages through word-of-mouth, the most trusted form of marketing. Attention is earned and proper engagement is derived. Whereas traditional approaches can come across as robots using template software. Storytelling marketing comes across as more human, less manipulative and more inclusive of the consumer.

Media and brands are now creating original content with limited hard sell, product intrinsics or even logos. Whether it’s created to entertain or educate, this is a more subtle, helpful way. It also incorporates a lot more real artists into the brand world, because they are the original storytellers.

These new storytellers are given a chance to shine due to the low barrier to entry online. You don’t need to make $100 million studio films to be relevant, when you can create six second Vines and build a personal brand, ‘broadcasting’ to millions of fans or interested parties.

Back in the day, there was a reason why top movie stars and directors hovered around advertising. Not just for the lucrative payday, but because it incorporated their ability to tell stories and engage hearts and minds.

It’s like making a friend. If you connect on human level, it makes people more likely to back your cause.

Then there’s the Holy Grail of advertising: getting customers to (positively) add to the story on their own steam - whether through word-of-mouth or campaigns that require their input or creativity.

Try this

Create content and experiences that are shareable. Remember, a smile in real life is better better than a like online.

Be worthy of people’s limited time. Your ‘story' doesn’t have to be long and rambling, the way your uncle likes to do it at family gatherings.

Engage brains and hearts, create intrigue, empathy, inspiration and education.

Don’t push products or intrinsics down throats. If the consumers are interested in your offering, and like how you’re spinning it, they’ll find out more.

It doesn’t have to happen within one all-encompassing execution.

Obviously the story direction has to be relevant to your product offering. Some brands like Red Bull or GoPro are a lot easier to integrate, but that’s the challenge. Have fun doing it.

Reveal your humanity

Not all stories are inherently emotional, but engaging human emotions is a surefire way to connect with customers on a deeper level and get results.

Human truths unite us. We all know about dealing with family, friends, loved ones, romance, excitement, shared fears and joys.

Sharing emotions and experiences is more relatable; it also vastly improves engagement by encouraging people to share their own version of the story with others.

Evoke strong emotions among audiences and develop personal connections with consumers.

Summing up

Shorter attention spans and thousand of platforms to choose from is an obstacle to new-age advertising. But brand storytelling is the most authentic way to create and sustain longer lasting engagement with customers.

There’s been a fundamental shift in the way advertisers get attention. It’s almost a new language that needs to be learned.

How many spam SMSes and emails did you receive this week alone? It’s increasingly competitive to get any attention and drive sales. Nevermind the endless other platforms vying for our consumer spending attention.

Story just means connecting in a human way. Add a dash of it to your communication.

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