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What is Storytelling in Marketing?

Everybody loves a good story. The good news for marketers is that the same principles that cause us to cheer on Frodo Baggins as he scales Mount Doom or cry along with Titanic’s Rose as Jack says his goodbyes can be harnessed to connect us with products and services.

Storytelling in marketing acts as a ‘dramatic vehicle,’ taking customers, characters, products/services and other brand elements and transporting them all on a journey or adventure together.

Why Storytelling Matters

There is a very good reasons to introduce storytelling into your marketing. Engagement. Statistics have shown that being engaged with a brand makes people three times more likely to refer a product or service and three times more likely to repurchase. 44% of them give up shopping around while 33% would need to see a big discount (at least 20%) before they would consider another brand.

If those figures are tempting you, it’s time to delve deeper into what turns a marketing campaign into a story.

Creating Emotional Engagement: The Glue that Bonds Story and Audience

In order to create an engaging story, you need to find a way to get the audience to care about what happens to the characters. You do this through characterisation and creating a narrative which presents those character/s with obstacles to overcome. When they achieve this (using your product or service of course), your audience shares in their happiness and celebrates with them. This identification means that your product or service has, in effect, also helped them. This builds that vital positive connection between your brand and your potential or existing customer.

Plutchik’s Eight Basic Emotions

So which emotions should we target? After all, there are a lot of them! Fortunately, psychologist Robert Plutchik has makes the decision a bit easier by simplifying emotions into eight basic types. These are:

  • Happiness
  • Confidence
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Anger
  • Anticipation

Of course, you won’t want to create a story that makes your audience afraid of or disgusted by your product but you can help them to feel appreciative of the protection it provides from negative scenarios. For example, a powerful toilet cleaner fights off germs while a trustworthy breakdown service protects its customers from being stranded.

However, fear-based stories do need to be treated with caution. Do it wrong and you could end up creating a negative association between your brand and the frightening scenario instead.

Creating the Never Ending Story

The best stories engage their audience more deeply and for longer than the rest. The concept of the perfect, never ending marketing story can be seen in the film, ‘The Truman Show.’ This film features a 24/7/365 reality show, one where marketers’ products are woven into the characters’ real lives. Big businesses emulate this strategy by engaging customers day and night using multiple different touchpoints: magazines, newspapers, billboards, packaging, social media, website, blog posts, remarketing, radio, TV…the list (and the story) goes on.

For smaller businesses, constraints such as budget and lack of brand awareness means stories need to be carefully planned for maximum marketing ROI. However, the tactic of combining multiple pieces of content into story campaigns can still be followed using social media, PPC ads, blog posts and perhaps even a local radio ad or two.

Storytelling has the power to turn everyday products and services into tools and weapons to be used by digital heroes and heroines to achieve great things. What narrative could you come up with to capture your audience’s attention? Who would be your characters?We would love to hear your story!

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