Why storytellers are the new marketing masters…

What is a story, what relevance does it have within marketing media and why on earth is it important? Didn’t we leave story-time behind with our parents when we were kids?

It could be argued that storytelling has never been more relevant or more important for modern brands looking for longevity and loyalty with their customers. For ages I have been talking about what I call “Spider Marketing”. We all know in the modern day our audiences have shorter attention spans (I am definitely one of them), less time and a greater tolerance for ignoring blatant advertising.

It used to be the case that marketers would create a product/brand based advert and print it in a magazine, maybe on a billboard or two and hey presto the word was out there! Today our customers need to hear and see our message from a variety of sources, numerous times, before the message even starts to sink in. Oh and to make it more complicated there are now seemingly endless communication platforms to talk to them through.

A few years ago I was sitting in front of my boss trying to explain how I saw marketing communications working effectively. The best way I could describe it was by likening it to a spiderweb of communication. You have your core of the business where you have all your “buzz,” everything you want to talk about. You have your website to host this information and then you have a spider of communication platforms to get that message out. This may be through social media sites, forums, exhibitions, sponsorship, magazines, ambassadors and newsletters, to name but only a few.

So where does storytelling come into all of this?

Look around you and you’ll probably see that you and your friends follow stories all the time! For me it’s everything from the Volvo Ocean Race to the Meerkat that provides my car insurance and lives in a manor house. Oh and lets not forget the Budweiser Clydesdale carthorses that I just can’t get enough of.

It is my belief that audiences no longer like being attacked with overtly sales based adverts promoting a product or service that intrudes on their day, its USP’s (unique selling points)and lots of the boring reasons why we should all part with our hard earned cash for it.

I believe that every brand has a story and so do its products, services and even its clients. If you can find clever ways to use those stories to showcase your brand in a way that is engaging, not only will your customers and potential customers want to “follow” your brand, to feed their own addictions, they may even become your most valuable ambassadors.

Emotional purchasing is one of the strongest assets we as media professionals, marketers, storytellers (whatever you want to call us) can tap into. Many overtly corporate companies will tell you they don’t have budget for this “fluff” or the time and inclination to waste time on this; with staff frightened of creativity in favour of accepted mediocrity.

They absolutely cannot afford not to.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

Okay so you decide your brand has a character and that character has a story to tell. You are four months in and you bin the whole idea because the world isn’t talking about you yet and, “I can’t see a direct correlation with sales so it’s total rubbish!

Don’t be so short sighted.

These things don’t happen overnight and to get people to buy into your story you need to be very consistent and persistent with your message, your brand and what you have to say, stick with it, be proactive and the interest will grow. If you don’t dedicate the time to being interested yourself, to making your team interested in it, you can hardly expect your customers to buy into it as well. You and your team are your story, so own it.

This is all well and good but how is storytelling going to sell products and services? Every time someone follows your story, engages with your brand, likes your page and talks about you to a friend you are getting exposure. Nothing is stronger than word-of-mouth.

A few years ago I started building the brand from a sailing team called Team Maverick. I built their website, designed their social media and content strategy and starting telling the story of the unique team who were shaking-up the yacht racing industry. For the first six months I was posting videos and photos and emotionally engaging shots with attractive inspiring captions encouraging people to #BeaMaverick, seemingly only a few people were listening. But both myself and our team believed in our brand and what we stood for.

Then the tide turned. One day our team suffered a particularly tough race, we had to retire with a broken boat and a forlorn crew who’d put their heart soul and blood into the boat and the race. Arriving with an escort in the dark, in unsociable hours of the morning to a seemingly empty dock, Team Maverick passed a bar that was throwing a rowdy late night party. As the team passed by; the bar turned off the music and the partygoers, who had been following our story, started chanting — “Maverick, Maverick, Maverick, Maverick, Maverick.” The following day we had lots of followers professing they wanted to #BeaMaverick.

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling.

When I started out on my own nearly two years ago I had no idea I’d end up where I am today. My experiences and the amazing people and brands I have worked with in this time have only reinforced my belief in storytelling and the strength it can build within great brands around the world.

It is my hope that companies will begin to think bigger, get out of their, “corporately mediocre box,” and not be afraid to break the mould, shake things up, make mistakes, pick themselves up and go again.

Remove the red tape, give employees more freedom to be creative and see where it takes them and you. I believe your audiences will respect you for it and if anything will reward you better with their loyalty!

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out.” Dr. Seuss

You can find out more about me at: www.hannahcotterell.com

If you got this far in the article, thank you for listening.


Don’t be afraid to let you story stand out.