“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”
That’s from American author, entrepreneur, and marketer Seth Godin — and it rings even more true in today’s world marked by an ocean of content competing for dwindling attention spans. And it’s not just another marketing trend, as science has found that the human brain responds to the descriptive traits of stories in ways that influence both the sensory and motor complex.
As pointed out by Kissmetrics, the process of absorbing a story produces greater comprehension, understanding, anticipation and receptivity — the net effect of which is trust — something that an increasing number of brands have placed greater importance on developing.
“A good story makes you feel something and is universal,” explains Ford Europe’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Mark Truby. “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.”
So what exactly is a brand story?
Digital marketing agency Custom Fit Online defines the concept as the complete narrative that surrounds a business, which shows not only how you do business, but why you do it in the first place, and how you’re uniquely qualified to help solve your customers’ problems.
It’s important to note that brand stories, and brand storytelling as a marketing strategy, is not meant to be a sales pitch (at least not directly). It is a way to humanize your brand and company, and to facilitate more meaningful connections between the business and its customers.
Why you need to utilize storytelling in your brand marketing
Because brand stories help develop trust, and create connections with your customers, they have also become an excellent way to tap into the customers’ emotions. And because people ultimately make buying decisions based on those very emotions, it has become integral for brands to use emotional branding thru storytelling to avoid being forced to compete solely based on features and price points.
As noted by i-SCOOP, when you are able to tell a story that embodies human challenges, you are able to create experiences that resonate with your customers.
Examples of good brand storytelling
As part of Ford’s prelaunch marketing for the Focus RS, the car giant produced an eight-part documentary released on YouTube that showed how their team of engineers worked under tremendous pressure to meet a litany of excruciatingly tight deadlines.
“We exposed the true story — setbacks, conflict, compromises and ultimately, success,” Truby said about the successful campaign. “Once you’ve watched this, you can never see an RS on the road again without understanding just how much passion went to creating it.”
Humanizing a car is not the easiest of tasks. Ford’s behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the RS did a spot on job of doing so.
Instead of blinding the public with impressive feature charts and fact sheets, GoPro invited anyone with their action cam into a cool global community of adventurers who share their adrenaline-pumping visual stories with the world. The simple crowdsourced campaign has resulted into a continually growing archive of incredible, beautiful moments from around the world — placing the power of storytelling right in their customers’ hands.
“We have passionate ideas about what’s possible in this world,” says GoPro Founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman. “Out passions lead us to create experiences and realities that expand our world and inspire those around us.”
“GoPro helps people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others — to celebrate them together.”
As mentioned earlier, a brand story doesn’t only tell how you do business, but perhaps more importantly, why. And TOMS answers that question with a story that also serves as the foundation of their very existence — they sell shoes to improve lives, by providing a person in need with a shoe for every one they sell.
Not only are they able to tell a story that humanizes their entire operation, they are able to create a unique selling proposition that makes them stand out from the crowded footwear industry. This commitment to improving lives over solely focusing on profit has likewise allowed them to invest in the creation of emotional profit — something that could ultimately be more valuable in the long run.
The North Face
The American outdoor product company The North Face did a great job of using their story to connect with their customers, encouraging them to explore, and to never stop exploring.
“Whether through gear, expeditions or access, we have enabled generations of explorers to connect with the outdoors,” the brand says. “The passion for exploring and dedication to preservation that our leaders poured into a small thriving business remains the bedrock of our company’s culture today.”
And apart from inspiring a culture of exploration, The North Face also tells a story of their corporate social responsibility that allows people to keep having places to explore. From investing in conservation to make their processes sustainable, to helping preserve the outdoors, they encourage not just for people to take to the outdoors, but to be conscious of their environmental duties.
The best brand stories are able to tap into people’s emotions, and have them connect to either what the brand does, what it stands for, or where it came for. With such successful brand storytelling, businesses are able to create and foster relationships that eventually lead to long-term brand loyalty.
But in order to craft a story that resonates with your customers, you must keep in mind that people always care more about themselves than they do about your brand, so not only must your story include them, it must engage them highly.
Ultimately, while it may be your brand story, it’s not about you, it’s about creating a connection that tells your customers that you relate, understand, and are like them.