How To Tell Human Stories That Make Your Brand Look Good
Cut the buzzwords about connection and community
You’re sitting in meeting room three, the whiteboards are covered in marketing ideas, and everyone is trying to answer one question.
How do we create a compelling brand story?
Everyone is on their second cup of coffee, and frankly, your team ran out of useful ideas seven minutes into the meeting. Suddenly, a light bulb goes off in your head, and you blurt out:
“Why don’t we put the people in front of our product?”
The meeting erupts with applause and cheers! You immediately receive a promotion and a corner office, going down in history for singlehandedly saving the company with your brilliant idea.
Snapback to reality. Whenever I’ve pitched this idea, it’s immediately met with hesitation and uncertainty. Why? Because as much as you and I like to think we’re pitching a unique concept, we really, genuinely, are not.
Having worked in communications, I can tell you that whenever human-focused storytelling is pitched, it’s usually accompanied by 20 different buzzwords about social community connection, or something along those lines.
In the end, people-focused storytelling is rarely executed correctly, and by no means is it a new idea in the field of marketing.
That being said, there’s a reason this concept is consistently pitched throughout the years — it works. People-focused storytelling campaigns have stood the test of time because, while they aren’t innovative, they are incredibly impactful.
Take Nike, for example, as a company consistently putting out high-quality marketing with an undisputed brand. They’re always putting their athletes in front of their products, allowing them to tell their stories.
Check out this recent ad where Nike focuses on the athlete’s story of Rafael Nadal.
So, how can we market human stories in a similar fashion? Through my experience, I’ve discovered three significant points to design direct, impactful storytelling to put people in front of your product effectively.
Tip 1: Keep the Connection Simple
When we first start telling a story, we’re compelled to give context. We get caught up in creating a backstory and history of the people in the spotlight because we’re worried about creating confusion.
This concern is entirely invalid, and it can quickly bog down your marketing efforts immensely. People, on average, will pay attention to you for all of eight seconds, so do you really think they have the time to learn about Rafael’s family and upbringing?
When your audience sees your organization’s logo attached to a person, they’ll immediately associate that person with your organization. Because of this, it’s now your job as a creative to rationalize this association.
You want to establish simple commonalities between the person and your brand. These commonalities then create the reason why this person’s story is vital to your organization.
Looking at the Nike video again, we can see how they implement this tip.
The ad establishes one thing: Rafael plays tennis. Boom, the connection is made to the sportswear company Nike. They’ve ensured that I learn only the essentials of his story to then tie his life to their brand. They do this with no narration in under one minute.
They kept it simple.
Tip 2: Build These Stories Into Pillars of Your Brand
Brand-driven storytelling is great, but as I said, it isn’t unique. I’ve rolled my eyes time and time again when I see an organization thinking all they need to do is push a person in front of a brand and call it a day.
When you roll out a marketing campaign with a person’s story as your focus, it shouldn’t just be a one-off message.
For this marketing to be effective, it should be a solidified and vital communication strategy in your branding. To create this message, you need to be consistent by rolling out weekly stories and spotlights while creating more in-depth followup with the faces of your campaign.
The people who are now connected to your brand will slowly become the faces of your organization, becoming recognizable and even famous among your audience. Well-executed marketing messages of this nature have an added benefit of pushing your brand’s archetypes into visual people.
This intention should be a goal, and you’ll reach it through planned consistency. Nike doesn’t just have their athletes do one-off videos — they become faces of the company.
Think bigger when you structure these campaigns, and always plan 10 steps ahead.
Tip 3: Tie Your Stories to Something Bigger
When you search for any brand messaging where they focus on people over their product, there are typically two elements.
One, there’s a deep connection between the person and their story to the brand. This is accomplished by implementing the first two tips mentioned in this article.
Two, they’ve connected the person’s story to a more significant concept in our world. Human rights, social norms, or inspiration are all concepts that fit into this category.
This connection is why people-focused storytelling works so well. Connecting a personal story to the world makes it incredibly compelling to a broad audience.
A regular story about a regular athlete is boring since it’s not tied to anything significant and it’s not relatable.
Nike doesn’t want to be associated with regular — they want to be associated with the best in the world. With the ad being tagged with the simple line
“crazy dreams make an insane effort,” they use Rafael’s story to create something infinitely more than just a sportswear ad. They create inspiration that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
To make your storytelling work, you have to be more compelling than just average. Tell a story people will listen to by tying it to something bigger.
Simplicity and consistency while finding the more important story to tell. These things are what allow people-focused ad campaigns to work. Use these tips to pitch a marketing idea that has the legs to stand while simultaneously leaving the buzzwords at the door.