Storytelling is one of the most fundamental human activities. It’s as essential to our nature as forming groups or using tools.
Oddly enough, it’s at the core of marketing, too.
In a sense, all marketing is storytelling. It always has been. It’s just that the rise of content marketing has brought us back around to see it. In recent years we’ve come to view content as a channel for marketing, then view entertainment as a channel for marketing. To see storytelling as a channel for marketing is just a natural progression.
Simple, old-fashioned storytelling ends up being one of the most effective ways to reach through the roar of information and connect with your ideal customer. So it’s no surprise that storytelling for brands, aka “brand storytelling” is one of the hottest marketing trends.
Want to cut through the marketing noise, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and win the hearts and minds of your ideal audience?
To get you started, I’ve put together a short list of ways to help you frame and craft your own stories, plus a list of resources to help you master storytelling 2.0.
1) Use classic story architecture.
Almost all stories follow a surprisingly predictable pattern. Once you know the elements of that pattern, crafting stories gets much easier. Here are those fundamental elements:
- A likeable hero.
- A challenge, adversary or problem (it’s more compelling when the hero isn’t sure if he or she can win).
- The hero solves the problem/defeats the enemy.
If that sounds too simplistic, don’t worry. You can add layers upon layers of depth to this basic formula. For example, here’s a few ways to flesh out those basic three elements. First, give the hero some help in the form of a mentor or a magic tool. Second, add a few surprises sprinkled throughout the story to keep people guessing. Finally, after the problem is solved, show how the hero has changed.
If you want a college course in the classic elements of stories, read Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. Want a simpler illustration of the elements of stories, and an ideal example of brand storytelling? Watch The Lego Movie. It’s been hailed as one of the finest examples of brand storytelling, and it shamelessly uses all the elements of a classic hero’s quest.
2) Pare it down to essentials.
The 2013 “Best Friend” commercial for the Nexus 7 phone delivers a powerful brand storytelling in just 30 seconds. If you haven’t seen it, the ad describes a young man who’s not answering his mother’s calls. He discovers she’s calling because his dog is sick. As soon as the young man learns this, he starts packing to get on a plane to be with his dog. A storm suddenly cancels his flight. Alone at a bus stop, in the dark and the rain, he asks his phone “Google, how do I get home?” Google shows him how.
This all rolls out in less than 30 seconds. Every moment of the 30 second commercial supports the brand storytelling and moves it forward. There are no digressions about the boy’s relationship with his mother. There is no inserted message about the video game he plays. The story is “tight”; It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t need to know.
This is a skill storytellers must master. How tight a storyline is makes the difference between a compelling narrative and a shaggy dog story that drags on and on and on.
So when you tell your business story, pare it down to absolute essentials. Use simple words that everyone understands. Describe what happens in your story in the clearest way possible.
People don’t want to strain to understand a story. Distracting them with unnecessary information is a strain.
If a video seems like too much, start simpler. Create a Content Journey with Roojoom, or simply rewrite your company “About us” page in the form of an origin story.
5) Seek continuing education for storytellers.
There’s far more to learn about storytelling than I can cover in one blog post. The first four tips here will set you well along the path to great brand storytelling, but you owe it to yourself to expand your education. Here are a few excellent resources to do that.
First stop: Check out GetStoried.com for a complete education in storytelling and free resources to hone your storytelling skills. There’s enough material here to keep you busy for a year.
While the use cases mentioned above come from the world of consumers, most tips can be easily applied to B2B as well. What is your experience with storytelling? Please share any thoughts and tips in the comments bellow!