Are you telling a compelling brand story? If you’ve been anywhere in the marketing world lately, you’ve probably heard that you should be.
It’s an idea that’s gained a lot of traction recently, particularly as content marketing continues to be important. With more communication channels than ever before, increasing the focus on the “story” seems like a natural inclination.
But is this plan of attack right for every brand? It’s a more complicated decision than it seems at first glance.
On several levels, the storytelling trend makes sense. People don’t crave advertisements. People crave a story. It’s just how our brains work:
“Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”
While we can process facts, data, information, it’s far easier for the brain to remember a story than a list of attributes. The New York Times piece focuses on literature, but the implications are there for all forms of communication, written or otherwise.
Fast Company notes that brands including LinkedIn and Coca-Cola have taken this idea and run with it. Elsewhere, MasterCard has put on a master class in storytelling through its #PricelessSurprises campaign. Here, MasterCard takes its well well-known legacy campaign (You know, the “…Priceless” ones) and updates it for the online world.
Where that classic campaign was built upon stories-in-miniature in the form of TV commercials, #PricelessSurprises offers real, special surprise concert tickets (and other “priceless” surprises) to cardholders—documenting the very real, unexpected moments through a variety of social media. When it comes to content marketing, the brands succeeding the most know that it’s the story that makes the connection.
Why are these brands succeeding?
A natural inclination for business communications is to focus on the hard stuff: numbers, figures, stats, tangible things. But, while those are plenty valuable, people aren’t wholly driven by rational, logical decision making—there is a real need for emotional pull, and for that to happen, content can be formed around memorable stories. Stories help people connect. This is particularly true in the realm of B2B communications, where complicated, technical ideas are stock and trade—and while performance data is valuable, it’s not often the first thing to spring back to mind when making a purchase decision.
So how can we stay memorable?
Staying memorable seems to be the real crux behind the widespread emphasis on storytelling. It’s simple reality that not every brand has the equity to tug at the customer’s heartstrings without making them feel manipulated. If you’re in the business of selling machine tools, there may be less room a #PricelessSurprises, yet still plenty of room for creative and memorable messaging.
So the challenge for marketers is to find the memorable, and to successfully connect the memorable to critical business goals. But communicating the memorable doesn’t do the work on its own—it takes strategy, planning and measurement, and with more tools at our disposal than ever in social media etc., the opportunity exists for unique storytelling campaigns that help businesses succeed in their goals.
Bill Delaney is Content Architect at AKHIA.