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Why brand storytelling matters

by Suzette Garvey

Brand storytelling reminds us there’s more that connects us than separates us. Much of the time, however, our cluttered physical and digital worlds can distract us from these connections. Brand storytelling gives us the opportunity to bring our shared storylines into focus.

Shared storylines

The Collins English Dictionary defines the storyline of a book, film or play as its story and the way it develops. I view brand storytelling in a very similar way. When we purposefully explore our shared interests and occupy shared spaces, common ground can genuinely take root as shared storylines. These storylines are there when we’re side by side in the crowd or engaging virtually across an ocean. Our shared storylines reveal how we’re connected — and not alone. Maybe we share a mutual love for eating warm chocolate cake, running in nature, driving a high-performance vehicle or speaking up for the underdog. We might even share a mutual struggle.

A brand storytelling definition

Brand storytelling is a purposeful storyline (narrative) communicated by brands, designed to strengthen customer relationships, engagement and loyalty.

More than mere facts, stories draw us in

Science confirms we're drawn to stories. Marketing Land, tracked research indicating storytelling immersion increases oxytocin, the neurotransmitter that builds empathy and encourages prosocial behavior. Further research from the Association for Psychological Science suggests stories are more memorable than mere facts because of this storytelling immersion. Combine that with the often cited work of American psychologist Jerome Bruner, who noted storytelling is at least 20 times more memorable than facts. Although it's easier to connect with fellow human beings over sheer data, believable data still plays a vital role in forming connections.

When brand storytelling is real, truthful and relatable, it creates trust. That trust can invite interest, engagement and the purchase of your product or service. Like with any relationship, trust must be earned and respected by intentionally considering the other person’s needs.

Creating customer-driven content

Get to know your customer’s joys and challenges in order to better speak to their needs. You can achieve this through many feedback tools such as online surveys, focus groups, less formal events and social media posts. Craft your content around both the emotional and functional benefits your brand brings to the table, while conveying a call to action. Your brand stories might reflect empathy, inspiration or offer clear solutions that brighten a customer’s day. Or, your stories may center around concrete elements, like faster service times within your industry.

While storytelling certainly can go big with grand campaigns and celebrities, the Digital Marketing Institute notes 60% of Generation Z prefers to see everyday people in brand promotions. Featuring everyday customers or relatable heroes through influencer marketing provides a more genuine social proof while activating that immersive storytelling experience. Today’s social media micro-influencers are often people with a modest following, who are actively engaging those followers around one or more shared storylines.

Finding the shared storylines and best marketing channels for your brand begins with a holistic approach that bridges brand-customer relationships with a primary source of your brand strengths … your employees. Brand storytelling should not live with marketing alone. As part of a customer-driven mindset, it must be fostered by all departments within your company. Content with depth reflects the minds and lives of employees and customers, because they connect all along the customer experience path.

Evolution of brand storytelling

Just as people grow, building new experiences and interests over time, brands will do the same. Staying true to the core of who you are as a brand means honoring your employees and customers while navigating outside elements. This process doesn’t have to keep your head spinning though. Stick with your strengths. Instead of telling a lot of big stories, make brand storytelling a big part of how you connect with customers.

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