At the heart of internet marketing is the idea of storytelling. As is the case with any good storyteller, brands need a compelling hook to engage audiences.
A study done by Google explored the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which identified factors shaping consumer decisions on the path to purchase. The study showed that 88 percent of consumers perform research before making a purchase in-store or online, consulting 10.4 sources on average.
Google also found that the purchase journey was completely different for 3,000 shoppers in industries ranging from tech and CPG to auto and finance. One of the few similarities between all of the shoppers was that they all began their journey through online search.
What does this have to do with brand storytelling, you ask? Well, if your website doesn’t offer something unique or personally meaningful that hooks shoppers and retains their interest, then you are at a disadvantage against those other nine competitors. Online competition increases exponentially everyday, which makes content strategy that much more important for heightening brand visibility.
Professional Storytelling Consultant and Trainer, Geoffrey Berwind, told Forbes that “great leaders recognize that human connections need to go before concepts and strategies: connect first with your prospects, your audiences — then get down to business.”
According to Berwind, stories are a shared experience. He believes that humans are hard-wired to receive information primarily through storytelling because it triggers the ancient human muscle of imagination.
So, what are a few examples of powerful brand storytelling that can take your company’s content marketing strategy to the next level?
Apple vs. IBM
While brand storytelling and content marketing are fairly new terms, they are not new concepts. In 1984, Apple’s iconic Super Bowl ad blew the competition away. At the time, Apple was still a developing start up, but the ad launched them into the spotlight. The ad didn’t focus on the new Macintosh computer that was set to be launched. Instead, it spoke to the audience and set the expectation that this was a unique computer company ready to break the mold and replace “Big Brother” IBM as the industry leader.
G.I. Joe wasn’t always the rugged, universally loved character you see before you. In fact, in the 1970s, Hasbro experienced a slump in sales until a content marketing partnership changed the game for Channing Tatum’s predecessor action figure. Hasbro partnered up with Marvel in the early 1980s and completely transformed the brand. Not only did the action figure get a new look, but the character got a new storyline to go along with it. Marvel released a line of comic books and television ads, which brought G.I. Joe back to the top of best-selling lists and sealed its status as one of America’s most beloved characters.
Threadless is an online retail website built around designers. These designers submit their designs to the website so they can then be voted on by consumers and printed on different mediums. Along with designs, they build a sense of community through sharing stories about their daily lives, inspirations and more. In addition to sharing designers’ stories, Threadless posts mini-documentaries, interviews with artists and other content to prove their commitment to the best possible user experience and quality products.
So, What are the Elements that Make These Brand Stories Successful?
- Illicit an Emotional Response: The stories at the center of these campaigns are genuine. They speak to the audience’s memories, experiences and imaginations, while proving the brands’ commitment to authenticity and transparency. For instance, Apple’s commercial had such a powerful impact on the audience because it peaked their curiosity and sent the message that it was a unique product for the people, unlike its “Big Brother” competitor.
- Relatable Characters that Personify Brand Values: By using characters or real people’s stories you give consumers access to the human side of your company. If you can get the audience to identify with these characters and trust them then they will transfer that connection onto your brand. G.I. Joe experienced such wild success because he spoke to the audience’s imagination and gave them someone to look up to as a role model. He also made people see the character as a real person who got up every day, overcame obstacles and felt emotions — just like them.
- Don’t Expect Trust, Earn It: Effective brand storytelling is done through showing how good your product or service is by naturally working the proof into compelling stories. For example, by showing the face behind each design concept, Threadless inherently builds a relationship of trust and authority between the product and the consumer.
Consider how your brand can benefit from storytelling as a way to improve audience engagement and increase sales.