Aadyasha is an experienced Digital Marketer at Acquire and a content writer specializing in marketing. Apart from that she enjoys dancing and loves to spend free time exploring nature.
Storytelling is about engaging with your audience with a deep understanding of human emotions, motivations, and psychology. Understand the principles of storytelling
Humans are hard-wired for stories. In fact, science tells us that our proclivity and instinct for storytelling are ingrained into our survival skillset. This is probably why many established brands—Nike, Airbnb, Apple, to name a few—have found their footing through masterful storytelling.
Think about it:
How can a shoe brand like Nike conjure emotions of team spirit, connectedness, and endurance through a 60-second video?
How can a vacation rental company like Airbnb transport you to places and evoke nostalgic memories through a series of photos on its website?
How can a technology company like Apple transform you into a die-hard brand fanatic through powerful commercials?
These are some of the most incredible brand storytelling examples that come to mind. In this blog, we will look at the best examples of storytelling marketing and understand the basics of what storytelling is. Let's jump right in.
What Is Storytelling, Anyway?
Your brand should explicitly go beyond the products and services you offer for it to strike a chord with the customer.
To put it simply, brand storytelling is all about spinning a narrative - complete with characters, setting, action, climax, and so on - to connect with your audience and communicate what values, goals, and USPs drive as well as differentiate your business from the rest.
Why Is Brand Storytelling Important?
Top-5 Reasons That Demonstrate The True Power Of Storytelling
“Storytelling, when done right, will pull a consumer into the world of a brand to see a different perspective, showing them the bigger picture. The story is an invitation for someone to participate in something bigger than themselves, something they believe in.” Joe Teo, Hey Orca
This leads us to the next important question: "Why is brand storytelling important?" We'll give you five compelling reasons:
1. Provides a better understanding of what customers expect from your brand
Your brand's story will ultimately shape how people comprehend and perceive your brand. If you're going to fabricate stories, your brand will be viewed as flawed and dishonest. Take Hollister's example which has received backlash for its fake background story. Though the company claims that it was founded in 1922 in California, it was actually founded by Abercrombie and Fitch in 2000:
On the other hand, if your brand storytelling is true to the company's culture and values, you'll be able to intrigue and inspire your target audience and amass a steady stream of loyal followers as Airbnb's "Stories from the Airbnb Community" section does:
Hands-down, Airbnb's success story tells us that it is one of the best examples of storytelling that you'll ever come across.
Handy tip: To get you started on your brand storytelling journey, get your hands on these exemplary brand storytelling books:
- The Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby
- Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
- Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need by Margot Leitman
2. Makes your brand more 'humane'
According to research, only 34% of customers trust most of the brands they use.
Customers today wish to communicate with real people behind brands instead of talking to the inanimate brand itself. They want to talk about real issues, and around 89% pledge their loyalty to brands that share their values. So instead of endlessly parading your product features, try integrating your brand's story/core values into your communication campaigns as brilliantly as Nike does. Take, for instance, its recent "You Can't Stop Us" viral campaign that brilliantly weaves together ideas of social justice (from the perspective of top athletes) and sports to give us 1.5 minutes of goosebumps:
This campaign, a product of combing through 4,000+ pieces of video footage, speaks volumes about the brand's culture and immediately personalizes the brand in the eyes of the viewer, allowing a 'shoe' brand to be viewed as trustworthy, authentic, and caring.
3. Fosters an 'emotional' and 'contextual' connect with your customers
According to Adweek, around 92% of customers want brands to make their campaigns 'feel' like a story.
Tying back to the previous point, communicating your brand's story helps in getting your audience's attention and in building an organic relationship with them. The idea is to stir up emotions and feelings within your target audience while communicating ideas and thoughts that align with your business' values and goals.
Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign is the perfect creative storytelling example worth considering. This campaign successfully aligns the brand's values and Dove's overarching mission of helping women build a positive relationship with their appearance. Here's how it worked:
A. The women were asked to describe themselves to an FBI trained forensic artist - Gil Zamora from a hidden curtain.
B. Based on their description, he drew a portrait of them.
C. On the other hand, a random stranger was also asked to describe the same woman to the artist.
In the end, the viewers got two completely different portraits, and surprisingly, the one based on the stranger’s portrayal was more beautiful, happier, and accurate. This demonstrated the brand's central idea behind the campaign - "You’re more beautiful than you think":
So, what was the result of showcasing real stories with real people? This campaign was one of the most viewed campaigns of 2013, having gathered a staggering 135 million views!
4. Aids in long-term customer engagement and drives societal change in the process
According to research, 53% of respondents feel that brands should involve themselves in at least one social issue that does not directly impact their business.
As mentioned before, customers identify with brands that they can connect with--whether from an ideological, social, or fundamental perspective - which is why brands need to contribute their opinion to important changes happening in society instead of turning a blind eye. Nike's recent #BlackLivesMatter campaign is an interesting case in point. So far, the campaign has amassed 3000 comments, 106K retweets, 230 000 likes, and 80 million views on Twitter:
Moreover, Nike's core competitor Adidas, in a refreshing change, too endorsed the campaign:
On the other hand, Starbucks initially faced a lot of backlash for banning employees to wear gear that advocated any sort of religious or political movements, including Black Lives Matter. After facing immense criticism and with #BoycottStarbucks trending on Twitter, the company had to reverse its policy:
Actively communicating about your brand's values and beliefs (and standing for what's right) allows you to differentiate your brand in a sea of sameness and build a long-term connection with your customer or else, you run the risk of a very social, very public boycott as we saw from Starbuck's case.
5. Helps in inspiring and motivating your customers
Every brand is conceptualized differently. By extension, every brand's history, pain-points, motivations, and overall story will be unique to the brand's journey. By allowing your customers to get a grip of the ins and outs of your brand, you can motivate and inspire them to drive meaningful conversations around your brand and become voluntary brand advocates.
All in all, people are extremely interested in listening to anecdotes, ideas, and beliefs - whether they come from other people or brands themselves. Storytelling marketing allows you to communicate your brand's characteristics, mannerisms, ideas, and so on in a way that not only resonates with your target audience but motivates them to be a part of your brand.
Elements To Include In Your Brand Story In 2020 (And Beyond)
So, we've looked at creative storytelling examples and understood the kind of benefits that effective storytelling marketing poses. It's time to dive into the important elements to keep in mind when drafting a winning storytelling strategy:
- Talk about how your company came to life: Your brand's story is incomplete without mentioning your vision, values, and brand culture.
- Illustrate your goals: One impactful way to do this is by demonstrating what inspired you to work on said goals.
- Communicate about the kind of products and services you offer subtly: While, as a brand, you'll need to churn out content that's 'strictly business' from time-to-time; it is advisable that you do so subtly.
- Laser-focus on who your target audience is: Keeping your target audience's needs and motivations in mind and demonstrating how your product/service can help achieve them is the key to successful storytelling.
Wrapping Up: Breathe Life Into Your Brand With Creative Storytelling
Whether you call it engagement marketing or cultural marketing, the era of experience-based economy is upon us. The Harvard Business Review summarizes this concept as:
"A company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event."
Customers want to engage with brands that are passionate about storytelling. They want to get to the roots of why and how brands operate. Today, it's not just about creating a one-off emotional marketing campaign, it's about letting your brand wear a heart on its sleeves—at all times.
What are some of the most effective brand storytelling examples that you've seen? Share your thoughts below.
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